Wild and stormy dames

Kate Ambrose
City Organiser

Actress Angela Forde, co-director Kirsty Alexandra and President Maurie Mulheron led the audience in singing “Don’t be too polite, girls”, which features in the film

More than 250 people who braved wild and stormy weather to attend the Sydney launch of the film The Women Who Were Never There, on June 3 in the Federation auditorium were rewarded with the privilege of being a part of an event that is raising consciousness of a wild and stormy campaign.

The 25-minute film depicts events that took place when a determined group of women made the first attempt to get work at the male-dominated Port Kembla steelworks in 1973.

Their struggle for job equality and solidarity within the union movement included lock-ons, a workplace death, and a determination to fight for what was right. Their struggle laid the groundwork for the 1980s Jobs For Women campaign that followed, a seminal campaign in the history of women’s employment rights and women’s role in trade unions in Australia.

Screenings of the short film are being planned around the country in support of the Jobs for Women Film Project, which includes the production of a feature-length film depicting the campaign that ran throughout the 1980s and into the mid-1990s in the fight to first gain jobs for women in the BHP steelworks in Port Kembla and Newcastle, and later a fight for compensation in relation to the Anti-Discrimination Act.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron welcomed the audience on behalf of the Federation’s Executive, which pledged financial support for the project.

Women’s Coordinator Anna Uren linked the struggle for women’s equality in the workforce with the current work of the Federation and emphasised, “We cannot afford to become complacent. We are at a time of real risk in terms of women’s employment rights. Governments at all levels are moving away from an explicit focus on sex discrimination and affirmative action.”