November Victory

Australian Workers Film Guide


Produced by the Waterside Workers Film Unit, the film charts the successful November 1954 waterside workers strike against ship owners and the Menzies Federal Government. 

The film opens with a flying flag of the Southern Cross, followed by a procession of important struggles in Australia’s labour history, including the Eureka Stockade, the Shearers Strike of the 1890s, the Great General Strike of 1917, the 1929 Rothbury lockout police shooting, and the waterside workers fight against fascism and support for Indonesian independence.   There is authentic looking simulated footage of police shooting a miner at Rothbury.

In addition to extensive footage of wharves, waterside workers and shipping, the film contains a number of re-creations, in particular the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation Jim Healy briefing union officials on the conspiracy against them and their plan of attack, as well as a re-creation of Prime Minister Menzies in a cabinet meeting, drinking tea in a garden while conspiring against workers.  Communist waterside worker Jack Lair Smith plays the part of Menzies, bearing a striking resemblance to the prime minister. [1]

Footage and scenes follow of men gathering on wharves and participating in union meetings to maintain the right for union control over waterside worker recruitment. Scenes showing support for the strike from the ACTU and other unions and industries, deputations to Canberra and public meetings, including a Communist Party speaker and Labor leader Doc Evatt speaking against the government’s legislation in a meeting.

Footage shows men and women volunteering to help the strike effort, publicity, speakers visiting workplaces and farms, as well as distributing leaflets.  Scenes of striking workers speaking to foreign ship workers on deck and from boats in Sydney Harbour, raising money, images of solidarity and unity, unions sending telegrams of support, followed by an ACTU meeting in which a resolution is passed to black ban any applicants to the new legislation.  The final scene is of men going back to work victorious. 

[1] Milner L. (2003), Fighting Films: A History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Film Unit, p95, Pluto Press; North Melbourne.

Special Notes/Achievements

Featured on Fighting Films DVD. [1]

  • Official selection – Karlovy Vary Film Festival (Czechoslovakia), 1955. [2]

[1] Fighting Films DVD (2006), Produced by Lisa Milner. [DVD] Sydney; Maritime Union of Australia.

[2]Film Front News’, Sydney Branch News WWF (1956) as cited in Milner (2003) Fighting Films: A History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Film Unit, p96, Pluto Press; North Melbourne.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 22 mins

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Film Director: Jerome Levy, Keith Gow, Norma Disher,

Film Producer: Jerome Levy, Keith Gow, Norma Disher,

Film Writer: Jerome Levy, Keith Gow, Norma Disher,

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Film Editor: Jerome Levy, Keith Gow, Norma Disher,

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