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. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains images of people who have died.
1 January 1844, Sydney: A difficult New Year’s Day for the authorities begins in Sydney when a crowd surrounds Governor Gipps demanding democratic rights and action against poverty, convictism and unemployment. In the late afternoon, following pitch invasions and clashes with constables at a cricket match, rioting breaks out as crowds march to watch-houses and convict barracks to cheer inmates (who respond in kind) and free any arrestees they come across. When Gipps confronts the crowd, ordering it to disperse, they reply with a torrent of abuse stating, “What should we go to our homes for? We’ve got nothing to eat.” The crown’s representative then orders mounted police and troopers to clear Queen’s Square after Edward Phelan exhorts the crowd to “go further and do as the Canadians did [in 1837]” by opting for all-out rebellion. The would-be revolutionary later receives 12 months in irons for his efforts.
1 January 1981, Australia: A total ban on the transportation of uranium and related mining equipment is placed by the Australian Railways Union.
1 January, 1990, Melbourne: Following a series of stop work actions, including refusing to collect fares, Victorian public transport workers saw in the new year by occupying Brunswick, Essendon, Kew, North Fitzroy, Preston and South Melbourne tram depots and running the tram system themselves on January 1st 1990. This shift to workers control was undertaken in the context of plans by the Victorian ALP government to get rid of conductors, train station staff and their services to the public. Authorities cut off power to the system on the evening of January 1st and locked out the workforce with the result than no trams ran for 33 days. During this period hundreds of disused trams were parked in the city and a grassroots campaign undertaken to support workers and save their jobs. Although the compromise agreement that ended the dispute pleased few, conductors remained a Melbourne fixture until a new round of attacks by the conservative Kennett government saw the last of them retrenched in 1998.
Melbourne Tram Dispute and Lockout, January – February 1990 by Takver
Anarcho Syndicalism in Practice: Melbourne Tram Dispute and Lockout, January-Feburary 1990
2 January 1934, Adelaide: A 10-week “beer strike”, or boycott of local hotels, in the Flinders Ranges’ town of Quorn comes to an end after publicans agree to lower their prices. Read more about beer strikes.
3 January 1903, Port Pirie: Residents celebrated a major victory after the town’s publicans agreed to reverse a recent increase in the price of a pint of beer. This came after a seven week boycott of all the town’s hotels, which had resulted in what was described as the “dullest” New Year’s celebrations “known for many years.” At the strike’s beginning the previous year meetings of up to 2000 locals had heard speeches claiming “Nowhere in the state were publicans making such enormous profits as at Port Pirie” and that “it was the duty of workers to fight such an imposition.” The story of the strike was picked up nationally with some newspapers commenting on the town’s dry heat and reputation for heavy drinking. A columnist with Melbourne’s Punch quipped, “One wants to have lived at the Pirie to fully appreciate the heroic stuff the strikers are made of. The Christian martyrs aren’t in it.”
3 January 1989, Perth: On this day in 1989 members of Perth’s Aboriginal community, along with non-Aboriginal supporters, set up a protest camp at Gooninup. Noongar community members had been prevented from using this culturally significant site for more than a century and a half. Located next to Kings Park on the Swan River foreshore, the area had been used by the Swan Brewery company from 1879 to 1978 after which the factory had become derelict. Demanding the area be turned into a park, and having lobbied and taken legal action for more than a decade, community members were dismayed at the West Australian ALP’s decision in 1988 to redevelop the site for buildings. The Aboriginal led protest camp would go on to majorly delay work via occupations, direct action, further legal challenges and union support in the form of work bans. To learn more about this campaign read an account by Nick Everett here.
3 January 2007, Melbourne: Around 250 people attend a lunchtime protest against whaling outside the Japanese consulate. Organised by Animal Liberation Victoria the demonstration includes the banging of a gong 985 times over a 40 minute period to represent the 985 whales to be killed during the year’s hunt. According to photographer John Englart, “Jamie Yew, all dyed in red on a Japanese flag with the sun dripping ‘blood’ made a photogenic piece of street theatre for media photographers.”
6 January 1925, Sydney: ALP leaders lockout journalists at the Labor Daily for refusing to censor the word “scab”.
8 January 1992, Ballina: In a protest against sewage dumping environmentalists launch the Big Poo to rival the local Big Prawn statue.
9 January 2009, Sydney: Aboriginal activists stage a march from Sydney to Canberra demanding an end to the Northern Territory Intervention.
10 January 1834, Tasmania: Having worked with “great propriety” in executing the orders of Master Shipwright David Hoy with “promptitude and alacrity”, the convicts who built the Frederick on Sarah Island, Tasmania promptly requisitioned the fruit of their labours and sailed it to South America. Claiming to be shipwrecked sailors four of the men settled in Chile, but were eventually recaptured and sent back to Australia, while another six moved on to America and Jamaica, where they remained at large.
11 January 1951, Sydney: 270 female process workers strike at 3 factories after their employers attempt to lower their wages to less than 90% of that paid to men.
13 January 2009, Melbourne: Members of the Student Housing Action Co-operative are evicted by the University of Melbourne from houses at 272-278 Faraday Street, Carlton. The properties, previously left disused by the university, had provided housing for 50 people as well as a social centre and open community space for close to 5 months. The squat and its attendant campaign not only put abandoned houses to good use, but also raised the issue of student hardship and homelessness and exposed the failure of universities to address these issues.
14 January 1982, Melbourne: First Nations activists opposed to the building of an aluminium smelter at Portland by Alcoa disrupt a 200-metre race being held as part of an international athletics event sponsored by the company. Dashing onto the Olympic Park track the Land Rights activists unfurl a red, black and gold banner reading “Alcoa=Unemployment” before escaping down Punt Road. For more about the First Nations’ activism and history visit First Nations Resources.
16 January 1970, Canberra: A visit by far-right United States Vice President Sprio Agnew to Canberra was opposed by several hundred anti-war protesters on 14 January 1970. Agnew, later to resign his position over corrupt business dealings, was snuck into Parliament early in order to avoid those who opposed both his and the Australian government’s prosecution of the war in Vietnam and repression of draft resisters and protesters at home. During the protest police kicked and trampled protesters and dragged some over barriers. 14 were arrested, including former World War 2 Prisoner of War, veteran unionist, and disability pensioner Dave Bowen, who was injured. His arrest led to protest meetings at several South Coast coal mines in NSW and hundreds of calls being made to Canberra police regarding his treatment and safety.
18 January 1967, Australia: From 18 to 26 January 1967 a core leader of South Vietnam’s then ruling military junta, Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky toured Australia. Having previous declared that “People ask me who my heroes are. I have only one: Hitler”, Ky faced concerted opposition from anti-war and human rights protests wherever he went including a protest outside Parliament House in Canberra, one under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and another at the Prime Minister’s residence Kirribilli House.
