Sydney Branch ASSLH Committee 2019/20

President: Rosemary Webb
roselw@iinet.net.au Vice-President: Jim Kitay
jim.kitay@sydney.edu.au Secretary: Danny Blackman
dannyblackman9@gmail.com Treasurer: Margaret Walters
Acting Hummer Editor: Danny Blackman dannyblackman9@gmail.com Member: Damien Stapleton
damien.stapleton@hotmail.com Member: Sue Tracey
suetracey@bigpond.com Member: Lance Wright
wrightl@ozemail.com.au Member: Jim Rooney

Hummer Editorial Committee:

Danny Blackman, Margaret Walters, Rosemary Webb

The Sydney Branch Committee:

Elected at the Annual General Meeting (held between September and November each year). All members are encouraged to participate.

Branch Membership:

Membership of the Branch is open to all persons interested in the history of working life and the labour movement, both industrial and political. Anyone wishing to join the Branch should simply write to the Secretary for a copy of the membership form or apply online: www.labourhistory.org.au/branches/sydney or download a membership application from the webpage and email to the Secretary: sydneybranch.asslh@gmail.com

Membership of the Sydney Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History includes a subscription to The Hummer, an opportunity to participate in Branch activities including talks throughout the year, and full membership of the federal body. Its publication, Labour History, is available by subscription.


We have all experienced unusual constraints this year, and we are pleased to be able to bring another issue of The Hummer to you.

The first article is written by three of Australia’s foremost authorities on occupational health and safety. It focuses on the topic of deaths at work, beginning with a disaster at the Bulli Colliery in 1887 and considers the ongoing, grim problem to the present. The authors raise the neglected issue of the impact of industrial deaths on families. Recent events, including the exposure of front line, vulnerable workers to Covid19, and the deaths of food delivery riders show that this is an issue that continues to plague us.

The next article, by Warwick Eather and Drew Cottle, makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the 1917 General Strike. It deals with the industrial conflict between wheatlumpers (workers who manually stacked millions of bags of wheat for transport) with rural employers. In opposition to the workers, militant farmers and their allies organised, and became a willing and effective strikebreaking force. The authors outline the origins of this conflict, and conclude that these experienced strikebreakers were instrumental in opposing and ending the General Strike, particularly in New South Wales.

This year marks the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of Australia, which has attracted considerable attention among labour historians. We include here, with permission, the text of the keynote address given by Stuart Macintyre at an online event to commemorate this.

Two obituaries follow. The first is of activist and parliamentarian Ann Symonds, by Hilary Golder and Deirdre Hyslop. Ann was a remarkable woman, whom as the authors note, made history. I got to know Ann towards the end of her life, and I was struck by the genuine regard and admiration in which she was held. Even then, in obvious poor health, she remained active and in the thick of things in the pursuit of causes such as drug reform and support for female prisoners and their children. The second obituary is of Jack Mundey, by Meredith Burgmann. His prominence as a leader of Green Bans in Sydney is very well known, but as noted, he was also a dedicated union reformer.

The next item is a review of Terry Irving’s remarkable biography of Vere Gordon Childe, The Fatal Lure of Politics, by Rodney Cavalier. The issue concludes with song lyrics, provided by Danny Blackman, and the Bulletin Board.

This is my final issue as editor of Hummer. After nine years, I believe that it is time for someone else to take over, and bring a fresh pair of eyes to the task. I would like to thank the contributors, and in particular, to thank Danny Blackman, Sue Tracy and Margaret Walters for their invaluable help in producing the journal. I hope that you have found the issues interesting and enjoyable, and continue to do so for many years!

Danny Blackman has kindly agreed to take the role of Acting Editor. Please direct editorial enquiries regarding future issues of the journal to Danny until a new Editor is appointed.

Jim Kitay

Editor, The Hummer