Women of Steel

Australian Workers Film Guide


A landmark documentary about the 14 year struggle of a group of women in Wollongong for the right to work at the male dominated local steelworks run by Australian Iron and Steel, a division of BHP. Winning the right to work at the steelworks in 1980 was only the beginning of their struggles. They faced severe sexism and discrimination in the workplace and soon found themselves out of job once a downturn hit the industry eight months later. These women continued the fight, successfully taking BHP to court, which was followed by a larger class action that went all the way to the High Court.

The events took place against a backdrop of social change about the role of women in society and the workplace, championed by the nascent women’s movement. The film highlights the formidable challenges that this largely migrant workforce faced in a new and somewhat undeveloped land. Another interesting facet of the story is their establishment of a tent embassy outside the steelworks, which was inspired by the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra. The efforts of these determined women paved the way for equal employment rights for women across the country.

The film is told through a montage of participant interviews, extensive media coverage as well as fascinating archive shot by the film’s director Robynne Murphy during the campaign. A steelworker and promising filmmaker at the time, Murphy played a central role in the women’s group that took on the mining giant and won.

Special Notes/Achievements

  • Official selection – Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (Aust), 2021
  • Official selection – Sydney Film Festival (Aust), 2020
  • Winner – Melbourne Documentary Film Festival (Aust), 2021
  • Winner – The Macquarie-PHA Applied History Award (Aust), 2020 [1]

[1] Women of Steel (n.d), [website], viewed Jan 31, 2023 <https://www.womenofsteelfilm.com/media/>

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 55 mins 32 secs

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Film Cinematographer: Phil Crawford, Shaniece Igano, Deniz Balabay, Daniel de Filippo, Robynne Murphy,

Film Editor: Phil Crawford, Rowena Crowe,

Film Sound Recordist: Daniel de Filippo, Matt Velozo, Liam Dallas, Robert Sutherland,

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