18 January 2012, Melbourne: With mandatory imprisonment of refugees in Australia entering its twentieth year a vigil was held outside the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre on Camp Road, Broadmeadows. This was held in support of two men on hunger strike inside who had spent long periods in detention. During the rally chants of “Freedom” and “Azadi” could be heard, candles were used to spell out “SOS”, and hundreds of balloons reading “Welcome Refugees” were released. At one point an Iranian detainee telephoned out and thanked those gathered for their support, affirming that the protest had given encouragement to those inside. Thanks to John Englart for these photos from the rally.
18 January 2016, Narrabri: Three Knitting Nannas were arrested after they blocked entry to the Santos Leewood water treatment plant by locking their necks to its gates. 20 other Nannas held a tea party in front of them whilst around 40 other anti-Coal Seam Gas protesters gathered in support. This action came six days after another Nanna had locked onto the gates for 3 hours. The plant was being geared up as part of mining operations that will include up to 850 CSG wells and destroy sections of the Pilliga forest. Whilst working on their knitting and awaiting arrest one of trio told the media “I object to all of these chemicals being put into our ground and water and these companies putting the Great Artesian Basin into jeopardy. We need to really protect our water. The law is wrong and the police is protecting these companies, the law needs to change, so that this can’t happen to our country.” All charges against the three were later dismissed. See this and other blockades.
20 January 1933, Melbourne: The economic depression of the 1930s saw thousands of Australians thrown out of their homes and into the streets. These actions, however, did not go unopposed. Across Australia, hundreds of pickets, occupations and protests were organised to disrupt and prevent evictions and auctions and demand support in the form of housing and better welfare payments. On this date in 1933, a Member of Victoria’s Legislative Council Albert Zwar had his own home picketed by unemployed activists after he evicted a destitute family in Preston from a property which had been described as a “ramshackle hovel” lacking basic utilities. For more about housing activism and direct action during this period check out the Lock Out The Landlords pamphlet and history walk.
22 January 1980, Melbourne: After years of trying to get Ansett airlines to take her on as a trainee pilot Deborah Wardley fights the company through the Equal Opportunity Commission and eventually the High Court before the company finally caves in, eventually allowing her to take her first commercial flight on this day in 1980.
23 January 2002, South Australia: Following concerted lobbying by anti-nuclear campaigners and Aboriginal communities Pangea Resources pulls out of plans to build a waste dump in Australia.
24 January 2001, Melbourne: Refugee supporters occupy the roof of the Maribyrnong Detention Centre.
26 January 1972, Canberra: During the night four Indigenous Australians set up the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns outside Parliament House in Canberra. Their call for land rights and the recognition of sovereignty resonated widely, bringing thousands of Indigenous people and their supporters to the site over the coming months. Following the temporary removal of the embassy later that year it was re-established at various sites and today celebrates its 50th anniversary.
26 January 1988, Sydney: On Invasion Day 1988 around 10 000 First Nations community members gathered from across the country to lead more than 40 000 people on a march through Sydney to assert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survival and sovereignty in the face of 200 years of colonisation. This came as an alternative to the nationalist hype of official Bicentenary events which had attempted to erase the reality of dispossession and genocide in Australia. The mass march formed part of a week of activity which included a picket of Long Bay jail to highlight black deaths in custody, public meetings and concerts.
30 January 1972, Melbourne: Aboriginal activists daub Land Rights slogans on Captain Cook’s cottage tourist site.
31 January 1909, South Australia: On this day the ‘Tom Mann Express’ transported Broken Hill strikers and supporters to the South Australian border where 2700 people gathered to hear Mann speak after he was banned from speaking in NSW. During 1908 the BHP mining company had moved to slash wages by locking out its workforce. Following subsequent battles with police and strike breakers, union leader Tom Mann was arrested on charges of sedition and unlawful assembly. Strikers soon found a number of means to get around bail conditions that forbade the socialist from speaking in NSW, including making recordings which were played on a gramophone at rallies and meetings.
1 February 2015, Melbourne: Refugee activists interrupt the Australian Open men’s final and invade the court, calling for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre.
Feb 2, 1912, Brisbane: Black Friday, Brisbane’s city-wide general strike, kicked off by the sacking of 480 tramway workers for wearing union badges 13 days earlier, peaked on February 2nd 1912 in what became known as ‘Black Friday.’ On this day up to 15 000 demonstrators gathered in defiance of state government bans on protest action. Following a general shut down of industry, numerous demonstrations, raids on elite restaurants, and the regular picketing of shops and businesses that refused to recognise the call to stop work, the conservative state government had panicked. It hastily swore in 3000 volunteer ‘special’ constables, including soldiers who appeared in uniform, and issued bayonets to police. In the face of regular attacks the strike spread across Queensland with members of 43 unions and their supporters rallying daily.
When crowds gathered in Market Square on February 2nd for what was intended as a peaceful show of strength they found themselves blocked by thousands of police, some parading with rifles. Police Commissioner Cahill, who rode about screaming, “Give it to them lads! Into them!”, ordered them to tear into the protesters, badly injuring dozens and possibly killing two. Terrorised and unarmed, the crowd mostly dispersed, but police continued to hunt down stray protesters for the next hour, beating any they could find. Cornered, a group of female marchers drew their hatpins to ward off charging horses. During this unequal battle, leading feminist socialist Emma Miller toppled Cahill from his mount, leaving him with a permanent injury.
Failing to have properly organised a defence effort and faced with the deployment of further specials, including Boer War veterans, the leadership of the Strike Committee proved unwilling to take advantage of widespread anger and avoided further mobilisations. Although the dispute slowly wound down over the following month rank-and-file strikers continued to picket businesses and shut down the use of trams. Read more Australians general strike for right to unionize, Brisbane, Australia, 1912.
3 February 1979, Wagerup: Members of the West Australian Campaign to Save Native Forests occupied the site of a proposed smelter on Saturday, February 3rd 1979 in order to prevent the destruction of old-growth forests through aluminium mining. Having engaged in nonviolence training with visiting American Quakers the previous year, and held further workshops since, 16 people took part in the initial trespass action and occupation with another 300 rallying in support. 12 were arrested two days later, but the charges were later dismissed. With increased public interest emerging from this landmark event a second and larger occupation was held in May, which included the blockade pictured. More arrests ensued, but authorities lacked a legal basis to prosecute anyone. They soon responded by introducing new penalties for obstructing work carried out under agreement with the West Australian government which included fines of up to $5000 or 12 months imprisonment. Faced with this, activists shifted back to more conventional activities, but their action would later feed into non-violent approaches taken during the Franklin Dam blockade and elsewhere around Australia. Here is more information on Non Violent Direct Action.
4 February 1939, NSW: After Indigenous activist Jack Patten is arrested and removed from Cumeragunja Mission as part of attempts to end agitation around poor living conditions, up to 200 residents walk off the station in protest, many never to return.
