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John Dacey

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John Dacey

Colonial Treasurer
In office
14 October 1910 – 11 April 1912
PremierJames McGowen
Preceded byJames McGowen
Succeeded byAmbrose Carmichael
Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly
for Botany
In office
24 July 1895 – 16 July 1904
Preceded byWilliam Stephen
Succeeded byRowland Anderson
Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly
for Alexandria
In office
6 August 1904 – 11 April 1912
Preceded byNew seat
Succeeded bySimon Hickey
Personal details
John Rowland Dacey

(1854-06-01)1 June 1854
Cork, Ireland
Died11 April 1912(1912-04-11) (aged 57)
Sydney, Australia
Resting placeCatholic section of Botany Cemetery
NationalityIrish Australian
Political partyNSW Labor Party
Spouse(s)Martha Ellen Douglass
Children4 sons and 6 daughters
MotherMargaret Dacey
FatherThomas Dacey

John Rowland Dacey (1 June 1854 – 11 April 1912) was an Irish-born Australian politician.[1] He moved to Victoria, Australia, with his mother after his father died. Eventually orphaned, Dacey moved to Sydney with his wife and began working as a coachmaker.[1] He began his involvement in politics with an election to local council then moved to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 24 June 1895 to his death on 11 April 1912, serving as Colonial Treasurer in his final two years.[2]

Throughout his parliamentary career, Dacey campaigned for a garden suburb which would provide government-owned, low-cost housing to the working class. After his death, the garden suburb of Daceyville was built in Sydney and named in honour of him.[1][3]

Early life[edit]

John Dacey was born on 1 June 1854 in Cork, Ireland, to Thomas Dacey, a barrister, and Margaret (née Jamson). After his father died, Dacey and his mother moved to Kyneton, Victoria in 1858. He was adopted by one Dr Smith in 1859 after his mother died.[1] Following Dr Smith's death in 1866, he worked as a butcher's assistant. Dacey also worked as an agricultural blacksmith and managed a branch of May and Miller in Victoria.[4]

Dacey married Martha Ellen Douglass on 27 July 1878 in St John's Church, Horsham, Victoria. In 1883, Dacey worked as coachmaker and established Dacey & Co. in Alexandria, Sydney.[1][5] By 1901 he was helping to organise the Wool and Basil Workers' Federation of Australia in Sydney[6] and served as the Union's Secretary until his death.[2]

Political involvement[edit]

Dacey's involvement in politics began when he was elected to the Alexandria Municipal Council. He served on the council for ten years from 1886 to 1896 and as the mayor in 1888 and 1889. Dacey began his involvement in state politics as the Returning Officer for the district of Redfern from 1889 to 1891. He joined the Redfern Labor Electoral League, the local branch of the Labor Electoral League of New South Wales, in 1891, but was defeated for pre-selection by James McGowen, who would later serve as Premier and appoint Dacey to the cabinet.[1]

A Roman Catholic, Dacey was influenced in his political opinions by protectionism and the rerum novarum,[1] which supported people's right to join trade unions.[7] He combined these beliefs with his experience with the Wool and Basil Workers Union and the Labor platform.[1] He was an anti-billite, meaning that he was against Federation,[8] and spoke against it, for example at Coraki, New South Wales on 15 June 1899, based on his opposition to free trade.[1][9]

Dacey campaigned for the district of Botany in 1894 and lost to the free trade supporter William Stephen. Dacey was successful in the 1895 election, defeating Stephen for the seat.[1][2] In the 1904 state election, Dacey was elected to the new seat of Alexandria following an electoral redistribution. He was succeeded in the district of Botany by Rowland Anderson from the Liberal Reform Party.[2][10]

Dacey became a senior party figure in the late 1890s and began to work on political strategy to win support in suburban seats and from white-collar voters. He stood in opposition to his party's support for the Premiership of Sir George Reid and instead threatened to resign if the party did not switch its support to William Lyne's Protectionist Party. At a Labor Party conference in 1899, the party executive decided to put forward the protectionism/free trade debate to a referendum of all party members, despite Dacey's campaigning. Dacey's standing in the Labor Party continued to grow: he was the party's treasurer from 1901 to 1910 and on the Party Central Executive in 1912.[1]

Labor won the 1910 state election and, while Dacey was not given a cabinet position in Labor's first cabinet, he did gain positions in McGowen's second and third ministries; firstly, on 10 November 1911, as a minister without portfolio following two resignations and then, shortly after, on 27 November, as the Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales.[1][2]

Death and legacy[edit]

Dacey died of chronic nephritis[11] while serving as the Colonial Treasurer and was granted a state funeral, which took place in St Brigid's Church in Marrickville, New South Wales and was well attended; a contemporary newspaper reported that along "the entire route of the procession, the footpaths were thick with people."[2][12]

A bird's-eye view of Dacey's Garden Suburb (1918)

Dacey had campaigned for the government to provide low-cost housing to the working class from the 1890s to his death; he stated that "the time has come when we should create a Garden City and provide houses of an up-to-date character at the lowest possible rental".[3] His plans were based on the garden city movement, in particular to be modelled on the garden city of Letchworth in Hertfordshire, England.[1][13] After his death, his plans were partially implemented by the Holman ministries from 1913 to 1920 in Southern Sydney. Daceyville, named in honour of John Dacey, was Australia's first public housing estate and included Australia's first cul-de-sac.[1][3][14]

A suburb adjacent to his electorate was created and named after him, Daceyville. A recreational park area was also created, Rowland Park.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Nairn, Bede (1981). "Mr John Rowland Dacey". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Mr John Rowland Dacey (1854–1912)". Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Sinnayah, Samantha (2010). Audaciousville: The story of Dacey Garden Suburb, Australia's first public housing estate (PDF). Botany Bay: City of Botany Bay Council. ISBN 978-0-9500936-7-3.
  4. ^ "John R Dacey". Golden Heritage. Treasury of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 15 June 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  5. ^ Loveday, Peter (1975). Murphy, Denis J. (ed.). Labor in politics: The state Labor parties in Australia (PDF). St. Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. pp. 106–107. ISBN 0-7022-0939-2.
  6. ^ Bramble, Tom; Kuhn, Rick (2011). "Chapter 2 – In the beginning". Labor's Conflict: Big Business, Workers and the Politics of Class. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-521-13804-8. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Rerum Novarum (The Condition of Labor)". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Georgetown University. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Federation Fact Sheet 1 – The Referendums 1898–1900". Parkes, ACT: Australian Electoral Commission. 24 March 2011.
  9. ^ "In the country: Coraki". The Sydney Morning Herald. 16 June 1899. p. 4. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Mr Rowland Joseph Anderson (1872–1959)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  11. ^ Nowra, Louis (2013). "The Golden Age". Kings Cross: A biography. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. p. 1924. ISBN 9781742246550. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  12. ^ "State Funeral: The Late Mr. Dacey". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 April 1912. p. 17. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  13. ^ Book of Sydney Suburbs, Frances Pollon (Angus and Robertson) 1990, pages 76–77
  14. ^ Barlass, Tim (3 June 2012). "First cul-de-sac is far from a dead end". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Government Gazette Appointments and Employment". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (83). New South Wales, Australia. 24 June 1927. p. 2929 – via National Library of Australia.
Civic offices
Preceded by
Stephen John Foskett
Mayor of Alexandria
Succeeded by
John Turner
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
William Stephen
Member for Botany
Succeeded by
Rowland Anderson
New seat Member for Alexandria
Succeeded by
Simon Hickey
Political offices
Preceded by
James McGowen
Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Ambrose Carmichael