Sydney Branch ASSLH Executive Committee 2020/21

President: Rosemary Webb
roselw@gmail.com Secretary: Danny Blackman
dannyblackman9@gmail.com Treasurer: Margaret Walters
margaretwalters2@gmail.com Acting Hummer Editor: Danny Blackman
Member: Sue Tracey
suetracey@bigpond.com Member: Lance Wright
wrightl@ozemail.com.au Member: Neale Towart
ntowart@unionsnsw.org.au Member: Jim Rooney
jim.rooney@sydney.edu.au Member: Jim Kitay

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 ASSLH includes a subscription to The Hummer, an opportunity to participate in Branch activities including talks through the year, and full membership of the federal body. Labour History, the federal body’s journal, is available separately by subscription.


As readers will know, Jim Kitay stood down from the role of Hummer editor at the end of 2020. Jim brought out some pretty fine Hummers during his reign as The Editor, and we’re very grateful indeed for his hard work and professional approach during the almost nine years he spent at the helm. We hope to appoint a new Editor at the 2021 AGM later this year; in the meantime, I’ll be acting in the role for this issue and the next.

March 22 this year was the 100th anniversary of the death in Adelaide of Percy ‘Jack’ Brookfield, labour movement hero and NSW Parliamentarian, who died after being fatally wounded that morning by deranged Russian gunman, Koorman Tomayoff, at South Australia’s Riverton railway station. Our main article in this issue is by Dr Paul Robert Adams, author of The Best Hated Man in Australia: The Life and Death of Percy Brookfield 1875-1921. Paul provides an impressively researched and detailed account of Brookfield’s life, radical activism and heroic death, set in the overall context of industrially militant Broken Hill in the early 20th century.

Some readers may be familiar with the long-running Wollongong Jobs for Women campaign of the 1980s, in which a small group of women took on the giant BHP and, eventually, won. The campaign and the court cases involved took 14 years, making it the longest-running sex discrimination claim in Australia; the landmark case was described by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Sue Walpole as “the most important piece of discrimination litigation that has occurred in this country”. Film-maker Robynne Murphy, herself a leading activist in the campaign (and who as a result became a career steelworker) has made a documentary film on the campaign, Women of Steel, now screening at selected cinemas around the country. In this issue of Hummer, Diane Hague reviews the film, while Fran Hayes provides a background piece summarising the campaign and anti-discrimination case; she also relates the little-known story of the backlash from Sydney-based conservative unions and the right-wing dominated Labor Council of NSW.

October 30 last year was the centenary of the foundation of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) – see the article by Stuart Macintyre in Hummer vol.14, no.2. As part of the commemorative activities (necessarily limited because of COVID restrictions), a small group of former CPA members coordinated the writing of 153 short biographical essays, predominantly of rank-and-file communists rather than Party leaders. One hundred of these essays (“a hundred communists for a hundred years”) were published in book form.Janet Sutherland reviews this book, Comrades! Lives of Australian Communists.

Our regular feature A Movement That Sings complements Paul Adams’ article in commemorating Percy Brookfield. The two sets of lyrics provided are, firstly, a lament on Brookfield’s death and, secondly, Brookfield’s favourite song, ‘Should I Ever Be a Soldier’, by Joe Hill; the latter having been sung by the crowd of thousands attending Brookfield’s burial in the Broken Hill cemetery.

I’d like to thank Beverley Symons and, in particular, Margaret Walters for their assistance with this issue; thanks also to Jim Kitay for his generous advice.

Danny Blackman

Acting Editor, The Hummer


In the Contents list of the last issue of Hummer (vol.14, no.2), we incorrectly attributed the review of Terry Irving’s book, The Fatal Lure of Politics: the life and times of Vere Gordon Childe, to Rod Noble rather than to Rodney Cavalier. The actual review (on page 55) correctly shows Rodney as the author, but we do apologise to both Rod and Rodney for the inadvertent error and any confusion arising as a result.