4 February, 2011, Melbourne: Despite poor weather 500 people gathered outside the State Library to express solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo. During the rally a minute’s silence was held to remember those who had been recently killed by the Mubarak regime.
5 February 1982, Sydney: More than 1000 people protest a recent raid on a gay bar singing “We don’t want to get molested, we don’t want to get contested, we don’t want to get arrested, we just want our rights” to the tune of ‘We Wish You a Merry Xmas.”
6 February 1902, WA: Drinkers in the town of Mulline in the Goldfields-Esperance region who have been boycotting local pubs for a month over exorbitant prices receive relief in the form of a barrel of beer sent by supporters in nearby Menzies.
7 February 1972, Sydney: Black Power activists begin a free breakfast service for Indigenous children in Newtown.
8 February 1829, Hobart: Much of convict women’s resistance to labour, sexual and other exploitation took the form of work refusal, go-slows, pranks and a rejection of dominant social standards. Such behaviour was regularly and negatively commented on by colonial elites but rarely documented in detail. One set of events that did enter the public record were prison strikes, protests and uprisings. On this day inmates at the Cascades Female Factory, Tasmania’s first all women’s prison, protested intolerable living conditions and harsh punishments by setting fires, banging on doors, shouting at guards, and resisting arrest. The trigger for their protest was the placing of two women in solitary confinement for receiving bread and cheese thrown over the prison wall by friends and supporters, including members of the 40th regiment. This was to be the first of many incidents, including major riots in 1839, 1842 and 1843, in response to insufficient and poor quality rations, overcrowding, assaults and boredom.
9 February 1990, Melbourne: Anti-apartheid activists picket BHP over its support for the South African regime. Read Lessons that can be learnt from dockworkers who helped bring apartheid to its knees.
10 February 1925, Adelaide: The Trades and Labor Council declares a boycott on IXL jam in support of 500 striking female factory hands.
11 February 1796, Sydney: Scottish republican democrat Thomas Muir, along with other convicts, escaped Botany Bay aboard the American ship Otter. Muir was among five ‘Scottish Martyrs’ sentenced to transportation to Australia for 14 years for sedition, which in this case included advocating for parliamentary and constitutional reform and distributing banned materials by Thomas Paine and others. Muir had arrived in the colony a year and half earlier and following his escape was imprisoned for a period in Spanish held California before going into exile in France, where he died in 1799. His journey to Europe saw him lose an eye when the Spanish vessel he was aboard was attacked by the British navy. Despite being evacuated from the ship he escaped capture by the British, who had been informed of his presence, as his injuries meant he went unrecognised.
12 February 1965, NSW: Indigenous activists and supporters from Student Action For Aborigines Organisation (SAFA) began a two week ‘Freedom Ride’ around NSW to protest against racial discrimination on Februaryruary 12th 1965. As part of their journey they carried out surveys of Aboriginal living conditions in rural towns and held protests against the exclusion of Aboriginal ex-servicemen from the Walgett Returned Services League and Aboriginal children from swimming pools in Kempsey and Moree. Publicity surrounding the journey, and the issues being highlighting, was ramped up after police and white locals confronted protesters in Moree and an unidentified driver rammed the bus outside Walgett. Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins and others involved in the trip would continue their involvement in anti-racist and land rights activism for decades to come. Learn more about the Freedom Rides.
12 February 1977, Melbourne: Hundreds of women and supporters protested against rape and its causes in Collingwood on 12 February 1977. This came in response to the rape and murder of two women in the area during the previous month.
14 February 2003, Melbourne: As part of an international weekend of action against the war on Iraq hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life packed the streets of Melbourne calling out government lies and calling for peace. In doing so they joined tens of millions of others in more than 600 towns and cities around the world.
14 Feb 1951, Sydney: On Valentines Day 1951 53 peace activists were arrested during a demonstration outside the US consulate in Sydney. Their protest came during a visit to Australia by cold-war warrior and then US State Department adviser John Foster Dulles. The demonstrators’ primary objection was to highlight the looming rearmament of Japan and Prime Minister Menzies declaration that the Federal government would crack down on waterfront and other unions under the pretext of putting Australia on a war footing ahead of the possible expansion of the Korean war.
14 February 2003: 100 000s of people join peace rallies across the country opposing Australian involvement in the invasion of Iraq.
17 February 2015, NSW: Pro-choice advocates began 40 days of fun-filled counter-rallies on February 17 2015 against anti-abortionists who were harassing clinics and clients for the same length of time. At the end of the protest marathon, the wittiest signs and banners were honoured. Many of those involved went on to play a role in the successful campaign to decriminalize abortion in NSW in 2019.
18 February 1951, Newcastle: 330 female members of the Federated Iron Workers’ Association begin a strike, eventually winning equal pay with men after 7 weeks.
18 Feb 1869, Fremantle: Irish rebel’s escape from Fremantle – On Monday, February 18th 1869 convict John Boyle O’Reilly escaped the penal colony of Western Australia. Sentenced to death in 1866 for joining the British military in order to sow dissent amongst the ranks, the Irish Republican’s sentence was commuted to 20 years penal servitude. Arriving in Fremantle in 1868 his exile lasted little more than a year as with the aid of settlers he escaped aboard the American whaler Gazelle. Eventually settling in the US he resumed his journalistic and political activities and played a major role in organising the rescue of six other Fenian prisoners from Fremantle in 1876.
19 February 2019, Canberra: The first day that politicians resumed business in Canberra for 2019 was a busy one. Various groups rallied outside Parliament House to greet them, with one group demanding genuine action on climate change. They called for politicians to listen to First Nation voices, recognise the unfolding climate catastrophe, and take action against the Adani coal mine. Another group demanded the government pass the Medevac Bill to give refugees held in offshore detention a pathway to be transferred to Australia for urgent medical treatment. Following a major national campaign this subsequently became law on 1 March 2019. It was unfortunately repealed later that year.
21 Feb 1972, NSW: Muli Muli rent strike – On February 21st 1972 a Githabul family were evicted from their Housing Commission home at Muli Muli near Woodnebong. Following the eviction, six children were taken away by state welfare officials. In response, a community meeting immediately resolved to go on rent strike until the family were reunited and restored to their home. With pressure coming from other parts of the state, including the Sydney protest pictured here, a supposedly anonymous donor quickly surfaced to pay the back rent. After the Housing Commission refused to assist with the return of the family’s furniture the rent strike continued on into March.
21 February 1971, Sydney: A five day National Anti-War Conference came to an end in Sydney. Aimed at building on momentum against conscription and Australian military involvement in Vietnam, it drew 1300 registered delegates. During the conference a public rally was held at Sydney Town Hall, where 1800 people heard speeches from seven overseas activists, and a march undertaken through the city to protest the jailing of Darrell Dawson for pasting posters advertising Moratorium activities.
