Centenary of the Great Strike 1917

Today, marks the centenary of the Great Strike of 1917. According to Joan Beaumont  in Broken Nation the Australian eastern states erupted into industrial warfare in August 1917.

The catalyst was a dispute in the New South Wales Government Tramways Workshops in Randwick, Sydney. The railway management eager to cut costs introduced a new card system designed to measure the cost and performance of each worker. In response about 6,000 railway and tramway men stopped work on 2 August.

Within five weeks, almost 70,000 workers, across three states and numerous industries had joined the industrial action. Despite this initial energy, by September and October strikes at individual workplaces were broken and the union movement were left significantly diminished.

As Joan explains, the historical importance of the Great Strike of 1917 has largely been forgotten, overshadowed by the stronger story of the Anzac legend. Its centenary today is a good reminder that the search for historical truth is not always found in the headlines of history.

Do you think other events have been overshadowed by the story of the Anzac legend? How would you describe the Anzac legend?

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Victorian Government railway engineering works, 1879

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