Harold George Nelson

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H. G. Nelson
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Northern Territory
In office
16 December 1922 – 15 September 1934
Preceded by New seat
Succeeded by Adair Blain
Personal details
Born (1881-12-21)21 December 1881
Botany, New South Wales
Died 26 April 1947(1947-04-26) (aged 65)
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Maud
Occupation Unionist
Harold Nelson
Harold Nelson in a 1922 attempt to cross Australia by motorcycle (a Velocette GC3) in 1922

Harold George Nelson (21 December 1881 – 26 April 1947) was the inaugural member for the Northern Territory in the Australian House of Representatives.

Born in Botany, New South Wales, to a Scottish shopkeeper and his wife, Nelson moved to Queensland and worked as an engine driver at Gympie and Mount Perry, marrying on 17 March 1904.[1]

Nelson, his wife Maud, and their five children moved to Pine Creek, Northern Territory in 1913 where he continued to work as an engine driver and began his involvement in union affairs. Nelson started work as an organiser for the Australian Workers' Union in 1914 and became the first secretary of the AWU's Darwin branch.

The influence of the AWU in the Northern Territory grew in significance and so did Nelson. By the end of 1917, 40% of all white men in the Territory belonged to the AWU and Nelson used his standing in the community to gain election to Darwin Town Council.

Described as a "medium-sized nuggety man" and a fiery orator, Nelson was an effective campaigner, as can be seen by his successful campaign to significantly raise the wages of Darwin meatworkers in 1917. He also led protests against the Northern Territory Administrator Dr John A. Gilruth, which officially originated in November 1918 when Gilruth refused requests from barmaids for time off to celebrate the end of World War I (although tensions had been simmering between Gilruth and the union movement for some time). On 17 December 1918, in what has since been called the Darwin Rebellion, Nelson led a protest march to Liberty Square, in front of Government House, to demand Gilruth's removal as Administrator. Continued protests eventually led to the removal of Dr Gilruth from the Administrator position in February 1919, followed by the departure of other senior officials soon after.[2]

Nelson then turned his attention to campaigning for Northern Territory representation in the Australian parliament, including refusing to pay taxes in an echo of the American War of Independence cry of "no taxation without representation". After a brief gaol stint, Nelson's campaign resulted in the establishment of a Northern Territory-based seat (albeit non-voting) in the House of Representatives.

In 1922, Nelson attempted to cross Australia north-south on a 1922 Velocette motorcycle, but failed, and nearly died of dehydration en route.

After standing down as AWU secretary, Nelson successfully stood for the new seat as an independent at the 1922 election (although he would join the Australian Labor Party soon after).

Nelson spent his time in parliament campaigning for greater expenditure and self-government for the Northern Territory, with little success. Following his defeat at the 1934 election, Nelson moved to Alice Springs to work as an agent.[1]

Nelson died from unexpected cardiac failure in Alice Springs in 1947, survived by his wife and five children. One of these children, Jock Nelson, also served as member for the Northern Territory and in 1973 became the first Territory born Northern Territory Administrator.

The Northern Territory Electoral division of Nelson is named for him.

As Nelson is usually referred to by his initials "HG", it is unclear whether Australian comedian Greig Pickhaver named his character H. G. Nelson in honour of Nelson.


  1. ^ a b Carment, D. (1986) "Nelson, Harold George", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, Carlton.
  2. ^ Powell, A. (1988) Far Country: A Short History of the Northern Territory (2nd Edition), Melbourne University Press, Carlton. ISBN 0-522-84377-8.


Parliament of Australia
New division Member for Northern Territory
Succeeded by
Adair Blain