The Korumburra Working Horse and Tractor Rally

I'm looking at a postcard I bought from the Wonthaggi Historical Society booth at the Korumburra Working Horse and Tractor Rally which is held in Nyora (10km outside of Korumburra) every March. I enjoy going to the Korumburra Working Horse and Tractor Rally. There’s nothing glamourous about it. The same people turn up every year. The local Lions Club makes the chips, the heritage working horses turn up to do their thing. Tractors are pitted against machines.

People walk around, look at what’s happening and wander off home. Nothing glamourous, nothing magic. Ordinary people, rubbing shoulders with ordinary people. No guest speakers, just people showing off their handiwork. Old machines brought to life. Tractors that should have gone to God decades ago, lovingly restored, old ploughs and other 19th and early 20th century agricultural machinery attached to Drysdale horses lovingly tendered by their owners.

Carted around Victoria and New South Wales in horse floats, the same people, the same horses. The Korumburra Working Horse and Tractor Rally is a constant in so many people’s lives. Just 90km from the Melbourne CBD, a 21st century time warp inhabited by 19th and early 20th century souls. No prizes, you exhibit for the love of exhibiting something you’ve recreated in a back shed somewhere. Years and thousands of hours later you have something tangible you can hang your hat on.

Back to the postcard. Wonthaggi and Korumburra were centres of radical activity in Victoria at the beginning of the 20th century. Men worked the coal mines that provided power for Melbourne. In the strike of 1914 every coal worker on the coal mines lost their jobs when the conservative Victorian government took on the mining unions. The strike failed, families faced with the prospect of starving were forced to leave the district.

I'm looking at this grainy black and white photograph of a brass band leading a long line of men down the main street of Wonthaggi. Women in long dresses and wide brimmed hats look at the march from under the shop awnings. A horse drawn dray accompanies the march. A few young girls, 9 or 10, in bonnets and knee length skirts are marching with I assume their fathers.

In white text across the bottom of the black and white photograph are the words “SPORTS PROCESSION IN WONTHAGGI”
“Sports procession” my foot! Just behind the brass band are two men holding up a banner with the following inscription
SOCIALIST PARTY
WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE
This isn’t a sports procession, it’s a MAY DAY MARCH. Traditionally May Day Marches were led by brass bands. The inclusion of children in the march, the lack of police presence and the banner highlights this is a political march. That’s what happens in Australia, the radical history of this nation is constantly erased from the historical record. I wonder how many of these young men in the photo died on the European killing fields during World War One and how many joined the anti-conscription movement?

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE.

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