For Love or Money

Australian Workers Film Guide


A landmark feature documentary that charts the history of women and work in Australia from white settlement through to the 1980s, drawing on extensive footage from movies, documentaries, news and newsreels, home movies, television shows and commercials, as well as still images. Narrated by celebrated Australian actor Noni Hazlehurst, the film shows footage of women at work and attempts to chart the work of women from every background, occupation and time frame. The film articulates a feminist perspective on the history of women’s work in Australia, demonstrating how their framing as mothers and wives has adversely impacted their opportunity to work as equals to men, both in terms of access to skilled employment and equal pay for equivalent work. With women’s work in the home regarded as of low value, this in turn determines the kinds of paid employment available to women in society. The film highlights the importance of women’s unpaid work in supporting society and their families and charts their 200 year struggle for equality in employment, pay and conditions.

Presented chronologically, the film consists of four parts. Part 1, Hard Labour charts the impact of the industrial revolution on poor women, their transportation and exploitation in the penal colony of New South Wales, the impact of colonisation on aboriginal women and stolen generations, the hardship of early settler life, domestic servants as slaves, industrialisation in the 1870s and girls attracted to factories, women only allowed unskilled work and paid half that of men, union exclusion of women, the Tailoresses union, the impact of the 1890s depression on women, the fight for equal pay, access to higher education and the right to vote.

Part 2, Daughters of Toil opens with World War One and the entry of women into the workforce to replace men fighting in Europe, women nurses at the front and cuts to their wages, the impact of the General Strike of 1917 on women, a 1918 minimum wage for women but only at 54% pay, the toil of childbirth and motherhood, child health care, aboriginal girls forced into domestic service, the advent of new household technology, the role of women in keeping families afloat during the Depression and male unemployment, the 1934 Wonthaggi coal strike and the role of women in the broad committee, women protesting unemployment, the piecemeal system, attempts to force women from the workforce to bear children, and women fighting for aboriginal rights.

Part 3, Working for the Duration opens with World War Two and women once again entering the workforce while the men are fighting abroad, the role of women’s auxiliaries during the war, lack of equal pay and subsequent strikes, the exclusion of women from paid work after the war, harsh conditions in immigrant camps, the role of women in the anti-war movement, aborigines being pushed off reserves to assimilate on the edge of towns, the return of women to workforces during the boom of the 1960s, followed by office automation and women doing mundane data entry work.

Part 4, Work of Value covers the continuing struggle for equal pay starting with the 1969 arbitration court case that only instituted equal pay for equal work, the role of women in the anti-Vietnam War protests, participating in the campaigning and election of the Whitlam Government that resulted in new programs to assist women and achieve equal pay, how women historically worked for love not money, women winning right to drive trams in Melbourne and work in the Wollongong steelworks, the shift of jobs off shore once women win equal pay, the impact of computers on female unemployment and the role of working mothers in society.

Special Notes/Achievements

A companion book was also released with the film, For Love or Money: A Pictorial History of Women and Work in Australia (1983). A number of interviews were filmed during the making of this film and this material was used sparingly within the compilation of archive material. These source material interviews are held at the NFSA. These include:  Alice Briggs, Ann Curthoys, Anne Summers, Betty Johnson, Betty Reilly, Carmen Lavezzari, Chris Phillips, Edna Ryan, Eileen Capocchi, Gay Hawkins, Gwen Chaumont, Ina Jones, June de Lorenzo, Kayleen Chamberlain, Louise West, Magaret Power, Meg Foster, Pam Cummins, Stella Nord, Sue Bellamy, Zelda D’Aprano along with some other filmed scenes.

  • United Nations Media Peace Prize of 1985.
  • Best Feature Documentary, International Cinema del Cinema delle Donne, Florence (Italy), 1984
  • Best Screenplay, Best Documentary, nominated AFI Awards (Aust), 1984
  • Official selection – 34th Berlin Film Festival: International Forum of Young Cinema (Germany), 1984
  • Official selection – VI Incontro Internazionale del Cinema delle Donne: Il Cinema delle Isole, Florence (Italy), 1984 
  • Official selection – 7th San Francisco International Film Festival (USA), 1984 
  • Official selection – Women Make Movies Film Festival, San Francisco (USA), 1984 
  • Official selection – 13th Wellington Film Festival (NZ), 1984 
  • Official selection – Cambridge Film Festival (UK), 1984
  • Official selection – 16th Auckland International Film Festival (NZ), 1984
  • Official selection – 13° Festival Internacional de Cinema Figuiera da Foz, (Portugal), 1984
  • Official selection – Festival International du Nouveau Cinema (Canada), 1984 
  • Official selection – Uppsala Film Festival (Sweden), 1984
  • Official selection – Through Her Eyes Women’s Film Festival (Canada), 1984
  • Official selection – Festival International de Films de Femmes (France), 1985 
  • Official selection – St.Kilda Film Festival (Aust), 1985
  • Official selection – Tokyo International Women’s Film Festival (Japan), 1985
  • Official selection – Women’s International Filmforum (Kenya), 1985
  • Official selection – 24e Festikon Educatief Film-Videofestival (Netherlands), 1985
  • Official selection – Semaine Internationale Cinema Valladolid (Spain), 1985 
  • Official selection – Women in Film Festival (USA), 1985
  • Official selection – U.S. Film Festival (USA), 1986
  • Official selection – 2nd Scottsdale Film Festival (USA), 1986
  • Official selection – Australian Film Month, Jerusalem (Israel), 1986
  • Official selection – Women in the Director’s Chair Festival (USA), 1987

This is not a complete list of the numerous film festival official selections for For Love or Money. For screenings after 1987, please see footnote and website. [1]

[1] Margot N. (n.d.), For Love or Money [website], viewed 20 January 2023 <>

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 105 mins

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Film Director: Jeni Thornley, Megan McMurchy,

Film Producer: Margot Oliver, Jeni Thornley, Megan McMurchy,

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