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On December 16, 1929 police drew their revolvers and shot into a crowd of locked-out miners in the New South Wales town of Rothbury in Australia, killing a 29 year old miner, Norman Brown, and injuring approximately forty five other miners. The incident became known as the Rothbury Affair or the Rothbury Riot.
In 1929 colliery owners on the Northern New South Wales coalfields combined as the Northern Collieries Association. On Thursday 14 February 1929 the mine employers gave their 9,750 employees 14 days notice, that they (the miners) should accept the following new conditions:
The miners refused to accept these terms, and on Saturday 2 March 1929, all miners were "locked out" of their employment..
During December 1929 about 4,000 miners were demonstrating against the introduction of non-union labour into the Rothbury mine by the conservative Thomas Bavin State Government who had taken over the colliery. The State Government called in 400 officers from the New South Wales Police from other districts to protect the colliery and allow the entry of non-union labour. On the morning of December 16 the miners had marched to the mine gate led by a pipe band. When the miners charged the gate, they were met by baton charges by the police and hand to hand clashes. Then the police drew their revolvers and shot into the crowd. The youngest miner was 15 year old Joseph Cummings. He risked his life, dodging bullets running for the doctor in an futile effort to help save Norman Brown.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph Pictorial described the event as "the most dramatic industrial clash that has ever shocked Australia."
After fifteen months of starvation and living in poverty, the miners capitulated in June 1930 and returned to work on reduced contract wages. The lockout failed to break the resolve or organisation of the miners union.
The mine finally closed in 1974. A monument in honour of Norman Brown is located at North Rothbury.
The word Rothbury has been trademarked by the Fosters Group.
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