Contemporary Industrial Relations Cockatoo ’89

This poem was written by a supporter of the Sydney Cockatoo Dockyard workers. A reader sent it to Hummer with a note saying it was so popular among the workers that one of them was complaining that he spent most of one day just copying it to meet requests from the strikers who were occupying Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. Many dogeared copies reportedly can be found in the pockets of the island’s workers. It captures something of their strength and the character of the 1600 strikers and their struggle, recently ‘resolved’.

John’s seen flying saucers
Across New Zealand skies,
And Packo, he sees football stars
When he looks in his young son’s eyes.
Cab jokes he’ll move a motion
To stay out ever more,
And Eddie’s just gone fishin’
He’ll get dinner for ’em all.

Well there’s families
And there’s Beazley
(A goat, we all know that)
They bought her out to eat her
But now she just gets fat.
Well one bloke got there swimmin’,
While dozens take the boat,
And Michelle, well she just lives there-
They learn with each week’s vote.

Well they might seem like a mixed bunch,
And I guess that may be so,
But they’re all there for a reason,
And I’ll tell it, so you’ll know.

They’re out there ’cause they’re fighters’,
With a cause that’s just and true,
They know that in this system,
If you don’t fight, you lose.

For we’re an island nation
And we need our ships, you see:
But those backed by foreign money,
Say that this must never be.
They’d like to see our island
Become a vast resort
For the rich of other countries
To come and have their sport.

So the workers of this island
Raise a flag of white and blue
And it flutters in the night’s dark sky,
And in sunset’s brilliant hue.
It’s the flag of old Eureka
Where the miners took a stand,
It’s the flag for independence
Of this great, and stolen, land.

And the workers of this island,
They light a fire you see,
It’s the fire of glowing struggle
To make our country free.
So the people of Australia
Watch the workers in this fight
And their hearts and minds are with them
For freedom’s in their sight.
When Australia’s independent
From Yank dollar and from yen,
We’ll think back to those at Cockatoo
And say some thanks to them.