22 February 1907, Fremantle: 40 prisoners protest the use of flogging as a punishment by refusing to perform any work.
23 February 1910, NSW: In late 1909 a strike by the Coal and Shale Employees Federation over attacks on working conditions brought coal exports to a halt in New South Wales. It eventually lasted three months and escalated to include 10 000 workers. As seen in these photos, some strikers and their families joined strike camps, maintaining themselves through fishing and hunting.
Union leaders were arrested for conspiracy. To ensure they would be jailed, amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act, soon to become known as the Coercion Act, were rushed through state parliament. Among other repressive measures this prohibited unionists from running their own cooperative collieries to raise money during the strike.
Following a series of court cases union leader Peter Bowling was sentenced to 30 months in jail and four others 18 months with hard labour each. The five all began their sentences at Goulburn jail on 23 February 1910. At the insistence of Premier Charles Wade all were made to wear handcuffs and Bowling was shackled around his ankles. For this act the Premier was soon dubbed “legirons.”
Campaigning against the Coercion Act led to further arrests with five socialists imprisoned and 60 fined for taking part in street protests. An electoral backlash followed that led to the election of a Labor government, with its first official action being to free Bowling.
24 February 2011, Melbourne: To mark the first anniversary of the official announcement of Muckaty in the Northern Territory as the site for a proposed national radioactive waste dump, members of Friends of the Earth ACE (Anti-nuclear and Clean Energy) Collective toured part of the ALP Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson’s Batman electorate in search of an alternative dumping ground. This was one of many protests against the project and it would take another three years of concerted campaigning by the Muckaty community and supporters to overturn the government’s decision. For his part Ferguson rapidly transitioned from mining minister to mining lobbyist, taking up a role as the chair of peak group the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association within six months of retirement from parliament.
25 February 1982, Canberra: Members of the Sheltered Workshops Employees Association and other disabled workers rally outside Parliament demanding improved wages and the right to earn as much as other pensioners.
26 February 1986, Tasmania: Anti-logging actions at Farmhouse Creek and the Lemonthyme see bulldozers stopped and a 16-day tree-sit begun.
27 February 1937, NSW: The owners of the North Wallarah mine near Port Macquarie give in within 24 hours to striking workers demands after the men occupy and barricade the pit and up to 250 women and children picket the company manager’s home.
27 February, 1913, Sydney: Hundreds of employees at Sydney’s North Shore Gas Company Ltd walked off the job. This was largely in response to long running grievances over pay but also asserted the right to strike as the state Labor government had gained an injunction that prevented the worker’s union from holding a ballot over possible industrial action. The strike soon expanded, cutting off supplies to households and businesses and plunging parts of the city into darkness. A decision by the government to bring in strike breakers, including students from elite private schools, saw workers disrupt hiring points, rally at Trades Hall, and hoot scabs at work, as seen in this picture. The strike was eventually resolved with an agreement from the government to amend legislation to allow for the creation of wages boards to act whenever industrial agreements broke down. It also led to the Premier resigning before the next election.
1 March 1993, Victoria: 100 000s strike and rally against attacks on unions as well as privatization and austerity measures introduced by the Kennett government.
1 March 1967, Sydney: The HMAS Boonaroo is commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy after members of the Seaman’s Union of Australia refused to sail ships to Vietnam carrying weapons and ordnance. This anti-war stance followed action the previous year (pictured here) during which union members protested on board the ship holding up its departure by three hours. After the Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph refused to run advertisements from seamen explaining why they supported the ban the SUA issued its own leaflets. Other actions the union would take during the Vietnam war period included offering to work without pay to bring Australian troops home and blockading ports against US owned shipping in 1972.
4 March 1804, Castle Hill: Convicts launch a revolt in they gather hundreds to march on Parramatta, where they are defeated at Vinegar Hill by the better-armed authorities, with the intention of freeing the entire colony and allowing those wish to join the rebellion in Ireland to sail home.
5 March 1831, Newcastle: 28 women convicts arrive at the recently opened female section of Newcastle gaol, pictured here. They have been sent there for secondary punishment after taking part in a riot at the Parramatta Female Factory the previous month. During the uprising they forcibly shaved the head of an overseer. This was a form of punishment regularly meted out to female prisoners as authorities felt that it “promoted humiliation of the spirit.” Head shaving was regularly resisted by women prisoners and in 1833 led to a riot during which women smashed windows and hurled stones at the gaolers and soldiers sent to subdue them. The practice was abolished in New South Wales in 1838 but continued to be used in Van Diemens land.
6 March 1974, Canberra: A demonstration calling for Aboriginal and Torres Islander land rights is held outside Parliament House during a visit by the Queen.
7 March 2001, Sydney: Union action at the Regent Hotel forces its owners to pay housekeepers on working visas the same wages as Australian citizens.
8 March 1974, Sydney: The city celebrated International Women’s Day in 1974 with the opening of the Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre on Friday March 8th followed by a large demonstration the following day which targeted the Metropolitan Girls’ Shelter in Glebe and the Bidura Children’s Shelter demanding that the young women imprisoned there be freed and provided with genuine support. Many had been placed in these government institutions for being lesbian or bisexual, suffering homelessness and/or escaping familial abuse. One speaker stated “For women and children there is no alternative to the family; and if you’re a child in a family that breaks down you’re punished, and if you’re a woman who tries to escape from the family, you’re punished – maybe scrubbing floors will teach you where you’ve gone wrong.” Other women deplored the use of solitary confinement and violence against prisoners, punishments for same-sex relationships, exploitation as unpaid domestics and the only recently discontinued practice of administering “virginity tests.” During the demonstrations roofs were scaled and a Women’s Liberation flag planted before police arrived and arrested three people.
8 March 1975, Sydney: In 1975 around 10 000 people joined the Sydney International Women’s Day march. Calling for, among other things, funding for childcare, the removal of laws impeding reproductive rights, and an end to discrimination and sexist violence, the rally took over an hour to reach Town Hall after leaving the Domain. Held during International Women’s Year the march was followed with a festival and concert in the Town Hall which packed in 3000 attendees.
10 March 1928, Perth: Nyungar activists visit the Premier to demand freedom of movement for Indigenous Australians.
11 March 2003, Byron Bay: 1000 women protest the looming invasion of Iraq by spelling out “No War” with their naked bodies.
12 March 2006, Melbourne: Black GST (Genocide, Sovereignty and Treaty) members and supporters launch the Stolenwealth Games protests on March 12, 2006, by setting up Camp Sovereignty in Kings Domain. Situated a few hundred metres from Government House this serves as a base for land rights protests during the Commonwealth Games. For over a fortnight hundreds of protesters engage in dialogue with visitors and tourists and hold a series of rallies and actions around the city. Following this a ceremonial fire, originally lit from the Australian Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s sacred flame to launch the event is maintained for 60 days, incurring pressure from the city council and authorities until police move in and forcefully evict the camp on May 10. Read an interview with Uncle Kevin Buzzacott’s about his involvement in this protest and others for land rights and protection of country.
