Banners Held High

Australian Workers Film Guide


Produced by the Waterside Workers Film Unit, this short documentary shot on colour 16mm film was commissioned by the May Day Committee of the NSW Trades and Labor Council. Narrated by the Film Unit’s Jock Levy, the film celebrates the trade union tradition of creating and displaying banners through the lens of the 1956 Sydney May Day parade. 

The banner tradition is framed within the wider union movement in which workers are seen as the cornerstone of national industry and prosperity, which is depicted in a montage of workers who ‘do the dirty and hard work’ of nation building. This includes images of workers in construction, road works, mining, shipping and tramways. Particular attention is given to seamen and the risks they face at sea, culminating in footage of a vessel wrecked on the rocks.

Through images and narration, the film explains how the banner tradition articulates the trade union movement’s fight for better conditions and wages, international trade and world peace, as well as the provision of pensions and the protection of trade unions. The film shows extensive footage of the 1956 May Day march in which banners from many different unions and progressive causes are proudly displayed in the streets of Sydney, including banners displayed by women’s auxiliaries and associated groups, as well as a considerable number of anti-war and anti-nuclear banners.


Special Notes/Achievements

Featured on the Fighting Films DVD (2006).

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 9 mins

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