Episodes: Masonry

Ep 19 – Jobs for women! Fighting sexism at the Port Kembla steelworks

Since it was founded in the 1920s, BHP’s Port Kembla steelworks has completely dominated the town of Wollongong, employing over 25,000 workers at its peak and physically towering over the city. For much of its existence, the steelworks also systematically discriminated against women. Company management deliberately confined women to only the lowest-paying jobs, refused to...

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Ep 18 – SCA here to stay! The fight to save Sydney College of the Arts

In mid-2016, the University of Sydney abruptly announced that it would be closing Sydney College of the Arts, its internationally-renowned arts school. Within the space of a few months, the school, which had produced scores of famous graduates and offered an almost unique education in visual and fine arts, would be closing its doors, its...

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Ep 17 – Years of rage: social conflict in the Malcolm Fraser era

In November 1975, the elected Labor Party government of Australia was sacked without notice by Sir John Kerr, the governor-general. Having single-handedly gotten rid of the elected government, Sir John then personally appointed a new government of his own choosing led by Malcolm Fraser and the Liberal Party. The dismissal – or the Kerr Coup...

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Ep 16 – Resistance and rebellion in convict Australia

When the British Empire invaded Australia in 1788, the colony’s new ruling class had a problem – there was no pre-existing working class in Australia waiting around to work for them. Governments and employers could establish all of the farms, workshops, factories and other workplaces that they liked, but without people who had no alternative...

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Ep 15 – Fighting for the right to protest in 1970s Queensland

In 1977, the premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, abolished the right to hold street protests. “Don’t bother applying for a march permit,” he declared. “You won’t get one. That’s government policy now.” In response to this decision, activists swung into action, launching a massive campaign to win back the right to protest. Rally after rally...

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Ep 14 – How anti-racists defeated Pauline Hanson in the 90s

In 1996, newly elected politician Pauline Hanson swept to national prominence after making an extraordinarily racist and inflammatory maiden speech in federal parliament attacking Aboriginal people and Asian-Australians. In the wake of this performance, Hanson’s entire speech was printed word for word in most newspapers across the country, while for several months she received more...

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Ep 13 – The Workers’ University: adult education in the Communist Party of Australia

In the 1940s, the Communist Party of Australia was approaching the peak of its power as the largest and most influential left-wing organisation in Australian history. The Communist Party of Australia demanded far more of its members than an average political organisation. To be a communist, you were expected not just to become an activist...

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Ep 12 – Black Power in rural NSW: the 1973 Aboriginal cotton chippers’ strike

Wee Waa, in northern New South Wales, is at the centre of the cotton industry in Australia. Tens of thousands of hectares of cotton crops surround the town, which describes itself as “the cotton capital of Australia”. During the twentieth century, each year Wee Waa would see an influx of more than a thousand predominantly...

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Ep 11 – The Turkish socialist movement in Melbourne

In the late 1960s, thousands of Turkish migrants began moving to Australia as part of a wave of post-World War II immigration that permanently changed the face of Australian cities. For the Australian government and employers, migrants from Turkey and other non-English-speaking countries represented one thing: cheap factory labour that would meekly accept low wages...

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Ep 10 – The epic story of mining unionism in the Pilbara

The Pilbara region of Western Australia is one of the remotest places on the planet. It’s also one of the most economically significant regions not just in Australia, but the world, with almost indescribably vast quantities of high-grade iron ore which power steelworks across the globe and generate tens of billions of dollars in profits...

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Ep 9 – The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia

In the early 1900s, radicals and militant unionists across Australia founded the Industrial Workers of the World, arguably the most legendary left-wing organisation in Australian history. The IWW – or the ‘Wobblies’, as they were colloquially known – believed workers should form unions not just to win better wages and conditions, but to overthrow bosses...

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Ep 8 – The 1973 Ford Broadmeadows riot

In the decades following the end of the Second World War, Australia witnessed the biggest wave of migration in its history. Millions of people from Asia, Europe and the Middle East immigrated to Australia and changed the demographic makeup of the country forever. Postwar migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds were overwhelmingly consigned to the worst, most...

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