Author: Public Record Office Victoria

New records transferred to our collection provide a glimpse into the lives of Dandenong and surrounding residents during The Depression.

There are three different series, consisting of applications for sustenance administered by the shires of Cranbourne, Berwick and Dandenong in pursuance of the provisions of the Unemployment Relief (Administration) Act 1932.

The files contain Applications for Sustenance forms outlining:
- applicant name
- place of birth
- address
- age
- usual trade
- marital status
- out of employment details
- particulars of children and dependents
- information regarding assets or income
- investigation notes regarding application
- application support documentation such as statements of income.


What was The Sustenance Scheme of the 1930s? 

The sustenance scheme was established for the relief of individuals able and willing to work but unable to find employment. The scheme was managed by the Employment Council of Victoria (from1932) and relief committees were created throughout Victoria.

Sustenance payments were made on the basis of eight shillings (10 cents) six pence (5 cents) per week for man and wife with an additional one shilling and six pence per week for each additional child up to a maximum of 20 shillings 6 pence per week. In addition, each approved individual was provided with an identification card which enabled him to gain groceries, meat, bread and milk for a four week period through nominated shopkeepers selected by the individual. Sustenance also included the provision of babies' food, clothing and footwear for school children, firewood and rental assistance.

As outlined in the Unemployment Relief (Administration) Act 1932, only unemployed applicants who resided in Victoria for three or more months prior to application and were not found to have refused any opportunities for employment were eligible to apply.

In return for sustenance, male applicants were required to perform work for the municipality.


What you can discover in these files

A sample from the Dandenong series, an application from Alfred Anderson, reveals many details of this man’s life at the time of the Depression. At the time of application he had been out of work for 8 months, and struggling to support his wife and two young daughters. He had held various labouring jobs in the past and owned a truck and saw bench. He had also done shift work at the Kimpton Flour Mills Kensington. At the time of his application he held no bank accounts, and owned no property or business. The Inspector found that Alfred was willing and prepared to accept any work offered to him.   

Search ‘Applications for Sustenance’

The records are arranged alphabetically by applicant surname. Search Cranbourne VPRS 17876, Dandenong VPRS 17781 or Berwick VPRS 17877 for the list of records that are now available for viewing at the Victorian Archives Centre, North Melbourne.

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