Last Stand At Nymboida

Australian Workers Film Guide


This acclaimed documentary tells the remarkable story of the historic worker rebellion and takeover of the Nymboida Colliery in northern News South Wales in 1975, by 30 local miners who refused to be terminated and lose their entitlements.

Rather than accept the sack, the miners took the law into their own hands by illegally taking over the mine, a daring action that thrust the Nymboida miners into the international spotlight. With the backing of their union, the Miners Federation, their families and local community, the miners took on the might of the corporate world and conservative state government, ultimately winning legal control of the mine.  It was a remarkable victory. Never before, anywhere in the world, had a worker take-over succeeded in the mining industry, demonstrating to the world that workers can refuse to take the sack.

Much of the story is told through emotive interviews with the men and women who participated in the Nymboida rebellion, which is often interspersed with nostalgic contemporary visits to the town and derelict mine site. There is an emotional reunion scene at the Nymboida pub, where people come from far and wide to celebrate what they achieved and see each other one last time.

Some stunning black and white photography by Pete Thomas, the union’s Common Cause editor at the time, adds to the film visually.  Thomas extensively documented the rebellion and subsequent running of the mine.  Extensive use is also made of archive derived from a current affairs report by ABC TV’s A Big Country in 1976.

At the time, Nymboida was considered the most dangerous and primitive coal mine in Australia. It was also one of the most remote.  The men who worked underground provide an insight into the dangerous and difficult conditions, and how this bred a sense of comradeship and solidarity among them.

Following the rebellion, the film reveals how the miners and their union profitably operated the mine, allowing them to keep their jobs for the next four and half years and pay their entitlements in full.  But their success was laced with tragedy, when in 1976 a harrowing explosion ripped through the mine killing one of their mates and injuring others.  The miners in the film recount a dangerous and daring rescue to save their mates underground.

When the inevitable came and the mine closed in 1979, it was not to be the end of the Nymboida story. Impressed with their successful operation of the mine, the New South Wales Government controversially granted the union a replacement lease in the coal rich Hunter Valley.  This became United Collieries, a multi-million dollar joint venture between a trade union and a global mining company.  The film contains remarkable contemporary footage of the United Collieries underground operation, providing the audience with a close up view of longwall mining at the coalface. Given the gaseous and explosive nature of underground coal mines, especially when coal is being cut at the coal face, this was the first time in decades that a film crew were granted access to underground coal mining in Australia.

A levy on coal produced by United Collieries was used to establish the Mineworkers Trust, which resulted in millions of dollars donated to a range of community projects, including hospitals, educational institutions, scholarships, youth and sporting groups, emergency services as well as cultural projects.  

Former politicians, union leaders and academics – including US President Barack Obama’s Labor Advisor, Professor Tom Kochan, discuss the Nymboida miner’s unprecedented achievements.

Special Notes/Achievements

Commissioned by the Mineworkers Trust.

Following the broadcast in Australia and New Zealand, Nymboida miners Ian Carter, Neil McLennan, Trevor McLennan and John Tapp (already deceased) were awarded a Group Bravery Citation in the 2012 Australian Bravery Awards.[1] On 17 September 2012, Last Stand At Nymboida was mentioned in Federal Parliament during a speech by the Member for Parliament the Honorable Janelle Saffin, in which the film was described as ‘an award winning document’. [2]

  • Broadcast in Australia and New Zealand on the History Channel, 2012
  • Official selection – Cincinnati Film Festival (USA), 2011
  • Official selection – HD Fest New York (USA), 2012
  • Official selection – Canadian Labour International Film Festival (Canada), 2012
  • Official selection – The Reel Work Labor Film Festival (USA), 2012
  • Official selection – Workers Unite Film Festival (USA), 2012
  • Official selection – Hall’s Gap Film Festival (Aust), 2012
  • Best Documentary Feature, Best Director (Documentary) & Best Screenplay (Documentary) – Cincinnati Film Festival (USA), 2011
  • Special Jury Remi Award – WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival (USA), 2011
  • Best Documentary Directing – Colorado Film Festival (USA), 2011
  • Golden Ace Award – Las Vegas Film Festival (USA), 2011
  • Platinum Reel Award for Documentary – Nevada Film Festival (USA), 2011
  • Honorable Mention – Columbus International Film and Video Festival (USA), 2011
  • Gold Award for Documentary – Oregon Film Awards (USA), 2011
  • Award of Excellence, Short Documentary Award of Merit, History – The Indie Fest (USA), 2011
  • Award of Excellence, History Award of Merit, Documentary Short – The Accolade Film Competition (USA), 2011
  • Orson Welles Award for Documentary – California Film Awards (USA), 2012
  • Deffie Award for Best HD Documentary Feature – HDFEST New York (USA), 2012
  • Honorable Mention – Los Angeles Movie Awards (USA), 2012
  • Northern Lights Emerging Talent Award – Alaska Film Festival (USA), 2012
  • Seven Summits Award, Documentary – Mountain Film Festival (USA), 2012

[1]  Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Australian Honours and Awards, March (2012), Group Bravery Citation, viewed Jan 16 2023 <>

[2] Saffin J. (2012), Hansard – House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia, viewed Jan 16, 2023  <>

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 56 mins

Film Release Year:

Film Shooting Format: ,

Film Aspect Ratio:

Film Distribution Format: , , ,

Film Colour:

Film Director:

Film Producer: Diane Michael, Kerry Herman,

Film Writer: Jeff Bird, Paddy Gorman,

Film Key Cast:

Film Executive Producer:

Film Cinematographer:

Film Editor:

Film Sound Recordist: Ben Cunningham, John Roy,

Film Composer:

Film Production Company: