Australia: Trades Unions Material

Scope and Content

Leaflets, letters, newsletters, journals, posters, stickers and pamphlets at federal and state level issued by the Australian Building Construction Employees' and Builders Labourers' Federation, the Australian Bank Employees Union, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Amalgamated Metals, the Foundry and Shipwrights Union, the Amalgamated Metal Workers' and Shipwrights' Union, the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union, the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union, the Australian Railways Union, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia, the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association, the Australian Teachers' Federation, the Australian Trade Union Training Authority, the Artworkers Union, the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia, the Cattlemen's Union of Australia, the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, the Metal Trades Federation of Unions, the National Metal Unions Campaign Committee, the Pastrycooks, Bakers, Biscuit Makers and Allied Trades Union, the Trades and Labor Council of Queensland, the Transport Workers Union of Australia, the United Workers Forum, the Unemployed Workers Union, and the Women's Trade Union Commission.

Administrative / Biographical History

By the late nineteenth century trade union membership density in Australia was among the highest in the world and as a consequence attracted international interest from labour historians, most notably from Sidney and Beatrice Webb. By the mid 1970s over half of the workforce was unionised, a figure significantly greater than that for Britain, wherein many of Australia's principles had originated. The recognition by the union movement of the need for political represention had led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party, a British-style union-based organisation as distinct from the social democrat parties more prevalent in Europe. The relationship between the ALP and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is one of the major threads running through Australian union history, and significant material is held in this collection dealing with the Prices and Incomes Accord - the 1983 pact between the Labor Government of Bob Hawke and the unions. Other items are concerned with individual unions and particular labour disputes, including the wildcat strikes by Sydney Opera House construction workers in the late 1970s, and there are items indicating the stance of unions on single issues such as uranium mining, as well as posters and publicity material relecting on the movement itself and its history.


Alphabetically by union, and then in rough chronological order.

Access Information

Open to all for research purposes; access is free for anyone in higher education.

Acquisition Information

Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Other Finding Aids

Records at item level on library catalogue (SASCAT).

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Daniel Millum, Political Archives Project Officer at the Institutes of Commonwealth and Latin American Studies.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies can usually be obtained - apply to library staff.

Custodial History

The Commonwealth Trades Unions Materials collection was built up alongside that of the Political Parties, which was begun in 1960-61, and likewise concentrated on the collection of primary material. The main method of gathering material has been to appeal directly to trades unions throughout the Commonwealth, though contributions from Institute members and staff following visits to relevant countries have been significant. More recently Australian material has been collected by means of downloading documents from the websites of major union organisations.


Further accruals are expected, some in electronic form.

Related Material

See also Australia: Pressure Groups Material (PG.AT) and Australia: Political Party Material (PP.AT), as well as Political Party, Trades Unions and Pressure Group Materials for other Commonwealth countries and related material in the library's main classified sequence, all held at the ICS.

Geographical Names