Labour historians seek inspiration from the past

29 June 2005

A forum on Rough Reds: Reflections on Communist activism in Australia; a trivia night hosted by Labor Senator John Faulkner and a session on industrial relations changes presented by Bob Gould are among the program highlights for the 9th National Labour History Conference this week at the University of Sydney (June 30 to July 2).

The Past is Before Us is the theme of the biennial conference which has attracted outstanding international speakers and presenters including labour historians, academics and activists. The conference will be officially opened by the Hon. Meredith Burgmann MLC at 9.30am on Thursday June 30 in the Great Hall, University of Sydney.

Topics to be discussed include arbitration; labour women’s activism; Indigenous labour; labour movement politics and the practice of labour history. Longtime Sydney activist Bob Gould will present a paper entitled History repeats itself: Bruce and Howard  compared which looks at John Howard’s attempts to emulate the industrial relations changes of 1920s Nationalist Prime Minister, Stanley Melbourne Bruce.

The plenary address on Labour history: an international movement will be delivered on Friday morning (July 1) by Marcel van der Linden of the International Institute of Social History in the Netherlands. Other international speakers include historian Shelton Stromquist, University of Iowa and Canadian labour historians Greg and Linda Kealey, University of New Brunswick.

Dr John Shields, a senior lecturer in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney and one of the conference organizers said a key aim of the conference was to reexamine the struggles of past generations of workers and labour movement activists as a source of inspiration and guidance for future social and political transformation. “The timing is extraordinary given the government’s planned industrial relations changes and the unions’ campaign against them,” Dr Shields said.

What: 9th National Labour History Conference, Holme Building, University of Sydney

When: Thursday, June 30 – Saturday, July 2, 2005


Media inquiries: Virginia Gawler (02) 9351 2261 or 0423 782 603