Branch history

The Canberra Region Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History was established in August 1995.

The first meeting was held in the rooms of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union (FMWU) at ACTU House, 40 Brisbane Avenue Canberra. Initially known as the ACT Branch, the name was changed in 1999 to reflect the the strong historical bonds with wider local area, including Queanbeyan and the nearby mining village of Captains Flat.

Ted Forbes - Copy

Ted Forbes

Since its foundation, the branch has drawn its membership from the industrial, political, community and academic areas of labour history commitment in Canberra. The founding president was Ted Forbes, then Secretary of the ACT Branch of the FMWU, who presided over the branch for three years until returning to Melbourne. The founding secretary was Leanne Blackley and founding treasurer was Frank Mines who also serves as the ASSLH Public Officer.

For several years from 1997, the Branch was involved in fighting a vigorous campaign to save the Noel Butlin Archives Centre at ANU from being closed, a struggle that was ultimately successful. The NBAC holds the largest collection of trade union archives in Australia.

In 2001, the Branch hosted the highly successful Seventh National Labour History Conference at the ANU, with Phil Griffiths in charge of conference organising.

Ten years later, the Branch again hosted the biennial national conference, this time under the leadership of Prof Melanie Nolan, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ASSLH in 1961.

The Branch was proud to be involved in the design and production of  a commemorative sign at Ginninderra Village to honour the memory of Canberra born labour pioneer Harry Holland. The sign was unveiled on 2 February 2011 by the ACT Chief Minister and Acting High Commissioner for New Zealand.

In 2013, the Branch organised, in conjunction with Unions ACT, a tribute to the workers of Canberra as part of the capital’s centenary celebrations. The event took the form of a commemorative bus tour of sites of special significance for the workers who actually built the city and its infrastructure.