Labor Day Oration – 1984

On 29 September 1984 Mr. Jack Ferguson, recently retired Deputy Premier and Minister for Public Works, delivered a stirring Labor Day oration to a receptive audience at the Stewart Lecture theatre in the WEA building. Mr. Ferguson began by ruefully commenting on the demise of Labor Day as an occasion for celebrating the achievements of the labour movement. He congratulated the Sydney branch of the Labour History Society on its initiative and expressed his wish that the Labor bay holiday would re-emerge as an important part of the working-class calendar.

Mr. Ferguson then proceeded to take his audience on a trip down his personal ‘memory lane’. Considering the wealth of his experience in both the industrial and political wings of the labour movement it was inevitable that this would be an engaging and enlightening address, highly appropriate to the occasion. Mr. Ferguson’s main theme was “What makes a Labor man?” and in this light he spoke of his experience as a delegate and organiser for the BWIU, as well as his experience as first a rank and file member of the ALP and later as a member of parliament and minister. He also spoke of his childhood experience, growing up in Granville during the Depression, and then of his years in the Army during World War Two. He concluded with some remarks about worker participation and of the need for a gradualist approach towards social change.

All in all it was a most successful evening, capped off with convivial libations at the Criterion. The ‘Sydney branch of the Labour History Society looks forward to making the Labor Day oration an annual affair.