John Clements Collection

Collection of oral histories donated to the Library by John Clements, oral historian, peace activist and social historian. The Collection includes reel-to-reel and audio cassette taped oral histories which have been converted to CD. A number of oral histories include transcripts or summary transcripts.

John Clements was a complex and interesting man, intelligent and forthright, compassionate and confronting. His life was modified by his own responses to the social and economic injustices of his time.

He was born Harold Godric Clements but was variously called Godric by his mother; Clem by his wife and friends; and John (a name picked as suitable for the A.B.C.) by his colleagues.

He was born in 1908 with a missionary, clerical and academic heritage into a life of privilege and comfort in Byron’s Lodge, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire. He was educated at the Leys School Cambridge and Christ Church Cathedral Choir School Oxford, where he was a chorister. He was a young teenager when his father, a Cambridge solicitor, died and the family fortunes tumbled.

Godric now worked on the land in his holidays and at the end of his schooldays he was sent to the City of London to work. Sharp business practices and first hand experience of the General Strike of 1926 made a lifelong impression on him.

In 1929 he sailed for Australia "just in time for the Depression". For seven years he worked on the land, driving a team of eight at Gabbin, digging potatoes in Harvey, in fact any work he could get. Although he was innovative and hard working his own conditional purchase land was resumed. At that time he stood for parliament on the Douglas Credit ticket and narrowly missed a seat.

Clem’s Oxford-Cambridge accent and love of language secured him an announcer’s job with the A.B.C. in 1936 which he held until 1945. From 2LO Sydney he read: "This is the voice of Australia, this is John Clements."

During this time he was approached to become a member of the Communist Party, together with other staff of the A.B.C, the daily newspapers and local authors. He remained a member until Prague Spring 1968.

From then on it was a matter of "living the life", and leading by example. To this end he became involved in many community development and social justice projects – and every aspect of his life was watched by A.S.I.O. for the next 25 years.

He worked for the establishment of a kindergarten and library at Bassendean; the progress of The Children’s Book Council as President; he was a long time President of the Australian Peace Council W.A, (in this capacity he brought the Hiroshima panels to the old Perth Art Gallery and sent, in a giant iceblock, Western Australian wildflowers to Romania. He was also Secretary and President of the Bassendean State School P& C and member of the Bassendean Road Board. He was an active member of the New Theatre, the Fellowship of Australian Writers and FreVideo (now a part of the Film and Television Institute).

At every opportunity he used the media to express his views on a wide range of subjects.

To put bread on the table for his wife Margaret and four children, he worked first in Post War Reconstruction, then Real Estate, and finally as Manager of the World Record Club. He also provided for his family via a very productive vegetable garden, chooks and a milking cow. Every child had an animal of their choice, all accommodated in a big old house and an acre of land, on the river, at 49 North Road Bassendean.

In his later years, he toured Australia taking poetry to schools, with readings and cassettes.

He continued to work for the Peace and Environmental Movements.

However his greatest joy at this time, was the creation of this collection of Oral Histories which he gifted to Murdoch University before his death in 1985.

The above information was provided by John Clements' daughter, Susan Clarke, in 2003.

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Preferred citation

[Identification of item], John Clements Collection, QB 23, Special Collections, Murdoch University Library, Murdoch, Western Australia.

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