On behalf of the editorial collective, I would like to apologise to Sydney Branch members for the delay in the production of this edition of Hummer. We hope that the changes to the orientation and format of this newsletter will have been worth the wait.
This bumper issue introduces a new item called Noticeboard. In it, and in future issues, the collective will publish information on current research projects that are being conducted in the field of labour and social history, as well as other related fields of interest to members such as industrial relations and labour politics. The first Noticeboard includes information that we have been able to compile from those members and colleagues who teach and/or study in History and Industrial Relations in a number of local universities. A number have responded by providing titles, subject areas and short descriptions either of their own work or of their students. Wherever possible we include contact numbers for those readers who might be interested in sharing interest and insight on specific topics with others. We hope that this new forum will soon expand beyond the academy by building bridges not only between those of our members who are engaged in formal study but also by establishing channels of communication with Sydney branch members who are now, or have been activists for the labour movement. We invite you to send a Noticeboard contribution or a response to a contribution for the next issue which will be published in December.
In our desire to make Hummer into a forum in which Sydney Branch members can meet each other, if not in the flesh then through the written word, the collective would also like to foreshadow another change in orientation and format. Starting with the next issue we would like to invite readers to participate in exchanges dealing with questions and problems of current concern to members, if not to the entire labour community. We would like to raise the issue of an Australian republic as the first problem for discussion.
Two years ago the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History convened a one day conference on the subject, together with the Australian Culture Workshop and the Library Society. Interest in the topic was reflected by the extremely large attendance. But the day was a success not as a result of this alone. The audience showed a particular liveliness in discussing papers dealing with late nineteenth century republicanism, the hold of the monarchy on the Australian imagination, and cultural and political dimensions of national identity, including the role of ethnicity and gender in the struggle for an Australian Republic. One of the most important and interesting aspects of the Conference occurred at the end of the day when participants began to discuss the sorts of changes they envisaged when they thought of a republic. In fact, contemplation of this sort seems to rarely surface in labour circles probably because debate has been stifled by the adversarial aura created by the Liberal Party’s traditional resistance to the idea. For this reason the collective would like to invite readers to contribute their views on the topic for the next issue.
In the meantime, this Hummer also includes contributions by members which throw light on different aspects of the industrial landscape. Joan Kent informs us about the value of industrial archaeology as evidence for labour history. Specifically Joan draws our attention to the remains of the oldest surviving industrial building in Australia – the-Windmill on Thomas Arndell’s 1804 Caddie Farm; a ‘Monument to Labour’ which is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Joan’s piece points to some of the information that can be gleaned about industrial technology and social hierarchies from a close scrutiny of physical evidence in the absence of any other sources. From the other end of the spectrum, Ted Roach’s paper on the Pig Iron dispute (presented initially at the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History Conference in Newcastle, 1993) indicates how insight may be drawn from the memories of those labour activists who participated in industrial and political struggles in more recent times.
The Hummer’s editorial collective hopes that members will help make it a forum in which labour matters and problems, both past and present, can be canvassed. To this end we invite contributions for the future.
Finally, as readers have no doubt noticed, Hummer has a new cover. One motive for this change is the collective’s desire to acknowledge the important, though often underestimated cultural significance of visual images. Last year Frank Hollins addressed this subject when he spoke to Sydney branch members about the work of the labour cartoonist, Claude Marquet. To show our appreciation of Frank’s paper and of Marquet’s work we propose to use different labour cartoons for the covers of future issues. We hope that readers will assist the collective in this endeavour by forwarding relevant cartoons or images.