ASSLH Conference: Fighting For Life: Class, Community and Care in Labour History

The 17th biennial conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH) will be now be held 22-24 April 2022 in Bendigo, Victoria (registrations open at 1pm on Friday 22, followed by a Welcome to Country, and book launch).

Organised with the support of LaTrobe University, and the Melbourne Convention Bureau and Business Events Victoria, the theme of the conference is Fighting For Life: Class, Community and Care in Labour History.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 01: People protest working conditions outside of an Amazon warehouse fulfillment center on May 1, 2020 in the Staten Island borough of New York City. People attending the protest are concerned about Amazon’s handling of the coronavirus and are demanding more safety precautions during the pandemic. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

The pandemic has illuminated vital links between health, labour and community history. The collective experience of paid work, as labour historians have long shown, is highly differentiated according to the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, disability, religion, ethnicity and class.

As the threat of contagion from Covid-19 spread, the reality of these intersections within contemporary working conditions came starkly into view. Health workers became frontline heroes combatting the impact of disease and sustaining life, while statistics showed their susceptibility to infection and its transmission to communities. Revelations about the breadth and depth of precarity, mobility, even wage theft, in health work and across many sectors of the workforce, exposed threats to community physical and mental health from decades of neoliberal policies, practices of workplace management and declining union power.

Older union campaigns for occupational health and safety in hazardous industries took on new meaning as care homes, hospitals, cruise ships and abattoirs became the epicentres of workplace disease. Regional and community differences made the impacts and consequences of the crisis neither uniform nor predictable. How the economic and social costs were  disproportionately carried – by women, the young, and vulnerable Indigenous or migrant communities – showed up vast inequalities of resources, housing and welfare services. For some, technology enabled new work cultures to emerge. Working from home broke down old boundaries.

Convenors of the ASSLH conference  have chosen this moment of an international health crisis to examine changes in the meaning and historical context of labour health and community. What have been the experiences and relationships between health, community, and labour over time?  Can a crisis be an opportunity for strengthening community networks and increasing political organisation for meaningful change?  

The conference organisers, on behalf of the ASSLH, invited submissions for papers exploring this theme and on all aspects of labour experience, including:

  • intersections of class, gender, ethnic and generational differences
  • methodologies for studying labour’s history
  • economic and health crises in earlier periods or national histories
  • illuminations of community in remembering and story-telling
  • a rural, or regional focus
  • health, safety and disability
  • Indigenous labour and political protest
  • moments and strategies of workers’ resistance to health risks


Conference Programme

Conference Registration

Getting to and around Bendigo

Keynote Speakers 

If you are unable to attend the conference but would still like to join us at the conference dinner, you are welcome to do so. The dinner costs $50 and you can register here (please only use this form if you are NOT attending the conference, or if you have already registered and forgotten to register for the dinner). 


Convenors: Emma Robertson, Diane Kirkby.

Conference Assistant: Dmytro Ostapenko.

Consultative Committee:  Charles Fahey, Ruth Ford, Jennifer Jones, Katie Wood.

Conference Poster


Contact the Conference Organisers