Deposit N114 - Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia, Federal Office deposit 5

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Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia, Federal Office deposit 5


  • 1902 - 1984 (Creation)

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Name of creator

(1890 - 1993)

Biographical history

The first waterside workers' unions in Australia were formed in Port Adelaide, Sydney, and Sandridge (Port Melbourne) in 1872. By 1889 there were notable waterfront unions in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Although the various unions federated in March 1890 the Waterside Workers' Federation was not established until 7 February 1902 with Mr William Morris Hughes (Prime Minister of Australia, 1915-1923) elected its first President. The Waterside Workers' Federation was registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act on 1 July 1907 and the first comprehensive Commonwealth award for waterside workers dates from 13 December 1915. In January 1914 an office of the Waterside Workers’ Federation was established in Melbourne. After 1939 the Federation was located in Sydney. In order to manage the Waterside Workers' Federation Branches the Federal Executive, in 1902, established a Committee of Management (COM). The COM comprised delegates from the Executive of each Branch, and each Branch was entitled to one member for every 500 financial members. Furthermore, any of the COM’s resolutions that were approved by less than a 3/5 majority had to be submitted to at least 500 financial members of the rank and file for endorsement. Although designed to ease interstate rivalries this method of decision-making often exacerbated tension. The structure of the Waterside Workers' Federation remained largely unchanged until 1950 when it absorbed the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers' Union of Australia. In 1991 the Waterside Workers' Federation amalgamated with the Australian Foremen Stevedore Association but retained the name Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia. In 1993 the Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia joined with the Seamen's Union of Australia to form the Maritime Union of Australia.

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Scope and content

Branch correspondence, 1957-1969; minutes of Federal Council meetings, 1948-1954; circulars to Branches and Councillors and papers relating to Council voting, 1957-1966; ballot files, 1964-1974; ‘C’ files (files on Federation activities), 1948-1966; subject files, 1963-1975; Committee of Inquiry into matters relating to the Stevedoring Industry – transcripts of evidence and other papers, 1954-1957; Conciliation and Arbitration Court transcripts, 1935-1946; application by Australian Steamships and others to vary the 1914 Award, 1915; transcripts of court proceedings – Munro and Isaksen (1951), Healey and Barnwell (1956-1957), Government Railways (Newcastle Coal Cranes (1955-1957); papers relating to basic wages cases, 1920-1967; Boards of Reference files, 1936-1953; financial records, 1939-1978; membership records, 1902-1971 (includes resignation forms of members of the Permanent & Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia, 1949-1950; rule books, WWF and other trade unions and political organisations, 1882-1975; industrial agreements, 1910-1967; miscellaneous papers including members’ financial and membership files, Delegates and Gang Leaders convention papers, Hursey Case (1958), stevedoring industry, conditions of work, etc., 1875-1973; WWF Film Unit (sound recording), 1979; press clippings, 1914-1958; photographs, 1941-1970; printed material, 1904-1984.


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Archives staff will need to request permission from the owner of the records before access can be given.

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  • English

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Entered from deposit description, November 2012


  • English



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