Tag Archives: anniversaries

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

Indigenous history and remembering in 2017

In 2017, two important moments in the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activism have been commemorated.

27 May 2017: 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum. On this day Australians voted overwhelmingly to alter the constitution, allowing Aboriginal people to be counted in the census and to be subject to Commonwealth law.

3 June 2017: 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision. On this day the High Court of Australia recognised that a group of Torres Strait Islanders, led by Eddie Mabo, held ownership of Murray Island. In recognising the traditional rights of the Islanders to their land, the High Court held that native title existed for all Indigenous people.

1856, Winning the Eight Hour Day

Work-life balance is an enduring concern. Time has always been precious for working people. May Day 1890, the first time, marked the international campaign to deliver the Eight Hour Day to working people.

Industrialisation had ended the relaxed pace of rural working life for many people. Instead work hours were long and rigid. Dividing the day into eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure and eight hours of rest seemed to be a fair solution, for those who wanted something better.

Assisted emigrants to Australia wanted something better and were at the right place and the right time to achieve it. Almost forty years before the first May Day in 1890, the Eight Hour Day was won by Australian workers.

If you want to know more, a book for your reading list is The Australian Colonists by Ken Inglis. Ken’s classic book covers the social history of Australia from 1788 to 1870. This is the book to read to start understanding how people lived in colonial Australia.

As explained in The Australian Colonists, in early 1856, the stonemasons of Melbourne resolved not to work more than eight hours a day, six days a week. Two employers held out. On 21 April 1856, the stonemasons stopped work to protest against the employers. The workers marched to Eastern Hill, others joined in, until about 700 were marching. The stonemasons were clear they would not work for any employer who held out.

Within a few weeks nearly all workers in the building trades in Melbourne won the Eight Hour Day without any loss of wages, and it was extended to other jobs, including quarrymen, saddlers and harness-makers.

In Melbourne the anniversary of the 1856 protest became a major celebration and prominent reminder for working people of the continuing fight to improve working conditions. The day’s festivities included a toast: the Eight Hours System, may its physical, intellectual, moral and social advantages be extended to every member of the human family.

Does anyone know why getting the Eight Hour Day was called obtaining the boon?

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Eight Hour Day Trade Union banner

We will remember them

In History, war and remembering in 2017 you can find details of significant Australian military anniversaries, including Anzac Day, that will be commemorated this year.

On Anzac Day and other days of remembrance a key tradition is the reciting of the Ode:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

After years of hearing the Ode I have only recently discovered that it is taken from a poem — the fourth stanza of For the fallen. Written by Laurence Binyon soon after the First World War had started and published in The Times in September 1914.

Looking at Troves Digitised Newspapers it appears that For the fallen was first published in Australia in The Ballarat Courier on 13 November 1914. After that it was printed in a range of newspapers during the war years and the fourth stanza started to feature in family notices — for the fallen.

Are these the words that made the suffering of the First World War bearable? 

FTF poem


History, war and remembering in 2017

Anzac Day

Australians commemorate Anzac Day, 25 April as a day of national remembrance for those who have died in war. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. This was the landing on Gallipoli, which happened 102 years ago, in April 1915.

Other 2017 military anniversaries

Other significant military anniversaries in 2017 include:

15 February 2017: 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore in 1942
19 February 2017: 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin in 1942
4 May 2017: 75th anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea in 1942
4 June 2017: 75th anniversary of Bomber Command Operations in 1942
25 August 2017: 75th anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay in 1942
14 September 2017: 70th anniversary of Australia’s first peacekeeping operation in 1947
26 September 2017: Centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood in 1917
23 October 2017: 75th anniversary of Battle of El Alamein and the culmination of the North Africa campaigns in 1942
31 October 2017: Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba in 1917
2 November 2017: 75th anniversary of the Kokoda Campaign in 1942
11 November 2017: 99th anniversary of Remembrance Day in 1918


Early Anzac Day crowds at Anzac Arch, Adelaide

Is there an anniversary in 2017 that is particularly important to you?