13 March 1837, Sydney: Seamen working aboard whaling ships docked in Sydney Harbour struck for an increase in wages from 3 shillings and six pence to 4 shillings plus “victuals and grog.” The Australian, an early newspaper bearing the same name as today’s Murdoch masthead, expressed alarm stating “there is reason to fear that combinations, not only amongst labourers of this, but of other classes will take place under present circumstances.”
March 17 1948, Brisbane: The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre sees police, under the direction of the state ALP government, beat railway strikers and their supporters, hospitalising Communist Member of Parliament Fred Paterson.
19 March 2015, Perth: As part of national demonstrations against the WA government’s decision to defund remote West Australian communities more than 2000 people marched through Perth to Parliament House on 19 March 2015.
20 March 1977, Sydney: Following the invasion of Timor-Leste by Indonesia in 1975 Australians engaged in numerous solidarity actions. These ranged from pressuring the regime via protests and boycotts through to housing exiles and directly supporting resistance fighters with communications. As part of decades of support efforts thousands joined national Timor Moratorium demonstrations in March 1977.
21 March 1996, Perth: As part of industrial action, bus drivers refuse to collect fares.
21 March 1979, Canberra: Despite partial decriminalisation of abortion in states such as NSW, SA and Victoria, by the end of the 1970s heavy restrictions, if not outright bans, on the procedure remained in place across Australia. Proving that position is everything pro-choice Catholic women snuck in front of anti-choice demonstrators in Canberra during a March 1979 parliamentary debate which eventually struck down an attempt to remove Federal health rebates for abortion.
Two months later White was committed to military custody, forcibly dragged from his home by police and locked up in the Holsworthy prison. His campaign had already stirred sympathy for those directly defying conscription and the photo of his arrest drew further support. In December this, and a court decision regarding another conscientious objector, led to White regaining his freedom but it would take anti-war and civil rights activists another five years to abolish conscription.
March 23, 1998, Northern Territory: Following decades of opposition to uranium mining the Mirrar people call on supporters from around Australia to take part in blockading construction of the Jabiluka mine on their lands from 23 March 1998 onwards. Over a period of eight months, thousands take part and around 600 people are arrested for disrupting work whilst protests and actions take place around the rest of country, including bank boycotts, high-school walk-outs, graffiti runs and the shutting down of miner North Ltd’s Melbourne headquarters for days. Continued resistance by the Mirrar prevents the mine from opening and the project is cancelled five years later. Listen to a podcast from 3CR in which Mirrar traditional owners discuss the campaign. Read more The Jabiluka Blockade – 22 years on.
25 March 1928, Sydney: International Women’s Day grew out of socialist feminist activity in the US and Europe in the first decade of the Twentieth Century. In 1910 activists at the International Conference of Socialist Working Women in Copenhagen called for rallies to be held the following year to mark union victories and the struggle for women’s suffrage. The first Australian IWD rally took place on March 25 in the Sydney Domain. Organised by the Militant Women’s Group it was held in the context of cuts in living standards and a series of strikes against them. Demands included an eight-hour day for retail workers, equal pay, an end to piece work and other workplace rights for women. Read more Standing up for women’s rights: The radical history of International Women’s Day from Green Left weekly by Kathy Fairfax.
27 March 1971, Sydney: As part of a burgeoning international boycott of sporting and cultural events connected to the apartheid regime 500 activists demonstrated against a surf carnival at Coogee Beach featuring a racially exclusive, whites-only team from South Africa. Despite the presence of 100 police wily protesters managed to get past fences and infiltrate the competition area holding up events by laying in the sand. Further events at Manly, Dee-Why and Wollongong, as well as a civic reception for South African competitors at Warringah Council, also attracted condemnation and protest from anti-racists.
All survived the 5,000 kilometre journey to arrive in Coupang, where they posed as shipwreck survivors. The local Dutch Governor soon saw through their story and sent them on to Batavia (Jakarta) where a number died in prison from disease, including William and one of the children. The couple’s other child died during the journey to England where Mary’s trial becomes a cause célèbre. Following a wave of popular support and sympathy she was pardoned in 1793.
29 March 1881, Melbourne: Forced by British settler invasion from the lands that they owned, survivors from the Kulin nation regrouped at the Coranderrk Aboriginal reserve in 1863, 60km north-east from Melbourne, near present-day Healesville. Its establishment followed occupation of the land and a campaign by First Nations people, including a 55km protest walk to Melbourne undertaken by William Barak and Simon Wonga. First Nations people from a range of places came to live at the property in the following decades. Under increasing pressure from neighbouring settlers, who wished to further dispossess its residents and carve up the 960 hectares of land for themselves, the Coranderrk community mounted a long and sustained campaign to hold onto their home, including gathering petitions and sending letters to ministers. They also held further protest walks and led deputations to politicians, including one which visited the Chief Secretary, and former Premier, Graham Berry at Parliament House on 29 March 1881. Complaining of chronic mismanagement of their property and affairs by the state’s Aboriginal Board the deputation called for community autonomy during the meeting and at a subsequent government inquiry held later in year. Immediate eviction was prevented and Corranderrk remained in place until 1924. However, changes in government policy saw its population dwindle from 1886 onwards as increasing numbers of residents were forced to leave under ‘absorption’ and ‘assimilation’ policies. Following a new round of activism the Coranderrk cemetery and, with financial assistance from the Indigenous Land Corporation, a further 119 hectares of the original reserve was reclaimed by descendants of the community.
29th March 1916, Sydney: The editor of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Direct Action newspaper, Tom Barker is sentenced to 12 months hard labour for publishing an anti-war cartoon.
Mar 31 1985: Palm Sunday peace rallies are attended by 300 000 people across Australia.
1 April 1978, Queensland: Although his notoriously corrupt and authoritarian National Party government had been hounding demonstrators for years Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen upped the ante in 1977 by declaring that street marches were “a thing of the past.” Protest groups were told they “need not bother applying for permits… because they won‘t be granted… that‘s government policy now”.
Over the coming years these bans, and others ostensibly based on preventing disruption to traffic and passers-by, were consistently challenged. As part of this Bundaberg dentist Henry Akers applied in 1978 for permission to march with his dog down a No Through Road on April Fools Day at 2.45am. Although his request was rejected, it received widespread publicity. Regardless of the authorities’ decision, one man and his dog marched that morning with Akers carrying a sign reading “The majority is not omnipotent. The majority can be wrong and is capable of tyranny”. Police officers were present, but chose not to make an arrest.
3 April 1922, Ballarat: Forty unions marched through Ballarat to celebrate the Eight Hour Day and express working class pride and power. Although the 48 hour week was first attained by the city’s building workers in May 1856 the date on which Ballarat held its celebrations was both different to most of Victoria in the 1910s and 1920s and tended to change each year depending on Easter and other dates.
1922’s procession was followed by a sports gala and carnival whose events included bicycle races, wood chopping, and dance competitions featuring the Sailors Hornpipe, Irish Jig, and Highland Fling. Wee Gun beat out competitors in the terrier and whippet races while the Victorian Goat Racing Championship award went to Bendigo entry Joker.
