Commencing in 1997 and lasting 22 months, the Gordonstone Mine Dispute became one of Australia’s longest running coal disputes. Taking place in the wake of the newly enacted Workplace Relations Act of 1996, 312 miners were dismissed for refusing to sign individual contracts, representing a front line attack on the rights of Australian workers by the Howard Government. Thousands of supporters from all over the country descended on the Lilyvale Road picket in Crinum, in the Central Highlands Region of Queensland to show their support.
Shot on the Gordonstone picket line in October 1997 by CFMEU activist Frank Baker, footage from these amateur tapes first appeared in the feature documentary Blood On The Coal (2015). The picket operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Life on the picket was harsh and subject to the extreme heat and cold of the Queensland outback. As demonstrated by the footage, the picketers faced frequent road side surveillance and harassment by company hired thugs, at all times of the day and night. This was punctuated by rancorous picket line protests as frequent buses carrying strike breakers entered the mine site with police escorts.
The first tape contains extensive footage of company surveillance of the picket line, featuring surveillance from unmarked cars and company hired plain clothed individuals, often recording the picketers with cameras. There is extensive footage of the picketers holding placards on the roadside, as well as numerous scenes of buses with strike breakers entering the mine under police escort as the protestors blow whistles and shout out. Footage of verbal skirmishes between the company men and the picketers is seen in parts, as well as footage of the camp and picket line itself. The picketers are seen unfurling the Gordonstone Lodge banner, followed by a Lilyvale Stand Workers Rights banner being erected. This is followed by footage of rocks being painted on the ground in the words ‘Lilyvale Stockade’. The second tape contains more of the above in terms of surveillance and buses being escorted by police. Of interest is night-time harassment by company thugs as they shine spotlights at the picket line camp.
Author: J Bird, 2023