Trades Hall Press October 2019

Newsletter from the Unions New South Wales

Trades Hall Press October 2019

Sydney Trades Hall is the home of the NSW union movement. We hold union history items dating from the 1870s including banners, posters, badges, books and documents. Trades Hall is also a great place to learn about union history and its relationship to current union activities.

Quick Trip to Melbourne Trades Hall


Sydney Trades Hall made a quick trip to Melbourne in October to retrieve our Great Strike of 1917 exhibit from Melbourne Trades Hall.

We were lucky enough to get a great guided tour of the building with the co-coordinator of the restoration, Anthony Moore. IT is a terrific building and a magnificent Workers palace along the line of which Mike Davis (Old Gods New Enigmas) describes many European Trade Union halls from the mid-19th century. The scale is grand and reflects Melbourne's status as the richest city in the world at that time.  Here are a few images of some sections, including the original meeting room, where the first stage, tiered platforms, wallpaper and glorious ceiling rose are highlights. The main entrance features the tribute to the anti-conscriptionists of World War One, encompassing those who campaigned against it in Australia, and the soldiers who rejected the idea whilst they were fighting. More of the renovated building will be revealed at a special event planned for November 2019. It remains the focus of unionism in Victoria. Displays of union history will feature in various locations, in particular around the central meeting hall. They have even created a new carpet design with the significant 888 symbolising the 8 Hour-Day!

Labour Radio Began in 1925

On 31 October 1925 the voice of labour was officially launched across the radio waves of NSW with the Labor Council owned and operated radio station 2KY switching on, after various tests in the previous months.

The licence was issued to the Labour Council in May 1925. The driving force that go the Labor Council to this great occasion was Emil Voigt whose remarkable story can be read here.

Emil Voigt was a dynamic individual. In the 1930s he toured the USA and Europe (once even disappearing, feared captured by the Nazis only to reappear in Moscow) and reported in August 1935 that unions should be moving as quickly as possible to television - 'the medium of the future' - 20 years before TV broadcasting began in Australia! The importance for working class politics was clearly in focus as the labour movement promoted this new vehicle of progress:


"LABOR MEN: Listen-in to 2KY; hear the truth about Labor and the truth about Nationalism. Hear the message that will be going out by radio each night next week. Get your receiving sets ready.
LABOR WOMEN: Tune-into 2KY. Give your boy the price of a crystal set if you cannot afford a loudspeaker. Let him build it himself. Listen; then get in your neighbours to hear.
Concentrate on those who never attend political meetings. Tell them about the issues confronting the electors." (from Labor Daily 31st October 1925)
On 15th November it was reported that the reach of the station was far beyond NSW, with Albany, WA reporting the station being received loud and clear!
Sydney Trades Hall itself has a packed auditorium for the launch, and loudspeakers were set up on each floor.

Banner Collection Grows!

The Trades Hall Banner Collection was strengthened this month. The National Union of Workers - NUW NSW Branch is moving from the Granville office where they have been based since the 1980s.

In pride of place in the NUW foyer has been the Miller and Mill Employees Union of NSW banner. The Millers became part of the NUW in 1992. The banner is by Edgar Whitbread, doyen of the NSW union banner making.

The Milling Trades Employees Union was registered in 1908 under the Trades Disputes Act. The Union made good progress over the next few years and participated with many members in the Eight-Hour demonstrations.  In the 1910 parade they carried a grindstone and an old windmill. In May 1911 the union voted to purchase a banner and frame which was carried in the parade of that year. Reports from 1912 highlighted the regional strength of many unions, with the millers being no exception. NSW country towns often had local flour mills and the Murrumbarrah branch was given permission to take the banner on the eight-hour parade in the town for the 1912 eight-hour parade. The Murrumbarrah Signal and County of Harden Advocate reported that the union President Mr Bates and the Secretary Mr Lewis joined the procession.

The other “find” was a rolled piece of canvas which had an image stuck on to the brown paper wrapping which appeared to show it was a banner of the NSW Storemen and Packers, which also became part of the NUW in 1992. This proved to be the case when we unrolled it and it turned out to have been created by the wonderful graphic arts workshop Redback Graphix, with the distinctive red-back logo on the back. (Logo in the bottom left hand corner of the photo below).