4 April 2014, Sydney: Having been tipped off that refugees were soon to be forcibly relocated to the remote Curtin facility in Western Australia their supporters began mobilising. On April 2 2014 a protest was held outside the offices of the department of Immigration and the following day members of Students Think Outside Borders, Refugee Action Collective and others assembled at 4.30am to picket the Villawood Detention Centre. 6 were arrested that day, but on April 4 blockaders redoubled their efforts and began assembling at 11pm. Despite riot police being brought in the following day 100 people disrupted operations for a second time.
During these events photographs were taken of handcuffed refugees in buses and uploaded online. These unsurprisingly attracted negative comments leading to a threat from the Department of Immigration to ban a regular visitor from the detention centre if they did not remove a remark from their Facebook page. The comment was eventually deleted, but not before it and the threat from the department had been widely shared on social media.
5 April 1864, South Australia: On 5 April 1864 three hundred workers and supporters from the Moonta and Wallaroo mines held a ‘monster meeting’ at the top of Bald Hill, situated at the halfway point between the two towns. This was a key show of strength during one of the biggest strikes South Australia’s ‘Copper Triangle’ had yet seen.
The area had the highest concentration of Cornish immigrants in Australia, around 20 000, with many living near mine sites in tiny earth and rubble cottages with no plumbed water or sanitation and high rates of infant mortality. Miners were paid low wages on a piece rate basis and engaged in dangerous work. Ownership of copper mines lay with major financiers and pastoralists, some of whom also sat in parliament.
The ten week strike, which began on 29 March, demonstrated that while they had little financial or political power, the workforce did have the ability to shut down operations and apply economic pressure. Although the action was in opposition to recent dismissals of workers for attending a religious event on a workday it also called for living wages and an end to the ‘incivility’ of the agents, also known as Captains, who ran the mine. Those currently in charge knew little about the trade, and thus wasted workers time on mining useless ore for which they would not be paid. They also meted out violence, punching and choking workers. A few days before the strike three apprentices had been flogged.
The owners shut the mine and refused to negotiate until their employees returned to work. In response regular night time processions marched to Bald Hill where, reflecting Cornish cultural practices, bonfires were lit. With many of the strikers unable to read, time off work was used to attend newly formed schools. Attempts to evict miners strengthened their resolve and strike breakers could not be found to replace them.
Over the period of the dispute further trades joined the miners but it was the decision of engine drivers to strike in early May which closed smelters. This hit profits the hardest but it would take until June 10 for the employers to finally relent, granting the strikers all their demands.
7 April 1998, Australia: Beginning in the dead of night balaclava wearing security guards with dogs were sent into ports around Australia to forcibly remove more than 1500 members of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) from workplaces operated by employer Patrick Stevedores. Thus began the “war on the waterfront”. In close collusion with the Federal coalition government and other employers Patricks, headed up by Chris Corrigan, had already engaged in a series of attacks on the union, including sending former and serving members of the military to Dubai to train as scab labour. The wholesale sacking of the workforce was a brazen move which soon backfired as tens of thousands of people around Australia joined picket lines and mass rallies. Many of those who put their bodies on the line, facing, and in some cases enduring police violence, did so not only in disgust against a blatant attack on the right to organise, but also because wharfies and other maritime workers had shown solidarity with other workers and movements for more than a century. With mass picketing continuing around the country the sacking of the workers was eventually ruled by the courts to be illegal.
8 April 1972, Sydney: Construction workers building the Sydney Opera House prevented the sacking of a unionist and turfed out management to run their own workplace for six weeks, introducing the 35 hour week in the process. Read more about the The 1972 Sydney Opera House Work-In.
8 April 1998, Sydney: Hours after the mass sacking of waterfront workers, in a government-employer orchestrated bid to destroy the Maritime Union of Australia, 5000 marched to Darling Harbour to bolster hastily formed picket lines.
9 April 1990, Melbourne: A flotilla of 55 activists blockaded a ship bearing rainforest timber from South East Asia as it attempted to travel up the Yarra River. Read more about this blockade.
10 April 1997, Perth: 150 workers occupied the public gallery of state parliament to protest against the passage of anti-union laws.
11 April 1994, Brisbane: A group of squatters barricaded themselves into a previously abandoned West End Housing Commission property to prevent an eviction and ensure the home continued to be used for shelter.
12 April 1986, Sydney: Protesters opposed to the racist regime in South Africa picketed the Coles supermarket at the corner of King and George Streets. The company’s defiance of an international trade boycott against apartheid, through selling and promoting South African goods, was highlighted by protesters inside and outside the store.
14 April 2011, Hobart: Protesters acting in defence of Kutalayna, a site of significance for Aboriginal people, shut down work on the Brighton Bypass.
15 April 1984, Sydney: 250 000 marched for peace and nuclear disarmament.
16 April 1994, Melbourne: GLBTIQ+ protesters picketed Cadbury Schweppes’ head office after the company withdrew advertising from the ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ TV program due to a live cross to the Mardi Gras parade.
17 April 2012, Melbourne: Disabled people rallied outside Parliament to demand accessible transport for all Victorians.
18 April 1971, Melbourne: The ‘Fairlea Five’ were released from prison on this date after serving 11 days in prison for their anti-war activities. Joan Coxsedge, Jean McLean, Chris Cathie, Jo Maclaine-Cross and Irene Miller had all been found guilty of wilful trespass after they gave out leaflets about conscientious objection to young men who were registering for conscription at the Department of Labour and National Service. While serving their sentences these members of Save Our Sons were supported through regular vigils and protests outside the prison ands their jailing garnered much media and public attention, furthering opposition to the war in Vietnam. Concerned at the conditions they experienced the women went on to lobby for prison reform. Read more Australian women protest conscription during Vietnam War [Save Our Sons (SOS)], 1965-1972.
18 April, 1981, Melbourne: Federal cuts to funding for women’s shelters were opposed by a rally of 200 people in the Bourke St Mall before the demonstration marched to Flinders Street Station where singing and street theatre were carried out. Throughout the year further action in support for survivors of domestic violence saw protests around Australia and occupations of Commonwealth Welfare Service Department and other government offices as well as Kings Hall in Federal Parliament. In keeping with the founding of Australia’s first women’s shelter Elsie, disused properties in Sydney and Adelaide were also squatted for use as refuges.
