A list of small actions and major events which challenged the state of Australian society and pointed to better ways forward.
Note: This is a ‘live’ list which is continually being added to.
1 August 1980, Melbourne: Public transport users ride free for a day after conductors refuse to collect fares as part of wider action against fare hikes.
2 August 1917, Sydney: Employees in the NSW government’s Eveleigh Railway and Randwick Tramway workshops stop work over the introduction of “scientific management” techniques aimed at speeding up the pace of labour. This triggers what will become a massive strike involving around 100 000 workers across various industries in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
2-3 August, South Australia: South Australia’s first ever “stay-in strike” took place at Brompton on August 2 and 3 1937. 450 employees of the South Australian Gas Company won back industry allowances associated with health risks after an 18 hour occupation which featured entertainment from an impromptu jazz band.
6 August 1982, Sydney: In 1982 the Fraser government pushed through approvals for the mining of uranium at Jabiluka in the Northern Territory. This was consistently opposed for decades by Mirrar Traditional Owners on a variety of grounds, not least the abrogation of their sovereignty. One of the first protests against the proposed mine outside of the NT took place on 6 August 1982 in Sydney when the offices of Pan Continental Mining were picketed. To find out more about the campaign to stop the mine visit Jabiluka: Fight for Country
7 August 1980, Western Australia: Aboriginal people from across the Kimberley region along with unionists and other supporters of the Noonkanbah community’s right to deny mineral exploration on their land blockade a convoy of mining vehicles at multiple locations. After mining company AMAX gains access to the site the drilling crew, all union members, strike over the draconian actions of the WA government in removing protesters.
8 August 1972, Sydney: A protest is held against the common use of aversion therapy by psychiatrists seeking to “convert” gays and lesbians.
12 August, 1979, Terania Creek NSW: On August 12th 1979 approximately 100 people opposed to the imminent destruction of rainforest habitat met at Terania Creek. Having spent five years employing orthodox methods of lobbying and public submissions to no avail they spontaneously decided to set up a protest camp. Utilising improvised forms of organisation, consensus decision making and tactics such as placing bodies, objects and vehicles upon roads and occupying trees they disrupted work for around four weeks before the NSW state government placed a moratorium on logging. Following further blockading at Mount Nardi and Grier’s Scrub in 1982 the NSW government created a new series of national parks that included all of the forests where direct action had taken place. To find out more about the protests listen to Part 3 of the Treesits, Lock-ons and Barricades: Environmental Blockading in the 1980s podcast series
14 August 1963, Canberra: Two bark petitions, one written in Yolngu Matha and the other in English, become the first traditional Aboriginal document to be tabled in federal parliament. Their assertion of sovereignty and opposition to bauxite mining from the Yirrkala people of Arnhem Land is ignored by the government but plays a major role in triggering a new wave of Land Rights campaigning.
17 August 2013, Cairns: The Freedom Flotilla leaves for West Papua to support resistance against Indonesian occupation.
20 August 1997, Melbourne: As part of opposition to the introduction of up-front fees for higher education students occupy RMIT’s financial services offices.
23 August 1966, Wave Hill, NT: On the 23rd of August 1966 Aboriginal pastoral workers and their families walked off Wave Hill station demanding equal pay and an end to the intolerable conditions they worked and lived in. The campaign soon came to also focus on land rights. The determination of the Gurindji people and support from unions, the Communist Party of Australia, the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and others saw the community win back approximately 3300 square kilometres of their country in 1975. A case study and training process guide based on this iconic campaign, and excerpted from Building Power: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World
26 Aug 1975, Wave Hill, NT: On 26 August 1975 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam handed a leasehold title to land at Daguragu (Wattie Creek) to Vincent Lingiari, representative of the Gurindji people.
Photograph by A.K.Hanna [CC BY-SA 4.0]]
29 August 1939, Sydney: Prison reform activist Samuel Rosenberg ends an 18 day hunger strike protesting NSW’s use of the death penalty.
30 August 2014, Melbourne: In August 2014 the misleadingly named World Congress of Families held a conference in Melbourne. Those opposed to the group’s aim of snuffing out LGBTIQ and women’s rights mobilised for months before the event. By directing complaints to venues via social media and other means they forced the gathering to move locations four times and created a media furore that forced various politicians to withdraw from attending. When it was finally held on 30th August the small number who still turned up were greeted by a Block Party Against Hate and other protests. Follow this link to hear more about the corrosive effect of homophobia and how it can be countered.
31 August 1890, Melbourne: Despite facing armed police and soldiers 40 000 people attend a meeting outside Federal Parliament in support of sailors, dock workers, shearers, miners and others taking part in a national strike for improved wages and conditions in the maritime industry.
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