Get in touch to find out more about donating to our collection, borrowing items for union celebrations or anniversaries or viewing items of particular interest to your union.


MUA Banners saved and donated by  

John Grimes

Sydney Trades Hall is very grateful to receive these wonderful Maritime Union of Australia – MUA banners, that were thoughtfully saved from the rubbish tip by John Grimes, of Dungog.  John is a high school teacher at Maitland, and a friend found these banners, originally from the Newcastle MUA branch, that had been discarded at the local tip. John has had these stored under his bed for the past 3 years and has generously gone to the trouble of catching a train from Dungog to Sydney to hand deliver these collectable treasures. Sydney Trades Hall would like to thank John for his foresight in saving these historical banners from the late 20th Century and for going to the trouble of delivering them to their new home at Trades Hall. They will be on display in the atrium in the near future.

If you have any union memorabilia that you are unsure of keeping, or don’t know what to do with, please contact Sydney Trades Hall on 02 9881 5999 and ask for Neale or Carmel and we can look after any items and make them feel at home by adding them to the Union collection at Trades Hall.

If you would like to host a union event, book launch, campaign or fundraiser - Sydney Trades Hall atrium is a terrific venue and space to do this. Contact Neale or Carmel for availability on 02 9881 5999.


World Premiere of The Great Strike 1917 at the Antenna Documentary Film Festival


The Great Strike 1917 World Premiere – Antenna International Documentary Film Festival was held at the Dendy Cinema, Newtown on Sunday 20 October 2019. This wonderful 70-minute documentary, directed & edited by Amanda King and produced by Fabio Cavadini played to a full house audience. The documentary covers the history and story of what occurred just over a century ago, where the Sydney Trams and Railways management tried to introduce an American sourced employees card system. It sparked an industrial dispute that would have longstanding and profound effects on the nation – a card system to record work times and output in a drive for greater 'efficiencies'.

100,000 workers mobilised nationally, walking off the job in protest. A striker was shot and killed, a filmmaker had his film censored and within 6 weeks it was over. Shaping today’s labour movement, this important and largely forgotten story is retold in this timely and fascinating documentary. The Great Strike 1917 film has also been selected as a Finalist for the Best Documentary History category section at the ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media Inc.) Awards in Melbourne 26 November 2019 at the Hotel Esplanade, St Kilda Victoria.

Here is a link to an article from the Inner West Courier too if you are interested.

There will be more screenings coming up in November at the Maritime Union of Australia, MUA Sydney (date to be advised) as well as a planned screening with the City of Sydney Council (date to be advised) and the Labour History Group in Melbourne are proposing to hold a screening in December too.  

As soon as we know these final details – we will post on them on the Sydney Trades Hall Facebook and Instagram pages as well as advise in our November newsletter.

Stay tuned for more information for your chance to see this amazing documentary.  


The tour - Visitors from Orange

Kevin Watts & Christine Stanger from Orange were visiting Sydney and decided to have a look at Sydney Trades Hall. Kevin was a member of the Electrical Trade Union - ETU and Christine was once a treasurer for the NSW Teachers Federation too.

If you would like to go on a history tour of during Trades Hall please call 02 9881 5999 and ask for Neale or Carmel.

You can check out more images from our current exhibition on Facebook and Instagram.


Sydney Living Museums Open Day

3 November 2019


Sydney Trades Hall is proudly participating in the Sydney Living Museums Open Day Weekend - Sydney is Open Weekend on Sunday 3 November 2019.  If you don't have a chance to check out Sydney Trades Hall during working hours throughout the week - here is your opportunity to do so on the weekend of 2 & 3 November. There will be 80+ other historical buildings included in this years Open Weekend in the Sydney CBD. Guided tours of Sydney Trades Hall will be available at 10am, 12pm and 2pm on Sunday 3 November.  If you wish to stay updated you can click on this link and sign up for news and information leading up to the event.

Get In Touch to book a tour as part of your next union conference or to find out more about Trades Hall facilities for your event.

Trades Hall is also available for events and is a great place to sit, have a coffee and absorb
our history.
For further information contact Neale or Carmel (02) 9881 5999