Reports on Recent Events
Radical Perth, Militant Fremantle Talk – March 19, State Library of WA
People, political movements and places of working class resistance were themes taken up by two of Perth’s most renowned labour historians, Bobbie Oliver and Charlie Fox. Bobbie and Charlie (along with Lenore Layman) are the editors of the recently published Radical Perth Militant Fremantle book. Speaking at the State Library they took stories from that book to reveal the often unknown history of Western Australia, those moments where ordinary people fought back against ‘the system’ or offered alternatives to the conventionality of the mainstream.
Charlie Fox started off the evening speaking to a lecture theatre that was at least three quarters full. He regaled the audience with the story of Monty Miller. Monty arrived in WA from Victoria in 1897. He helped to found the Labour Church, a Christian socialist organisation. After that group’s demise he then went on to become president of the Social Democratic Federation. Monty eventually found the organisation he had been looking for when he joined the ‘Wobblies’ (the Industrial Workers of the World), a revolutionary organisation of working class militants. Continuing the story of Radical Perth Militant Fremantle Charlie described the 1960s as the last romantic period in the west: the era of the counter-culture, of peace, love and all that stuff. After that period the primacy of class identity tended to wane. Perhaps that was best illustrated by the transformation of the Union Movement’s May Day event in Fremantle. Charlie spoke of how the militant parade of trade unionists became after 1970 far more encompassing of social causes, ranging from aboriginal civil rights, to the plight of refugees, to environmental campaigns.
Bobbie Oliver spoke next and immediately stressed the importance of preserving the physical sites of struggle. The Fremantle wharves were one of those key sites. In 1919 Fremantle’s wharves were the location of an event that came to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ or the ‘finest exhibition of solidarity in Western Australian History’. Fremantle’s wharfie labourers fought hard against the exploitative conditions of their work and the scab labour being used to undermine their union. The fight cost one of the strikers his life, Tom Edwards, but the outcome was a win for the workers on Fremantle’s wharves. Bobbie then went on to speak of the Midland Railway Workshops, a vast industrial estate now mostly redeveloped in the quest for ‘urban renewal’. The Workshops had once played host to ‘the flagpole’, the place where workers would gather for union meetings and to hear guest speakers. The site also had its own ‘red square’, a space between the double row of lathes in Block 3. Here shop-steward and communist Jack Marks would be happy to proselytise for the communist cause to anyone willing to stop and listen.
At the conclusion of Charlie and Bobbie’s narratives some lively questions were taken from the audience. The evening was a great success and demonstrates the public enthusiasm that exists for ‘radical’ local history. If anyone hasn’t got a copy of Radical Perth Militant Fremantle, look out for the next print-run, it is a must-have volume for anyone interested in Western Australian history.
WA History Teacher’s Association Conference – March 30, John XXIII College, Mount Claremont
On a lovely Saturday morning in the picturesque ground of John XXIII College close to 200 History teachers gave up their Saturday to attend the HTAWA conference on March 30th. The day started with breakfast and was off to a great start with plenty to see and do as well as buy.
The exhibitors showcased the newest texts and our own HTAWA stand was brimming with resources and study guides for our teachers. Classroom displays from generous teachers inspired many of us as we made our way to the keynote speaker, the fabulous Dr Paul Kiem from the HTANSW and author of several highly regarded publications on history teaching. He presented the possible future for education in History and the challenges of the way we teach source analysis in schools. Then we were off to many workshops and lectures, something for everyone! I went to a lecture presented by Jan Bishop on European integration until 2001 and came away with a better understanding of the period and some ideas on how to teach this complex piece of History to my year 12’s. As we all moved from workshop to lectures on our packed program I felt the buzz of excited conversations and ‘aha’ moments that signify our teachers’ enthusiasm for learning and for teaching History. As the day came to a close we felt that the conference was the best one yet but are already looking forward to the big one next year - our National Conference that we are hosting. We can’t wait!!
WA State Heritage and History Conference – April 29 and 30, Westin Hotel, Perth
Heritage practitioners, archivists, researchers, museum curators and historians from across WA and Australia spent two wonderful days at the Westin Hotel in Perth discussing all things heritage and history in Western Australia.
This year’s conference theme was “Handle with Care” and there were many fascinating and moving presentations on topics ranging from heritage tourism to documenting social unrest and from archive management to recognising indigenous war veterans. One of the most powerful sessions was the panel “Lighting the Dark”, where Professor Lyndall Ryan from the University of Newcastle, Karrie-Anne Kearing from Pinjarra and Dr Robyn Smith from Top End Heritage discussed the importance of correctly managing and interpreting frontier massacre sites. Our own History Council ran a panel on “Dark History” featuring Jenny Gregory, Cindy Solonec, Bri McKenzie and Bobbie Oliver; while the council was also well represented by their individual presentations and by Samantha Owen (co presenter Jessica Johnston) in her presentation on the paintings of the Carrolup artists “Handle our Drawings, Our stories and out Memories with Care”. The event was well attended with over 300 delegates and proved to be an excellent opportunity for participants to meet like-minded researchers and spread the word about exciting heritage projects being undertaken in WA.
"Making the Past Visible Mapping Australia’s Frontier Massacres" – May 1 2019, Curtin University
Curtin University was the site of a fascinating talk from Professor Lyndall Ryan of the University of Newcastle, who, along with her colleagues, has developed a unique online frontier massacre mapping tool. The interactive tool will be important for researchers of indigenous history in Australia.
Lyndall discussed her work in the creation the map which identifies the sites where massacres of indigenous Australians took place over the period 1780 to 1930. The map also shows many details of individual massacres and provides links to the sources on which the massacre history is based. The talk was attended by many indigenous and non-indigenous people and discussion at the conclusion of the talk was moving and powerful as audience members reflected on the importance of truth telling and the necessity for the map to fully and accurately represent massacres that occurred in Western Australia.
Changes to Australian Copyright Laws
In December 2018 the Department of Communications and the Arts detailed changes to Australia’s existing copyright laws. These changes are designed to better protect creative industries from online piracy and are expected to harmonise copyright protection terms across a variety of works. Significant changes are around unpublished materials which will now have a standard period of copyright protection, the life of the author, plus 70 years.
For more information about these changes head here: https://www.communications.gov.au/departmental-news/changes-australian-copyright-law