An Australian Merchant Seaman’s Story In His Own Words – Ray Smith

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.

In this episode seaman Ray Smith reveals how he joined the navy in 1963, and then the merchant navy in 1979.  In the navy he received 8 weeks of leave per year at his home port of Melbourne.  As an unmarried merchant seaman the wages were adequate and he worked on various types of ships. Unlike the navy ships, the merchant crews were constantly changing and many seamen were hard to get out of the bar. The Union school taught him how to talk to people and the school should be restarted.  He feels that going to sea cost him his marriage as he would be away for up to 6 months. He thinks that today people are not interested in the union, especially the young – they want the money but don’t want to work.

Special Notes/Achievements

Picture and sound quality is low given low budget production.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 51 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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