Abstracts – Labour History No. 85

Resurrecting the Sunshine Harvester Works: Re-presenting and Reinterpreting the Experience of Industrial Work in Twentieth Century Australia.
Charles Fahey, John Lack and Liza Dale-Hallett

The Sunshine Harvester Works, occupying the same site from 1906 until 1987, was unquestionably one of the more significant workplaces in the history of industrial relations in twentieth-century Australia. Here Justice H.B. Higgins formed his judgement in the famous Harvester case of 1907; here H.V. McKay and his successors, opponents of unionism and collective bargaining, deskilled the workforce, introduced piecework and time and motion regimens, and pioneered mass production methods. However, when manufacturing ceased in the late 1980s, the Sunshine Harvester Works was stripped of its machinery; in the 1990s the buildings were replaced by a welfare office, a shopping centre and a cinema complex. How was it that the workplace significance of Sunshine came to be so completely disregarded? In the absence of the physical fabric of the Harvester Works, what can be recovered of the work experience? This article suggests that it is possible, using the outstanding documentary collections in the University of Melbourne Archives and at Museum Victoria, and employing the latest technologies, to re-present the work experience at Sunshine.

Contested Memories of Eureka: Interpretations of the Eureka Stockade
Anne Beggs Sunter

The significance of the Eureka Stockade has been a lively topic of discussion since the event occurred in 1854. This paper focuses on its public interpretation in Ballarat, as a case study of the politics of memory. Its central question is how to interpret a contested political event so that people with ownership of conflicting versions of the story can all be accommodated? The paper analyses the development of the Eureka Stockade Centre in Ballarat, and compares this public interpretation to other attempts to present the story, notably at Sovereign Hill. It concludes that only by embracing the contests can the interpretation be successful.

Lifting the Veil: the Sex Industry, Museums and Galleries
Simon Adams and Raelene Frances

Prostitution has played an important role in the social and labour history of Australia since the arrival of the First Fleet. However, very little of this history has made its way into the nation’s established museums and galleries – the official guardians of our past. Here the history of sex work in Australia remains a marginal topic. This is in stark contrast to the public interest, both here and overseas, in ‘sex museums’ and heritage tours which ‘lift the veil’ on the sex industry. How can we explain these gaps and silences? This article explores this issue, and also suggests some ways in which the history of sex work might be effectively represented in both local and national contexts.

‘Machines and Ghosts: Politics, Industrial Heritage and the History of Working Life at the New South Wales Eveleigh Railway Workshops’
Lucy Taksa

Sydney’s Eveleigh railway workshops operated for just over a century between the 1880s and the late 1980s when their railway operations were terminated. Since then Eveleigh has been recognised as one of Australia’s important sites of industrial heritage. This paper examines the political, legal and administrative conditions that have shaped Eveleigh’s adaptive re-use and heritage management. In doing so it highlights the processes by which industrial heritage is reduced to a narrow association with factory buildings, mechanical relics and technological history. At Eveleigh, I argue, this process is evident in the adoption of conservation strategies for its ‘tangible’ heritage and the failure to formulate and implement a comprehensive interpretation strategy, which could enhance popular understandings of the context in which Eveleigh’s material culture was created and used, and also of its rich history of working life.

Creating ‘A Lot On Her Hands’
Brian Crozier and Helen Gregory

‘A lot on her hands – the history of Australian working women’ is an exhibition, one of 43 major projects funded through the Queensland Heritage Trails Network program with support from the Centenary of Federation initiative. The Network aimed to create a series of heritage attractions throughout Queensland as a means of preserving and promoting the State’s natural, indigenous and cultural heritage and developing educational resources, creating jobs, stimulating development and fostering tourism. This article explores the experience of developing an historical statement in this format, in this context and under the pressures of a consultancy of this kind. It examines the effect of the team approach to projects such as this, which are the cumulative result not only of researchers, but also of designers and preparators. It also discusses the nature of historical argument in the museum context, arguing that the task here is more about evoking the nature of experience than advancing an explanation of historical events and processes. The article notes also that the statements in an exhibition are non-linear and only partly verbal in nature; that this exhibition was also influenced by its setting and the celebratory nature of its sponsorship; and that the aim of the researcher and curator to focus on the particularity of experience of a range of individuals was, in the event, only partly achieved in the final product.

Other Articles

The Labour Movement in Taiwan
John Minns and Robert Tierney

The spectacular industrialisation of Taiwan has created a large working class. Yet, while there have been a number of inspiring struggles and attempts to organise, a powerful labour movement has not emerged there. Many observers of East Asian industrialisation have attributed this failure to the influence of Confucian culture. This article disagrees and suggests that the reasons for the weakness of the Taiwanese labour movement are not to be found in cultural stereotypes of Confucian docility or group loyalty. Rather, an analysis of the Cold War origins of the Taiwanese regime, the preponderance of small-scale, rural industry and the great ethnic divides which have been manipulated by political and business leaders on the island since 1949 provide far more convincing explanations for the weakness of Taiwanese labour.

Company-Sponsored Recreation in Australia: 1890-1965
Nikola Balnave

Company-sponsored recreation was an important part of industrial welfarism in Australia. This paper explores the incidence, extent and nature of recreational programs, and the managerial goals and strategies involved with the schemes. It demonstrates that recreational programs were a relatively widespread and enduring feature of labour management between 1890 and 1965, although the frequency, range and nature of activities varied between companies. While the characteristics of schemes were largely influenced by business size and workforce composition, the paper challenges the argument that recreational programs, like the broader welfare schemes of companies, were primarily targeted at female labour. Indeed, employers in a wide range of industries and workplaces introduced recreation schemes for two main reasons – to improve labour supply and to enhance managerial prerogative – although the significance placed on each goal varied between companies and overtime as a result of external pressures and influences.

A Wild Awakening: the 1893 Banking Crisis and the Theatrical Narratives of the Castlereagh Street Radicals
Mark Hearn

The Active Service Brigade (ABS) agitated on behalf of the Sydney unemployed during 1893-1894, in the wake of the 1893 banking crisis which heralded the onset of the colonial depression of the 1890s. The ASB declared its emergence in the working class districts of East Sydney in street theatrical marches and meetings. The Brigade and the anti-bank journal Hard Cash employed a melodramatic rhetoric of class conflict. Banker and free trade politician William McMillan was a symbolic villain of these theatrical narratives for his role in facilitating bank reconstruction and resistance to labour mobilisation, forcing his political withdrawal from East Sydney, and the labour precinct of Castlereagh Street.

‘Jim Toohey’ (1909-92): the “Father’ of the Labor Party in South Australia
Malcolm Saunders

In the decades after World War II, the two leading members of the South Australian branch of the Australian Labor Party – Clyde Cameron and Jim Toohey – formed a unique partnership and played a pivotal role in determining its character. From the late 1940s to at least the mid 1970s the branch was, unlike its counterparts in the eastern states, not only ideologically left-of-centre but also remarkably united. Through it Cameron and Toohey influenced the course of Australian labour history. Cameron has always been seen as the more prominent and controversial partner and little attention has been paid to Toohey. By focussing on ‘the other half’ of this duumvirate we better understand not only why relations within the branch were so harmonious during this period but also why in the mid 1950s the New South Wales branch did not split in two and why the 1960s and 1970s are known in South Australia as the Dunstan era.