Allied Works Council (AWC) Machinery Workshop

Cairns Regional Council Store and Office


Magazine Road, Stratford 4870

The main Allied Works Council (AWC) heavy machinery repair workshop for far north Queensland was located at Stratford, beside the old Barron River bridge. The workshop was completed about October 1943 by the AWC and Main Roads Commission (MRC). Facilities included spare parts and material stores, also a blacksmith and welding shop. Bulldozers, road graders, tractors and other heavy equipment used on AWC projects were repaired and maintained on-site. The workers’ camp was located nearby, on the present-day site of the Stratford Bowling Club.


The Curtin government established the AWC on 26 February 1942. Former Queensland premier Edward Theodore became its national director. The AWC’s role was to coordinate large scale defence construction projects throughout Australia. The Queensland director of public works, John Kemp, was placed in charge of the AWC in Queensland. Under Kemp’s direction, major defence projects were undertaken with the resources of the state’s Main Roads Commission and US engineer regiments.

The Civil Construction Corps (CCC) was established by the Curtin government on 14 April 1942 to provide a labour force of civilian tradesmen, plant operators and labourers to carry out construction work for AWC contractors. Men who were not enlisted in the armed forces and not in protected industries, were conscripted into the CCC, which by November 1943 totalled a labour force of more than 60,000 Australia-wide. Local government authorities and harbour boards were also called on to undertake defence works and provide services such as drainage and road maintenance works.

The huge construction program demanded the use of all existing organisations capable of carrying out works. Private contractors, both large and small, undertook work for the AWC. Acute labour shortages in north Queensland placed great dependence on manpower and supplies from the south. It was particularly hard to get sufficient men, plant and materials to remote locations like Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait when urgent requisitions were received.

The first AWC labour camp in Cairns was at Woree. As the demand for work grew, permanent camps for both AWC and CCC workers were located in Spence Street, Sheridan Street, Aumuller Street and the suburbs of North Cairns, Grafton and Stratford. Demand for labour on the Atherton Tableland from early 1943, Took most workers from Cairns. Once the Tableland army camps were established many men returned to work on the US transhipment port project and the Kuranda Range road.

After the war the MRC acquired the AWC workshops at Stratford. The wartime workshop and office later served as the Mulgrave Shire Council sewage workshop and is now owned by the Cairns Regional Council.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

Vera Bradley. I Didn’t Know That: Cairns and districts Tully to Cape York, 1939–1946, Service personnel and civilians, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 1995.
Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.
Main Roads Commission, History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II 1939–1945, Government Printer, Brisbane, 1949.