Workers form unions when they get together to fight for a more equitable working environment. When you’re a member of a Australian Unions, you can be assured that someone is looking out for your best interests. Workers are stronger when they band together, which is reflected in unions. Throughout Australia’s history, labor unions have given workers a voice not just in the workplace, but also in society at large.
1791–1900: The Beginnings of Australia’s Union Movement
The brutal eviction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from their country was the basis for the British invasion and occupation of Australia. The indigenous proprietors fought the British colonialism from the start.
The shipping of convicts to Australia to serve terms of incarceration and to be exploited as forced labor supported early colonial society. If the criminals disobeyed the rules, they were subjected to harsh conditions and harsh punishment.
Hard times, on the other hand, breed rebels. There is mention of convicts going on strike as early as 1791 to demand that their meals be provided weekly. The most significant act of convict resistance occurred in 1804 in New South Wales, when a group of deportees, largely from Ireland, staged an all-out uprising.
These inmates were inspired by the Irish independence movement and plotted an armed rebellion. They congregated at Rouse Hill, which they dubbed Vinegar Hill in honor of one of the most famous battles of the 1798 Irish revolt. The Australian Vinegar Hill insurgents met the same fate as their Irish counterparts: British military strength destroyed them. However, it was evident that colonial authorities could not treat criminals inhumanely without facing retaliation.
In Australia, a legacy of resistance to authority and privilege was formed via indigenous resistance and convict rebellion. In the 1820s, as the economy flourished, a distinct working class emerged, adding to the rebellious tradition. For the first time in the country, coopers went on strike in 1824, forming a picket line. Typographers of an Australian newspaper went on strike in 1829 to demand better pay.
Laborers organized groups to advocate their interests in the 1830s. These weren’t quite unions in the sense that we know them now. They were substantially smaller, with just 20 to 60 members on average, and its major purpose was to pool funds to safeguard against sickness and unemployment.
Around twenty workers’ associations were created in Sydney between 1830 and 1850, and roughly a dozen in Melbourne. They started a significant trend of working people banding together to preserve their own interests, despite their small numbers.