20 April, 1931, Adelaide: 75 teenage caddies struck at Seaton golf links over attempts to lower their wages.
April 21, 1856, Melbourne: Having seen a small number of their Sydney peers win the Eight Hour day the previous year, Melbourne’s stonemasons accelerated their campaign for all involved in the industry to enjoy “Eight Hours Labour, Eight Hours Rest and Eight Hours Recreation”. With the contractor for Parliament House holding up negotiations, unionist James Stephens called a stop-work at the Old Quadrangle Building where Melbourne University was being built. Stephens later recalled that after insisting “that the resolution of our society should be carried by physical force if necessary” he beckoned “upon the men to follow me, to which they immediately consented…” Marching to various building sites the workers shut down sites across the city as part of an indefinite strike. Following this display of clout, employer resistance immediately collapsed. Soon the norm for stonemasons in Victoria became a working day beginning at 7am and finishing at 5pm, with two hours for meals.
With most workers typically labouring 56 hours a week, and child labour widespread, the success of the Stonemasons led to a concerted push for reduced hours. As part of this, a victory parade of 12 000 people was held on May 12. Each year thereafter a commemorative parade was held on the same date until 1876 when the state government declared April 21 an annual public holiday in honour of the victory. At their height, the parades would see around 10 000 unionists march past a crowd of 100 000 onlookers. As sections of the union movement became increasingly incorporated into parliamentary politics these Labour Day celebrations became the respectable face of unionism with May Day supplanting them as the main date on the radical calendar.
22 April 2017, Melbourne: As part of more than 600 rallies held around the world thousands took part in a March for Science on 22 April 2017. Held on Earth Day these rallies focused on four key goals- science literacy, open communication, informed public policy, and stable investment in science and research. Over one million people marched globally, with a common focus being opposition to climate denialism.
23 April 1982, Sydney: 300 GLBTIQ+ and pro-choice protesters heckled, booed and disrupted the last public engagement of an Australian tour by corrupt US Christian fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell.
25 April, 1981, Canberra: In the first of many such actions to come, Women Against Rape In War marched and laid wreaths at the Stone of Remembrance during ANZAC commemorations.
25 April 1838, Melbourne: Despite acting as sovereign people on their own lands, Tullamarine and other Aboriginal men were charged on this day with sheep theft and imprisoned in the Port Phillip watch-house. Before the night was through, the men started a fire by poking long reeds of grass through the prison window into a torch hanging in the gaolers’ room. Using the reeds to light up the watchhouse roof, they soon had the entire building ablaze. Panicking, the guards freed the captives before going off to get help. By the time they returned, both the prison and the prisoners were gone. Later recaptured Tullamarine was sent to Sydney by ship for trial where he was freed due to being unable to communicate in English.
26 April 1983, Sydney: During the 1980s collectives around Australia focused national attention on the connections between patriarchal violence and militarism by commemorating the women raped in wars. In relation to one rally held in 1983, during which more than 160 were arrested, the Sydney Women Against Rape Collective explained that they had chosen ANZAC day ‘because it has become a national day, a symbol of Australian nationalism, but which in reality only commemorates the experiences of men in war.’
29 April 1970, Sydney: Aboriginal activists and supporters protested and threw wreaths into the water during a re-enactment of Cook’s landing marking the 200th anniversary of the British raider’s first arrival.
30 April 1981, Canberra: International delegates attending the World Council of Indigenous Peoples joined an Aboriginal land rights march from the city to Parliament House. Maori, Mapuche and Sami delegates, as well as members of First Nations communities across Canada and Central and South America, spoke in solidarity with plans to protest the 1982 Commonwealth Games over the Queensland state government’s racism and attacks on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Earlier during the conference then Aboriginal Affairs minister Senator Baume had been booed and heckled for praising “cultural identity” while prevailing over federal government cuts to services and opposition to land rights.
30 April 2010, Melbourne: Anti-nuclear protesters opposed to plans to build a nuclear dump in the Northern Territory rallied outside then mining minister, later to be mining company lobbyist, Martin Ferguson’s office in Thornbury. During the protest Ferguson was seen chowing down on radioactive waste. This was one of many creative actions held to support the Muckaty community’s opposition to the poisoning of Warlmanpa land. In 2014 the campaign reached success in preventing the project from going ahead.
30 April 2013, Melbourne: A march of 10 000 building workers, demanding improved safety conditions and an end to anti-union activity by Grocon, visited sites run by the company. These included one where a worker had been killed and another where three members of the public had died after a wall collapsed upon them. Grocon was later fined $250 000, $1 million less than the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union was ordered to pay out in the same period for industrial action related to working conditions. Despite the company’s admission of negligence none of its executives or directors have ever faced manslaughter charges.
1 May 1891, Brisbane: A year after Australia’s first May Day celebrations were marked with a meeting in Melbourne around 1000 attend a rally in Brisbane with marchers wearing blue sashes and bearing the Eureka flag.
2 May 1974, Melbourne: Students at RMIT hold a one day strike and occupy Storey Hall demanding better facilities and a union building.
5 May 2014, Sydney: Students disrupt an appearance by Education Minister Christopher Pyne on the ABC’s Q&A program, unfurling a banner that reads “More Brains Not Warplanes.”
8 May 1970, Australia: Hundreds of thousands of people across Australia participate in Vietnam Moratorium demonstrations, the largest protest ever held in the country up to that time, demanding an end to the war. Learn more about the Vietnam War.
9 May 1919, Fremantle: Flags fly at half-mast across the port as 3000 attend the funeral of Tom Edwards, a stevedore killed 5 days earlier when strikers evicted police, scabs and the Premier from the docks.
13 May 1932, Sydney: Hundreds of picketers force police and bailiffs to abandon the eviction of a household in Surrey Hills.
14 May 2014, NSW: A massive blockade by anti-CSG protesters forces the NSW government to suspend Metgasco’s licence to drill at Bentley. See this and other blockades.
16 May, 2008, Melbourne: 300 seniors block the Flinders St Station intersection calling for the pension to be set at 35% of average weekly earnings.
18 May 1977, Canberra: Hundreds of cyclists from across the country arrive in the national capital to protest against uranium mining.
19 May 1933, Melbourne: A civil rights rally in Coburg sees police shoot activist ‘Shorty Patullo’ while speaking atop a tram, but fail to stop artist Noel Counihan from delivering a speech from inside a cage.
20 May 1853, Sydney: Shipwrights began a strike for an increase in wages for 15 shillings to 20 a day. Due to the gold rushes the NSW economy, including shipping, was booming and an associated labour shortage had also seen seamen and other maritime workers improve their lot. After a meeting of the trade was held magistrates issued warrants against organisers for conspiracy and engaging in a combination. Newspapers who had previously hailed the law of supply and demand in relation to wages now complained of “unfair demands” and “the unhealthy independence of many of the working classes.” One exception was the People’s Advocate and NSW Vindicator which argued that “The workmen are perfectly justified in making the demand they have done. No limit is put to the exactions which the capitalist may think proper to make; and we cannot see, why any limit should be placed on the demands of the workmen.” The prosecution did not go forward and the shipwrights obtained their pay rise.
24 May 1976, Sydney: Mum Shirl and other First Nations activists protested outside the offices of News Limited, complaining of misleading stories run by media outlets which had included calls for cuts in spending on housing in Redfern. This came in the context of Fraser government moves to slash funding for projects controlled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
25 May 2014, Northern Territory: 250 march through Tennant Creek in opposition to government plans to build a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station.
