Having trouble at work, or looking for work? Take comfort and spare a thought for workers in Mudgee, circa 1930s. The Wall Street stock market crash had impacted towns and cities across NSW, and hundreds of thousands of Aussies ended up losing their livelihoods nationwide.
The State’s unemployment rate, which had been at an already 10 per cent high, rose to 21 per cent by 1930, before skyrocketing to almost 32 per cent by mid 1932, according to NSW parliament research.
Folks had to literally pack a swag and go crisscrossing over state and country for survival, as the Great Depression dug its heels in for the long haul.
Many of these came to Mudgee, and found work on a riverside public reserve – the celebrated Lawson Park. The reserve was cleared, stones were quarried from Mount Frome, a fence was built, a sewage system installed, and ornamental trees were planted.
Sandy Sheridan at the Mudgee Museum said public works were common during the Depression, as government officials tried to shore up work for the masses.
“Public works were used to get people working in those days,” she told the Mudgee Phoenix. “Workers had it hard, and they often ate rabbits, which were a staple of the depression diet, and roadside weeds,” she said.
Located alongside the Cudgegong River, the park was named after William Lawson, a farmer and famous explorer.
It has undergone much change over the decades. There was a high dive board and kids’ swimming areas at the river, before the swimming pool was established in the park in the 1950s. A clock was also built as a war memorial, and is there to this day. There was even a zoo in the 1980s.
Sandy said the park is a peaceful place. “It is a lovely green space, with beautiful trees, lovely gardens, and a place to take your kids to,” she said. “It also has markets once a month.”
So as you head home after the hassles of the day, remember the workers of old doing it tough, setting up tents with their game to cook, and take comfort in their legacy.
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