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ANMM Collection Reproduced courtesy of Lyn McLeavy

Photographs of Melbourne waterfront early 1980s

Date: 1981
Overall: 35 x 230 mm
Medium: Negative
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Lyn McLeavy
Object Name: Negative
Object No: 00051957
Related Place:Melbourne,

User Terms

    7 sheets of photographic negatives of black and white images of Melbourne waterside workers taken in September 1981. These photographs were taken by Lyn McLeavy for the book by Wendy Lowenstein 'Under the Hook: Melbourne Waterside Workers Remember - 1900-1980', published in 1982.
    SignificanceThis is a rare collection of photographs that documents Melbourne's waterfront and waterside workers in 1981 and a photographic record of maritime workers who were present at the 1928 strike.
    HistoryThese photographs were taken by Lyn Mcleavy in September 1981 for the book by Wendy Lowenstein 'Under the Hook: Melbourne Waterside Workers Remember - 1900-1980', published in 1982.

    Wendy Lowenstein has been regarded as one of Australia's foremost oral historians - specialising in working class life oral histories such as her 1978 'Weevils in the Flour: an oral record of the 1930's depression in Australia'.

    In the 1970s Lyn McLeavy was an anti-uranium activist and campaigned for Aboriginal Land rights. She worked closely with the Waterside Workers Federation and the Seaman's Union, who both supported these campaigns. During the late 1970s she met Steve Hawke the son of then Trade Union leader and future Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his wife Hazel Hawke gave Lyn a copy of Wendy Lowenstein's Weevils in the Flour.

    Lyn noted that the history of the Port Melbourne waterfront was not mentioned in detail in the book. She knew it well as she had been doing oral histories of waterfront workers who were in the 1928 docks strike and her family had been waterfront workers for several generations - in fact since 1862. Lyn's family history 'The Woolbales of Wrath' was published by the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society in 1999.

    According to Lyn, Steve Hawke suggested she contact Wendy Lowenstein, which she did. Lowenstein was then working on 'Under the Hook: Waterside Workers Remember Working Lives and Class War 1900-1980'. Lyn compiled her family history as part of her studies in Feminist Philosophy at La Trobe University, in an unpublished manuscript titled 'A Women's History of Port Melbourne'. Lyn's grandmother had been evicted from a women's protest in the Victorian parliament during the 1928 strike, in the company of Jennie Baines who had been in the British suffragettes.

    Lowenstein included some of Lyn's material in her book. Lyn's oral history recordings and transcripts are held in the National Library oral history collection. Lyn worked with Wendy transcribing for Under the Hook, and convinced her to use photographs of people - some of which Lyn took and which form the subject of this acquistion.

    In this collection there are 32 photos of members of the Retired Waterside Workers' Association (RWWA) - who were present during the infamous 1928 strike where police opened fire upon the strikers and Alan Whittaker was killed. Whittaker's death is still remembered by the Port Melbourne community.

    These images were taken outside the RWWA clubrooms in front of Patrick's terminal and in front of cargo vessels. They include Tom Hills, then President of the RWWA Melbourne branch (b.1904), Charlie Morgan, Jack Baker, Sol Green, 'Tippo' Hayes jnr (b. 1906) and Lou Albress (b. 1892) and Geoff Swayne then Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) Melbourne branch.

    There are 2 images of Excelsior Hall (cnr Bridge and Princes Streets, Port Melbourne) which was the meeting place of the Central Unemployed Committee in the 1930s.

    There are 94 images of people working along side vessels, loading cargo with hooks, working in ships' holds and loading from wharves with nets and hooks.

    There are another 42 images of the RWWA clubrooms.

    The RWWA members were all contributers to Lowenstein's oral histories for Under the Hook.

    The 1928 Waterside Strikes at Port Melbourne have remained infamous in the memories of trade unionists and the Port Melbourne community. During the 1920s conservative prime minister Stanley Bruce was determined to smash union influence on the docks. At Port Melbourne, tensions rose as non-union workers were given work and an angry protest began on November 2 1928 after 1000 union members were ignored in favour of non-union workers, who were brought in under police protection.

    The Victorian Police Commissioner, ex-World War I General and avowed anti-communist Thomas Blamey, issued a direction that any unemployed people marching through Melbourne and causing a breach of the peace were to be 'hit over the head'.

    Blamey's approach to dealing with protest was ruthless. A confrontation at the Port Melbourne waterfront ended when police opened fire on protestors, killing one man and wounding several others.

    The tragic irony was that the man killed, Allan Whittaker, had survived being wounded in the Gallipoli landings of 1915.

    See Liam Brooks The 1928 Waterfront Strike and the fall of the Victorian Government Thesis, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, La Trobe University, 2008 Available online at:

    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Photographs of Melbourne waterfront early 1980s

    Assigned title: Black and white negative stripe containing four images

    Related People
    Photographer: Lyn McLeavy

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