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Joseph Cindric (c. 1906–1994)

by Glenn Mitchell

This article was published:

Joseph Cindric (1906/08–1994), displaced person, labourer, and homeless person, was born on 9 June 1906 or 1908 at Sastavol[1] in the region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that later became the state of Yugoslavia. Also known as Josef, Joe, or Joso, he was a forced evacuee to Germany from Yugoslavia in June 1941. He had worked on his father’s farm since childhood, and had no formal schooling; he could not read, could write only his name, and spoke no English. His Australian immigration papers later recorded that he spoke German and Yugoslavian (probably Croatian).

In Germany Cindric became part of the Nazi forced labour program, spending four years in a coal mine, followed by six months in a gas factory and then over a year polishing lenses. Frustrated and bored with life in the Ansbach Displaced Persons Camp at the end of the war, he sought to emigrate to Australia to work as a coalminer.

Cindric arrived in Sydney from Bremerhaven aboard the Charlton Sovereign on 29 October 1948. By then he was a widower and his two children had predeceased him. The following month he was in Nyngan, central New South Wales, working for the State railways. It was here that he began to identify what he believed to be threats by other immigrants against his life. He left the railways and in July 1949 applied for employment at Dubbo. His work on a Coonamble property lasted but a few days before he left without notice.

It is likely that an obsession with walking also began at this time. When Cindric left his job, he simply walked to the next town. By the following month he had made his way to Sydney, where the Toric Lens Manufacturing Co. Pty Ltd in Sussex Street engaged him. This lasted only weeks—even though his employers found him satisfactory—before he asked the Commonwealth Employment Service to find him work with a brick company at Rosebery. It is not known if this occurred, because in June 1950 he was employed in central western New South Wales, this time at the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Co. Pty Ltd (EMMCO) at Orange. EMMCO had taken over the Orange Small Arms factory after World War II to make household appliances and employed many newly arrived immigrants.

Cindric lived in a workers’ camp on the outskirts of Orange while engaged as a labourer at EMMCO. Immigration authorities took out a deportation order, which was later deferred on the condition that his work and personal behaviour would remain acceptable. It is clear that he was beginning to experience significant problems in both his employment and his personal life. In May 1951 police at Orange charged him with carrying a home-made unlicensed pistol crafted from pipe and a cutting instrument. He had made several pistols and a dagger because he said some Ukrainians at the EMMCO camp had threatened to kill him. He was sentenced to six months gaol on each charge, served concurrently, with the magistrate recommending that he be deported.

Less than two years later Cindric was before the courts again, this time for vagrancy. In April 1953 the Dubbo court sentenced him to one month’s gaol. When he applied for a new certificate of registration under the Aliens Act 1947–1952 in February 1955, he was living at Leichhardt, Sydney. In May 1956 the Glebe court sentenced him to six months gaol each for vagrancy and for being in possession of house-breaking equipment. Less than three weeks after his release from Parramatta Gaol in March 1957, he was arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced again on the same charges. He was released in early August.

In November 1959, when Cindric was issued with a new certificate of registration, he had moved from private accommodation to the Salvation Army Hostel at Surry Hills. His requests for new certificates and his appearances before courts revealed more than his indiscretions: his ability to speak English was limited, he could still barely sign his name, and despite his reputation as a good worker before he arrived in Australia, he was drifting from job to job. Moreover, he was homeless. He did not attract the attention of the law for another seven years, when in February 1964 he was arrested again for vagrancy. Receiving a six months sentence, which he served at Parramatta Gaol, he was released in June 1964.

After this final release from prison, Cindric began to garner new recognition. He built the first of several trolleys and began pushing it around inner Sydney. His possessions were accommodated in a suitcase on top and, wearing a white or red plastic helmet, or occasionally a soft felt hat, he wheeled his trolley around Sydney streets. Seemingly without an identity, he began to be defined by his trolleys. He became known as the Trolley Man, a confronting muse who inspired the sculptor Richard Goodwin. With John Drews and Peter Dallow, Goodwin also made a short film about him in 1980. Cindric never remarried and died on 2 November 1994 in the Bennelong Nursing Home at Ashfield; he was buried in the Catholic section of Rookwood cemetery. His trolley was acquired by the Powerhouse Museum.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Central Western Daily. ‘Migrant Made Own Guns, “Feared Murder Threat.”’ 17 May 1951, 1
  • Falconer, Delia. Sydney. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2010
  • Goodwin, Richard. Richard Goodwin: Performance to Porosity. Fishermans Bend, Vic.: Thames & Hudson, 2006
  • National Archives of Australia. A11927, 51
  • National Archives of Australia. SP908/1, YUGOSLAVIAN/CINDRIC JOSEF
  • Pickett, Charles. ‘The Trolley Man Immortalised.’ Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. 24 May 2010. Accessed 1 May 2019. Copy held on ADB file
  • Pickett, Charles. ‘The Trolley Man Part 2.’ Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. 9 March 2011. Accessed 1 May 2019. Copy held on ADB file

Additional Resources

Citation details

Glenn Mitchell, 'Cindric, Joseph (c. 1906–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2020, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Cindric, Josef
  • Trolley Man

c. 9 June, 1906
Sastavak, Croatia


2 November, 1994 (aged 88)
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (pancreatic)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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