Jobs for Women campaign

Below is an abridged version of a speech delivered by socialist unionist Robynne Murphy to this year’s ACTU Congress. Murphy spoke alongside three women from the Electrical Trades Union, who had formed the “Sparkettes”, a network to support other women in their union.

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I worked at the steelworks in Port Kembla for 30 years, during which time I was involved in a long campaign with mainly migrant women for the right for women to have secure and well-paid jobs.

The first screening of the cinematic tale of women fighting for jobs at Port Kembla steelworks screened to 250 people at the Gala Cinema in Warrawong on April 17.

Set in 1973, The Women Who Were Never There tells a dramatic story, based on real events, of women who chained themselves to the front gates of BHP to protest the lack of jobs for women.

The film brings to life the drama of the women who took on Australia's biggest corporation in their fight for equality.

The historian Geoffrey Blainey recently addressed staff at BHP headquarters in Melbourne on the 130th anniversary of the forming of Broken Hill Propriety Company Limited in 1885.

Blainey told the assembled audience “there is no commercial institution in Australia that has contributed so much to the nation’s history”.

To set the historical record straight, he should have added that there is no commercial institution that has fought so hard against the workers whose surplus value it expropriated than BHP.

More than 30 people attended the Brisbane launch of Women of Steel: Gender, Jobs and Justice at BHP on September 17

The book documents the 14-year landmark struggle for jobs, which began in the 1980s when a group of mainly migrant women took on The Big Australian and won.


Author Carla Gorton at the Cairns launch of the book and associated film project. Photo: Jobsforwomenfilm.com.

Women of Steel: Gender, jobs & justice at BHP
Carla Gorton & Pat Brewer
Resistance Books, Sydney
$10 paperback, 73 pages
www.resistancebooks.com

More than 100 people filled Thirroul Community Centre for the launch of Women of Steel, a new book on the inspiring “Jobs For Women” campaign. The campaign saw working class, mostly migrant, women take on Australia's biggest corporation BHP, who refused to employ women at the Port Kembla steelworks.

The event was opened with a passionate rendition of Solidarity Forever from the Illawarra Union Singers.

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