Don’t go for a Rothbury Murderer


Grace Peebles

Grace Peebles caused a commotion at the Central Labour Exchange, shouting, “Don’t go for a Rothbury murderer!” in defence of a man being brutally thrown out by a constable.

These words were insulting... Grace was referring to the Rothbury Mine Protest in the Hunter Valley a month earlier where police had attacked protesting coal miners, injuring many and killing innocent miner Norman Brown. The police were there to make sure that the ‘scabs’, unemployed men who were willing to fill in for those striking, were not harmed by the protesting coal miners. But out of nowhere the police charged at the protestors with their batons raised and guns firing.

Those words landed Grace in court. Yet that was the least of her worries.

Insulting words Insulting words Zoom In

here, where
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Grace lined up amongst thousands of men – and just a few women – in the sheltering sheds of the Commissariat building. Inside the building was the Department of Industry and Labor, the site of the Central Labour Exchange. The Great Depression, for almost one in three people in the workforce, meant they either lost their jobs or their wages were slashed.

It was the Department’s role to find these people work. Day in and day out Grace and up to three thousand others came here, with the smallest hope of finding work, forced to wait in the extreme summer heat and winter cold.


In the line you might be standing behind a dentist or doctor, looking for work as a labourer, or in front of a lawyer or a university dropout, trying to support their families. At first it was only men waiting for a day’s work, but as the depression continued, more and more women like Grace joined the lines.

Only the lucky few Only the lucky few

Only the lucky few were given work each day; the rest left with nothing but the certainty of waiting again the next day.


and ordered to pay a £2 fine for yelling at a constable here at the Labor Exchange in the summer heat of January, 1930.

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Explore other locations
  • Title Long queue of men with suitcases, George Street, The Rocks
  • Creator Sam Hood
  • Source State Library of New South Wales
  • Year 1930s
  • Title Rothbury Riot - 001 Daily Telegraph Pictorial. No. 15,607 (Tuesday, Dec. 17, 1929)
  • Creator Arthur George Wise
  • Source University of Newcastle
  • Year 1929
  • Title The Sydney Harbour Bridge Map [cartographic material commemorate the opening, 19th day of March, Lord, 1932. / Russell Lloyd.
  • Creator Russell Sydney Lloyd
  • Source State Library of New South Wales
  • Year 1932
  • Title HNLMS JAVA berthed at West Circular Quay wharf, October 1930
  • Creator Samuel J. Hood
  • Source Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Year 1930
  • Title Labor Exchange Building c.1940
  • Source Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
  • Year c.1940
SHFA MCA Council for the Arts Visual Arts