Tickets to Women of Steel, which premiered in Perth on November 26, sold out some two weeks in advance owing to bulk purchases by several unions: the Australian Metal Workers Union; the Australian Workers’ Union; the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union; and the Electrical Trades Union.
Union women showed up in significant numbers to see the story of Illwarra women who decided to challenge BHP’s discriminatory hiring and firing practices and, after many highs and lows, won.
The film was received with laughter, clapping and cheers at different points throughout.
All who attended agreed the film was both a wonderful historical record, but also held important lessons for the union and social movements today.
While then Sex Discrimination Commissioner hailed the victory as “the most important piece of discrimination litigation that had occurred in this country”, screen host Janet Parker said it was so much more.
“This was a campaign fought not just in the courts, but out in the streets, in the community, in alliance with unions and with the support of male co-workers.
“It was a campaign led by women, many of them from non-English speaking backgrounds. It has many lessons for us in a world where there are so many battles still needing to be fought,” Parker said.
In the question and answer session afterwards, a number of women working in traditionally male- dominated industries spoke up about the ongoing bullying and harassment they face on the job. Questions were also raised about campaigning and on-the-job culture.
The evening concluded with comments about the need to get Women of Steel seen far and wide, including organising screenings at unions, schools, universities and labour history conferences.
[If you want to host a screening of Women of Steel and help get the film out to places it otherwise might not reach, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.]