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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brand, Walter Levi (1893–1964)

by Suzanne D. Rutland

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Walter Levi Brand (1893-1964), Jewish welfare worker, was born on 3 June 1893 at Hackney, London, son of David Brand, a horse-hair merchant, and his wife Rose, née Harris. Educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's Hampstead School (1905-08), Walter visited Australia in 1911. During World War I he enlisted and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front. Migrating to Sydney in 1920, Brand worked as a manager in his uncle's fur and hide business. On 14 September 1921 at the city's Great Synagogue he married Vera Rosetta Davis; they were to remain childless. With the onset of the Depression, his business collapsed. Vera, a fashion designer, opened a successful shop in Elizabeth Street while he hawked vacuum cleaners.

A council-member (1922-46) of the Sir Moses Montefiore Jewish Home, in 1940-64 Brand was general secretary of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, serving under three presidents, Sir Samuel Cohen, Saul Symonds and Sydney Einfeld. Brand was involved with the administration and upkeep of Jewish migrant hostels in which he maintained that rules were necessary 'to govern the activities of the inmates'. Mutual Enterprises Pty Ltd had been established in 1939 to provide interest-free loans to newcomers and he ran the company until 1947. Despite health problems, he dedicated himself to his welfare work. He often met refugees at their ships' first Australian port of call, but, hampered by his officious manner and his lack of Yiddish or any other European language, he found it difficult to reassure the newcomers.

Retaining a scrupulously apolitical stance, Brand dealt effectively with government authorities in Canberra. In World War II he helped to persuade the authorities to change the status of refugees from 'enemy aliens' to 'refugee aliens'. His contribution to Jewish welfare aroused controversy because Brand was seen by his clientele as being insensitive to their needs. He came into conflict with the Association of Refugees (later Association of New Citizens) over conditions in internment camps, and warned the secretary of the Department of the Interior in 1942 and Australian intelligence in 1945 against the association's campaign on behalf of internees. In the long term, Brand's inadequacy in handling the new arrivals created a sense of bitterness and resentment among many of them. His role became more administrative in the late 1950s when sub-committees were created to represent different national groups. In 1956-57 he travelled with Einfeld to Europe, Morocco and the United States of America.

Brand regularly attended annual citizenship conventions in Canberra and was an executive-member of the State branch of the New Settlers' League of Australia (later the Good Neighbour Council of New South Wales). He was active in the Sydney Jewish Aid Society, the New South Wales Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, and the New South Wales Jewish War Memorial (president 1949-52). In addition, he was secretary of the Australian Federation of Jewish Welfare Societies and a member of the New South Wales Board of Jewish Deputies. He supported schemes to bring out orphaned children who had survived the Holocaust and sponsored three, among them William Markovicz. Survived by his wife, Brand died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 31 March 1964 at Surfers Paradise, Queensland, and was buried in Rookwood cemetery, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Andgel, Fifty Years of Caring (Syd, 1988)
  • N. Keesing, Presidents of the New South Wales Jewish War Memorial (Syd, 1988)
  • Young Men's Hebrew Assn News, 13 Nov 1947
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Apr 1964
  • S. D. Rutland, The History of Australian Jewry, 1945-1960 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Sydney, 1990)
  • minutes and correspondence, Australian Jewish Welfare Society Archives, Sydney
  • Department of the Interior, A433/1, 46/2/1220 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Suzanne D. Rutland, 'Brand, Walter Levi (1893–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 19 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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