Category Archives: Labour history

The fight for jobs. Social Security 1981


 Grey Collar

Published by Public Servants Action Group

The dispute in the Department of Social Security which exploded in the last two months of 1981 was an important turning point for ACOA. Hundreds of members were stood down for up to 6 weeks, large chunks of the Department were paralysed and the industrial action peaked with a 3 day strike of the entire union in NSW. Continue reading



Victor Isaacs

Abstract: John Dias was an active unionist from the 1890s to the 1920s. His experiences included the Queensland shearers’ dispute, with William Lane’s utopian Australian settlements in Paraguay, in Broken Hill during two major disputes, prominence in the Kalgoorlie goldfields’ unions, with the Melbourne Trades Hall and Victorian Labor Party, and in particular leaving a mark on the Carpenters’ Union. Today he is commemorated by a plaque bearing a very generous tribute at the main entrance to the Melbourne Trades Hall.  But he is little remembered. This paper will document his peripatetic and varied career in the labour movement. Continue reading

An Australian Newspaper in Paraguay 1894–1904

 by Victor Isaacs


Following the failures of the maritime dispute in 1890, the shearers’ dispute in 1891 and the great economic depression of the early 1890s, many in the Australian working class came to the conclusion that Australia would not become a workingman’s paradise. Some sought other solutions, such as starting anew elsewhere. Continue reading

Labour Dailies


by Victor Isaacs


This is not an article based on deep research – it is more in the nature of a survey of already published information, with a bit added by me. It surveys labour daily newspapers in Australia, that is, newspapers controlled by the labour movement, which attempted or claimed to provide a comprehensive daily news service. Continue reading

A Centenary of the Queensland BLF (1910-2010)

 Humphrey McQueen

(The Queensland Journal of Labour History, 11 September 2010, pp. 24-31.)

The Queensland branch the Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (ABLF) is unique in keeping the BLF name alive for the Federation’s centenary on 9 September 2010. Continue reading

Pig Iron

3CR,  ‘Solidarity Breakfast’, 14 December 2013

Humphrey McQueen

Seventy-five yeas ago, the wharfies at Port Kembla were in the middle of a two-month strike. They were not out over wages or working conditions, crook though both were. They were in a political strike to stop the export of pig iron to Japan. Continue reading

2011 ASSLH conference – Much more than green bans


Much more than green bans: locating the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation in the history of international trade unionism

Verity Burgmann and Meredith Burgmann


The green bans movement of the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation (NSWBLF) was immensely significant, but has tended to overshadow the union’s other achievements. This paper marks the fortieth anniversary of its green bans that commenced in 1971 by offering a more broad-ranging tribute to this extraordinary union. Continue reading

2011 ASSLH conference – Biography and Ideology in the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia 1911-­1922


Biography and Ideology in the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia 1911-­1922: A Brief Review

Frank Cain


The ideas of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were introduced from Chicago to Australia via Sydney in 1907 by a group of immigrant, English-speaking, itinerant, Marxist, semi-skilled workers.  They dismissed the existing Labor governments as time servers and the Great War as against the interests of the working class. This paper will present short biographies of five of these foreign-born activists and how they adapted their radical IWW ideology that had evolved from the class war in the early 20th century United States.  Continue reading

2011 ASSLH conference – ‘Bastards from the bush’: forgotten IWW activists


Bastards from the bush’: forgotten IWW activists

Drew Cottle
Rowan Day



The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have secured a place in Australian folklore as one of the most notable examples of class-conscious rebellion. For a time in the 1910s the State viewed them as public enemy number one, an insidious menace responsible for inciting the class conflict in Australia. Continue reading

2011 ASSLH conference – Activists in Aggregate: Collective Biography, Labour History, and the Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, 1788-­1975


Activists in Aggregate: Collective Biography, Labour History, and the Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement, 1788-­1975

Andrew Moore, Yasmin Rittau, John Shields


Despite the solid – if occasionally polemical – record of research and publication in the biographical genre by Australian labour historians over the past sixty years, there are hundreds if not thousands of labour activists whose lives have remained un- or under-documented; lost, for all intents and purposes, to both the established scholar and the enthusiastic student. The Biographical Register of the Australian Labour Movement 1788-1975 represents an attempt to address these lacunae by publishing brief (300-700 word) biographical entries on some 2,000 activists about whom we have been able to discover at least a fragment of information and whom we consider to have made a significant but hitherto un- or under-recorded contribution to the movement’s history at the national, State, regional and/or local scale at some point down to the mid-1970s.   Continue reading

2011 ASSLH conference – Labour History in Western Australia and the role of the ASSLH, Perth Branch


Labour History in Western Australia and the role of the ASSLH, Perth Branch1

Bobbie Oliver


This paper surveys the current state of labour history teaching and research in Western Australia.  It argues that, while a form of labour history remains viable in labour relations, management or productivity research, it is disappearing as an undergraduate subject in University History Departments.

Continue reading

2011 ASSLH conference – Melbourne Labour History

Melbourne Labour History:
A Collective Biography of its First Generation1

 Peter Love


Bruce Shields’ recent memoir of the ASSLH’s early years, differing from the late, lamented Eric Fry’s earlier (1999) account, is a timely reminder of the vibrant intellectual culture, and the passions imbedded in it, that gave birth to our Society. Continue reading

2011 ASSLH conference – Purposes almost infinitely varying: Archives as sources for labour biography


Maggie Shapley



A former Deputy Keeper of the Public Record Office, Sir Hilary Jenkinson, described the value of archives thus: ‘Drawn up for purposes almost infinitely varying – the administrative or executive control of every species of human undertaking – they are potentially useful to students for the information they can give on a range of subjects totally different but equally wide.’ This paper explores the purposes for which records are created and the bearing that this has on their value as sources for biography. Continue reading