Melbourne at War – Stop 6a

Stop 6a is Russell Street

Russell Street is a very different place now, compared to its life and times during WW1.

Known as ‘Red’ Russell Street, it was the home for many radical left-wing groups and organisations.

The Victorian Socialist Alliance had its headquarters at No 177, which is now a Chinese restaurant. And the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) who came under particular attention by the government through the War Precautions Act, had their headquarters at the corner of Russell and Little Bourke Streets – now a 7 eleven store. How times change!

All these groups were vehemently anti-war and anti-conscription, and played influential roles in the defeat of the two conscription referendums of 1916 and 1917. Consequently the IWW became the first political organisation in Australia to be legally prohibited, with their headquarters raided by police. Its leaders such as Tom Barker, the editor of the IWW paper Direct Action, were imprisoned and its members kept under surveillance.