Ernest Woollacott (1888 – 1977) Methodist minister
As founding director of the United Churches Social Reform Board, Ernest Woollacott presided over an increasingly complex agenda that included postwar reconstruction, housing, promotion of community centres, monitoring of standards of radio and films, marriage guidance, international understanding, immigration, Aboriginal welfare, and industrial chaplaincy.
Ernest Woollacott, Methodist minister, was born on 20 November 1888 at Aberdeen, Burra, South Australia.
Raised in a staunchly Methodist home, Ernest was educated at Burra Public School. He preached locally from 1909 and was received as a candidate for the ministry by the South Australian Methodist Conference in 1913.
Woollacott had a strong commitment to social righteousness, a sharp mind and tactical skill. He was impatient with the view that religion and politics should be kept separate, and worked to secure pre-selection for parliamentary candidates who would stand firm on moral issues. A strong supporter of the temperance movement and an opponent of all forms of gambling, he tried to persuade politicians to adopt his views. He was founding director (1939) of the United Churches Social Reform Board, an alliance of Nonconformist churches which made well-informed contributions to public debate, and to parliamentary inquiries into liquor licensing, hotel opening hours, lotteries and off-course betting. With Woollacott as its chief strategist, the board successfully campaigned for the closing of betting shops during World War II and prevented their reopening afterwards.
The work of the social service department extended beyond the maintenance of ‘unswerving hostility’ to alcohol and gambling. Woollacott presided over an increasingly complex agenda that included postwar reconstruction, housing, promotion of community centres, monitoring of standards of radio and films, marriage guidance, international understanding, immigration, Aboriginal welfare, and industrial chaplaincy. In 1955, largely due to his efforts, the State government agreed to subsidize church homes for the aged. He was president (1949-50) of the State committee of the World Council of Churches.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A160698b.htm
In the period between the two world wars, the Protestant churches were a powerful political lobby group. They were strongly opposed to the liquor trade, gambling, and the organisation of secular events on Sundays. The Rev. Ernest Harry Woollacott was the superintendent of the Methodist Social Service Department from 1937 and director of the United Churches Social Reform Board from 1939.
Woollacott was a skilled lobbyist and had some success in encouraging church-going Methodists with these same opinions to stand for pre-selection in country electorates. In 1933 the government set up a Betting Control Board, and despite strong opposition from the churches, a Royal Commission four years later recommended no change to this legalised gambling.
However, the outbreak of war in 1939 provided a lever for arguing that precious resources were being wasted on gambling. Strict restrictions were imposed including a complete ban on horseracing between 1942 and 1943. The restrictions continued until a 1965 referendum saw overwhelming support for the establishment of a State Lottery, followed by the extension of hotel opening hours to 10 pm in 1967, marking a waning of the churches’ influence in this area.
Leave a Reply, comments are welcome.