An Australian Merchant Seaman’s Story In His Own Words – Peter McCracken

Australian Workers Film Guide


Part of a series of interview segments produced by the SUA/MUA in which retired Australian merchant seamen recount their working lives at sea as well as their engagement with union campaigns and activities. Each episode features a seaman, or sometimes a pair of seamen, sharing their story in a largely unstructured and extended interview. They form an important on camera collection of oral histories about Australia’s unionised merchant seamen.

Peter McCracken began working as an Australian merchant seaman in 1942 as a 15 year old galley boy. Through his friends working on Norwegian ships he learned of the stark differences in pay and conditions on the Australian and British ships, which were determined along rank lines. On the Norwegian ships, apart from the captain, seaman were paid under a wage system of equal value for all seaman. 

On board they were provided with meals, usually fish and they had to wash with seawater from a bucket. Working with explosives attracted allowances because it was dangerous as salt water could set them off. The ship owners were seen as the common enemy.

Special Notes/Achievements

Picture and sound quality is low given low budget production.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 31 mins

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Film Director: Wayne Finch, John Brittain,

Film Producer: Wayne Finch, John Brittain,

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Film Cinematographer: Wayne Finch, John Brittain,

Film Editor: Jennie Finch, Jamie McMechan,

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