WWF Film News No.1

Australian Workers Film Guide


In 1956 the Waterside Workers Film Unit made its own newsreel of the 1956 national waterfront strike, or Margins Dispute, which was a campaign to increase wages eroded by inflation. 

In a newsreel style, the film opens with a wage justice meeting at Sydney Town Hall, where the ACTU president announces support for the Waterside Workers action, followed by a Labor member of parliament also pledging support. Other speakers include WWF president Jim Healey and Vigilance officer of WWF Sydney Branch Matt Munro, the latter arguing that the campaign would help other workers.

At the Dowding Street Depot, tramway workers support the strike. At St. Mary’s, wharfie Stan Moran speaks to employees of the American Utah Consolidated Company, while WWF Secretary Bill Hartness and Jack Rule speak to steel workers at Port Kembla. At Wollongong, there are scenes of members donating blood to the Red Cross, the strikers’ wives listening to the reasons for the campaign, followed by images of women supporting the strike, the strike committee in Melbourne in action and the distribution of money and food. The entertainment committee is seen setting up movie projectors to present union films, while in Newcastle the strike committee is seen distributing food and money, with the women assisting and giving advice on the welfare committee.

At the Sydney branch, men are seen getting free haircuts, while the welfare committee led by Vice President Norm Woodley and communist alderman Ron Maxwell discuss ways to alleviate the hardship on the strikers. This is followed by images of distribution day and the women’s committee.

Against a backdrop of mass meetings in public places, the ACTU withdraws support, the WWF council meets to reject ACTU proposal, followed by a democratic vote by rank and file to return to work. The Melbourne branch is addressed by councilors Kearney Rock and Tas Bull, where the members vote to return to work.

While travelling in their kombi van to these various locations for filming, the filmmakers also sought to reach out to workers across the country and teach them how to use projectors and screen films. [1]

[1] Milner L. (2003), Fighting Films: A History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Film Unit, p97, Pluto Press; North Melbourne.

Special Notes/Achievement

Featured on Fighting Films DVD. [2]

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

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 11 mins 50 secs

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

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