Topic: Social and History

Resource Library

“Pig Iron Bob” and the 1938 Port Kembla strike

The 1938 Dalfram dispute involved dock workers at Port Kembla in Australia striking & refusing to load iron on a ship bound for Japan in 1938.

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1936 Maritime Strike by Torres Strait Islander Workers

Learn about the maritime strike in the Torres Strait Islands in 1936 where workers in the pearl fishing industry took a stand against racism.

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21 April 1856 – Melbourne Stonemason’s take action for the 8-Hour Day

On 21 April in 1856, building workers in Melbourne took strike action and won the eight-hour day as a general industry standard.

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60th Anniversary of the Labour History Society

A blog article about the 60th Anniversary of Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH). Find out more about membership.

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A Short History of Unions taking Action for Equal Pay!

31 August is Equal Pay Day-Australian unions have a long history of campaigning for gender equality & for the economic independence of women workers.

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Australia’s First Nation-wide Union Meeting and the Foundation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions ACTU

The first nation-wide meeting of unions in Australia took place in October 1879. It was called the Intercolonial Trade Union Congress.

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Australian Unions win Maternity Leave – 1979

Learn about the history of maternity leave in Australia in the 1970s and the role of the Australian unions.

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Brian Manning: A Life in the Struggle

On 3 November 2013, the legendary unionist Brian Manning passed away after a lifetime in the struggle. The union movement is proud to remember him and his extraordinary contribution to the cause of social justice.

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Conviction Politics: multimedia resource

Conviction Politics is an international digital history project exploring the impact of radicals and rebels transported as political convicts to Australia on their place of exile, and the patterns of collective resistance by the mass of unfree convict women and women to the exploitation of their forced labour.

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Emma Miller: Remembering a Union Hero

Learn more about legendary union activist, leader and organiser Emma Miller, who was born on the 26th of June 1839.

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Henry Lawson: The Workers’ Poet

Commemorating Australian poet, Henry Lawson, who in the late nineteenth century was a superstar of working-class poetry.

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How Unions helped build Medicare

The history of how unions helped create Medicare, the national public health system in Australia, introduced in 1984.

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How Unions helped build Superannuation

Unions have a long history of campaigning for superannuation.There were union campaigns for retirement schemes as far back as the 1920s.

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How Unions Won the Right to Annual Leave

A short history of how unions in Australia campaigned over the decades for the right to annual leave.

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How Unions Won the Weekend

The story of how workers came together in their unions, took actions, and won the important right to a weekend and the 40 hour work week.

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Jennie George becomes the first woman elected ACTU President

About Jennie George - the first woman to be elected as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

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Laurie Carmichael – A Legendary Unionist

Read about Laurie Carmichael, a unionist in Australia who had a lifelong dedication to solidarity and the working class.

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Maritime Union of Australia MUA: Here to Stay! The 1998 Waterfront Dispute

Read about the infamous 1998 Waterfront dispute with the dockworkers, Maritime Union of Australia and Patrick Stevedores.

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Masterclass for Activists: Ideas to Educate, Inspire and Change the World

This Masterclass podcast series aims to build the capabilities of civil society by inspiring, educating and equipping activists to become workplace and community leaders.

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Noonkanbah Protest

An inspiring example of collective action by Aboriginal workers and their allies against powerful corporate interests who wanted to trample their rights for profit.

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Remembering Bob Hawke

Remembering former Prime Minister of Australia and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions ACTU - legendary Bob Hawke.

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Remembering Edna Ryan: Champion of Equality

Remembering Edna Ryan, a woman who left an extraordinary legacy of activism against sexism and for gender equity.

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Stories of Hope & Change: Muriel Heagney

This is the story of Muriel Heagney, an extraordinary unionist who led a 60-year long campaign for equal pay for working women.

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The 1891 Shearers’ Strike

A Sheep Shearer’s strike began in Queensland in 1891 when employers sought to introduce union-busting contracts and a reduction in pay rates.

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The 1916 Campaign against Conscription

Learn about the union-led campaign against conscription in World World War One as told by the Australian Trade Union Institute.

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The 1957 Palm Island Strike

Learn about the leaders of a strike in 1957 by Aboriginal people on Palm Island demanding to be treated with dignity, respect & equality.

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The 1972 Equal Pay Case

Brief history of the union campaign in Australia for equal pay for women which led to the “equal pay for work of equal value” decision in 1972.

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The ACTU’s 1941 Equal Pay Conference

The Australian Council of Trade Unions ACTU campaign for equal pay for women workers started with a conference in 1941.

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The Campaign for Asbestos Justice and Workers’ Compensation

Read about and be inspired by the campaign by workers including Bernie Banton and their unions for justice for asbestos victims.

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The First Sydney Mardi Gras – and the Hidden History of LGBTIQA+ Unionists!

Have you heard the story of the trade union contribution to the struggle for equality? Read about the hidden history of LGBTIQA+ and unionists.

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The Gurindji Strike, 1966

Learn about the Wave Hill walk off and strike in 1966 by the Gurindji people who fought for award wages, land rights and self-determination.

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The Harvester Judgement and the Basic Wage

In 1907 the Commonwealth Conciliation & Arbitration Court delivered the famous Harvester Judgement enforcing a basic rate of pay.

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The Metal Workers win the 38-hour week

On 8 December 1981, unionists in the metal industry voted to end a long industrial campaign, and won the 38-hour week.

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The Origins of May Day

The first of May has long been a day of celebration for the international workers’ movement. Why do we celebrate May Day?

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The Power of Union Learning: A Snapshot from the ‘70s

Snapshot of the significance of union training for workplace representatives at a time when school completion rates were half of what they are today in Australia.

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Tribute to Tom McDonald: A Lifetime Winning for Workers

Tribute to Tom McDonald, a union activist, organiser & leader, dedicated to empowering workers to take action to win improvements in their lives at work.

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Union solidarity with East Timor

In 1999 the Australian union movement sprung into action to show solidarity with the people of East Timor by protesting.

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War on the Water Front: Australian Waterfront Dispute 1998 [Videos – Short History & Documentary]

Documentary about the Australian waterfront dispute of 1998 - a watershed event in Australian industrial relations history.

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West Gate Bridge Collapse in 1970

Learn about one of the worst industrial disasters in Australia’s history: the collapse of the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne in 1970.

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Why Nelson Mandela Thanked the Australian Union Movement

In 1990 Nelson Mandela delivered a thank you speech to the Australian trade union movement at the Melbourne Town Hall.

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Zelda D’Aprano’s Equal Pay Protest

On 21 October 1969, legendary union activist Zelda D’Aprano chained herself to the doors of the Commonwealth Building to protest for Equal Pay! This is her remarkable story.

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