An Era Of Coal

Australian Workers Film Guide


An amateur film shot on Super 8 by local resident John Sleeman during the final year of the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine’s operation in Victoria. At one time the most militant union stronghold in Australia, the film depicts above and below ground operations.  The film documents the life cycle of coal production, starting with the Power Station, then underground mining at Western Area, followed by coal transportation to No.5 Brace for coal picking and processing.  This is followed by above ground operations at Kirrak Area, with miners and horses coming out of the pit head, a train being filled with coal and traversing the countryside, crossing the iconic Kilcunda bridge. There is vision of the mine workshops, the manager’s office and pay office. The film ends with rare footage of miners coming out of the mine shaft at the private coal mine at Kilcunda. As an amateur film, the quality is often poor, however, this is a rare depiction of workings at the State Coal Mine, featuring panoramic views of the mines, miners checking for gas, digging and shoveling coal, narrow working bords, men and horses pushing and pulling skips underground, power borers and shot firing, coal and slag being dumped, coal processing and clipping.

Special Notes/Achievements

Originally filmed in colour Super 8 film and with audio commentary from the filmmaker. Sound and colour lost in film to video transfer – first used as archive footage in documentary film Black Gold, Kindred Spirits (1996).

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 36 mins

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