Deposit E154 - Australian Workers' Union deposit 1

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Reference code



Australian Workers' Union deposit 1


  • 1887 - 1960 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

8.4 m

Context area

Name of creator

(1887 - 1894)

Biographical history

The Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australia was formed in 1887 by the amalgamation of the Australian Shearers' Union, the Bourke Shearers' Union and the Wagga Shearers' Union. It quickly grew to represent shearers across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. By the early 1890s, the Amalgamated Shearers' Union was fighting a battle of survival in strikes that spread across the colonies. Economic depression and severe drought savaged the wool industry and further impeded the effectiveness of the ASU. By 1894 the ASU, in order to maintain a strong union front in the rural sector, was forced to merge with other rural-based unions to form the Australian Workers' Union.

Name of creator

(1891 - 1894)

Biographical history

The impetus to form the General Labourers' Union of Australasia arose out of difficulties the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia faced in overcoming the effect non-unionised, unskilled labourers had in negating any strike action the shearers were resolved to undertake. This was particularly evident in the 1891 shearers' strike in Queensland. At the inaugural annual conference held in Adelaide on 9 February 1891 it was overwhelmingly voted by the ASU delegates present that this new General Labourers' Union be formed to provide union coverage for shedhands, so as 'to unite to a man and so present an unbreakable square in time of need'. The administrative and governmental structures of the GLU virtually mirrored those of the ASU. Shortlived, the GLU ultimately merged with the ASU again in 1894 to create the Australian Workers' Union.

Name of creator

(1905 -)

Biographical history

The Australian Workers' Union, registered federally in 1905, initially sought to serve unskilled rural workers such as shearers and general labourers and eventually grew to be politically influential within the Australian Labor Party. Increasing in size as members from deregistered unions such as the South Australian United Laborers' Union and the Australian Carriers' Union were absorbed into the fold, the AWU postured itself as the 'One Big Union' of Australian trade unionism. In 1976 the union was reregistered following an amalgamation with the Wool and Basil Workers' Federation of Australia. The Union was again reregistered in 1988 when it merged with the Undertakers' Assistants and Cemetery Employees' Union. A final amalgamation in 1993 with Federation of Industrial Manufacturing and Engineering Employees brought about the AWU-FIME Amalgamated Union but it continues to be known as the Australian Workers' Union.

Name of creator

(1910 - 1965)

Administrative history

Labor Papers Limited published the Australian Workers' Union newspaper, The Australian Worker. It formed in 1910 with John Christian Watson, former prime minister, as its initial chairman of directors and from 1914 its Managing Director. He resigned in 1916 over his support for conscription. The company was deregistered in 1965 as Labor Newspapers Limited.

Name of creator

(1910 - 1968)

Administrative history

The People's Printing and Publishing Company of Western Australia published the union newspaper 'The Westralian Worker'. John Curtin, a future prime minister, was editor of the newspaper from 1917 to 1928. By 1958, the company was known as the Westland Broadcasting Company.

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Scope and content

Records of AWU Head Office, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria-Riverina, South Australian, Tasmanian and Westralian branches; membership records: General Labourers' Union (1891-1894), Inverell, Scone, Cobar, Coonamble, Moree, Wagga Wagga, and Young Branches (1890s), Bourke Branch (1895-1913), Port Augusta Branch (1895), Central Branch (1905-1929), Queensland branches (1914-1915), CSR employees Condong, Harwood and Broadwater (1914-1915), Railway Workers' Industry Branch (1916-1932), NSW Branch (1933-1934); financial records for Head Office, branches, Labor Papers Ltd and the People's Printing and Publishing Company, rules, conference reports (1891-1957), arbitration material, New Zealand Workers' Union material, printed material and poems by shearer Arthur Stevenson (1890s). Also includes ledger for Amalgamated Miners' Union, Mt Farell, Tasmania (1900-1917).


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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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Dates of creation revision deletion

Entered from deposit description 10 October 2012




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