26 May 1997, Australia: The first Sorry/Healing Day is held to recognise the suffering and oppression Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities people have experienced and continue to endure.
28 May 2000, Sydney: 250 000 march across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a show of support for reconciliation with First Nations.
29 May 1876, Fremantle: Six Irish political prisoners escape the colony aboard the U.S. ship Catalpa.
30 May 2012, Melbourne: More than 500 people marched silently to Parliament House to protest the discontinuation of Victoria’s only Diploma in Auslan, the national language for the hearing impaired. This occurred during privatisation and restructuring which upended public adult education provision in Victoria as part of $300 million in education cuts.
31 May 31, 1972, Melbourne: Thousands of secondary students strike and march for youth rights and improved educational facilities.
31 May 2014, NSW: In order to defend wildlife living in New South Wale’s Leard Forest during their winter hibernation, Cranky the Koala locked on to a truck carrying supplies to the Maules Creek coal mine construction site on this day. Cranky has been a highly active contributor to movements for habitat protection and against climate change, regularly taking part in protests and direct action.
2 June 1972: Unions ban the servicing of UTA aircraft as part of their opposition to French nuclear testing.
2 June 2017, Melbourne: In June 2017 a series of protests targeting Josh Frydenburg, the now deposed Liberal MP and then minister for Environment and Climate Change, over his government’s support for the Adani coal mine project took place in his seat of Kooyong, Victoria. Beginning on 2 June and with further actions on the 5th and 17th hundreds took part in singing songs, waving placards, projecting messages and other activities while marching and rallying near his electorate office.
3 June 1992, Canberra: Following years of activism by Eddie Mabo and other land rights campaigners the High Court overturns the doctrine of Terra Nullius.
4 June 1925: The Seaman’s Union defies threats of deregistration by going ahead with a series of national strikes.
5 June 1949, Marysville: 103 students ended a five day strike after securing an agreement from the state government to locate a second classroom within a fortnight. This came after numerous broken promises and four years of students being forced to learn in a poorly heated, ill-lit and crowded hall. The first day of the strike saw students, including those pictured here, march through the town centre chanting “We’re on strike.”
5 June 1970, Wollongong: Louis Christofides was sentenced to 52 days in prison for preventing a train carrying military conscripts from leaving Wollongong by sitting on the railway line. This had occurred the previous April as part of a series of anti-war actions held across NSW during which more than 300 people were arrested. Christofides, who worked a painter and docker, had already received much support from unions, including them securing him work. This was despite it being illegal to employ anyone who had refused to register for conscription.
Following his imprisonment the Seamen’s Union of Australia carried out regular industrial action to push for his early release. Six women from the South Coast chained themselves together inside the House of Representatives in Canberra to draw attention to his plight. Protesters, as seen in these images, also rallied outside Long Bay, graffitiing its walls in the process.
Upon being discharged Christofides continued to speak out and organise against the Vietnam war. When he faced court in 1971 for refusing to undergo a medical examination as part of the conscription process Port Kembla maritime workers struck for twenty-four hours. When he was eventually called up for conscription unionists helped him to stow away on a ship. He subsequently lived incognito in Adelaide and Newcastle until 1972 when the newly elected ALP government pardoned draft resisters.
6 June 1991, Perth: ACT UP stage a “die-in” outside the Federal Department of Community Services and Health to highlight government inaction on AIDS.
7 June 1986, Melbourne: During the 1980s protests regularly greeted the arrival of United States warships into Australian harbours. Demonstrators rejected these visits due to their opposition to war and militarism as well as the dangers that nuclear powered and armed ships represented to residents and the environment. A number of demonstrations took place during 1986, the UN’s International Year of Peace. In Melbourne a flotilla of 20 vessels tried to block USS Rathburne and USS Cimmarron from entering Port Phillip Bay on June 7. These followed the ships to Station street pier where paddlers tried to spray paint slogans on their hulls. On June 9 500 protesters, including the Mayor of Port Melbourne and members of the Seamen’s Union, assembled on the pier and were roughed up by police. Blood was thrown on the side of the ships during street theatre and 8 people were arrested. 5 protesters infiltrated events during the ship’s ‘open day’ tour and took off their jumpers to reveal t-shirts spelling out “DEATH”. The crew responded with the use of water cannons and ejected the group from the ship. Three were arrested and one person was believed to have suffered a fracture after having their hand stomped on by police.
US warships visiting other ports during the same period were also met with protests. On June 8 swimmers and canoeists in Adelaide slowed down the entry of a warship. When it reached the dock one of the 150 protesters present jumped into the water further holding up the berthing process. Three days later a farewell protest was blasted by fire hoses, destroying an activist’s $2000 video camera, while police stood by. The ship’s gangway was removed to prevent protesters getting aboard, forcing tardy servicemen to jump back onto their ship.
8 June 2000, South Australia: 480 refugees break out of the Woomera Detention Centre and walk into the nearby town to demand freedom.
10 June 1973, Sydney: Squatters move into houses slated for demolition in Victoria St, Woolloomooloo to prevent the further destruction of its community and heritage. Listen to an interview about the Victoria St squats.
11 June 1838, Hobart: Convict Eliza Murray faces court after attempting to set her own work hours.
11 June 1849, Sydney: A mass meeting was held at Circular Quay to oppose the landing of the Rudolph and its cargo of convicts. An earlier attempt by the ship, and another the Hashemy, to land in Port Philip had been prevented by a large protest. The Sydney protest was also successful in preventing the unloading of convicts and the ships bearing them were sent onto Moreton bay, where they arrived on June 20.
Campaigns for an end to transportation continued with further protests later in the year. In 1850 close to 36 500 people, roughly two thirds of the colony’s population, signed a petition to end the use of convicts. The squatters who relied on cheap labour could only muster 525 signatories in favour of the system. It would be another 3 years until transportation was abolished on the East coast of Australia.
12 June 2005, Queensland: Protesters enter the Shoalwater military base and blockade its entrance in an attempt to disrupt US:Australian military exercises.
13 June, 1970, Sydney: Around 150 non-violent protesters gathered at Moore Park in Sydney to protest a match involving a racially selected, all white South African basketball team. The game was disrupted by chanting and people blowing whistles. 200 police kept them away from the match by surrounding the courts. A number of demonstrators were injured when police charged into the crowd, dragging some arrestees away by their hair. As an example of how sport could serve as a unifying activity Zimbabwean activist Sekai Holland organised a multi-racial ‘counter-match’ directly outside the courts.
16 June 1957, Palm Island: Aboriginal people strike for the right to be paid in wages rather than rations by the Queensland government.
17 June 1931, Sydney: As part of widespread anti-eviction activity members of the Unemployed Workers Movement occupied the Bankstown home of one of their associates, a war veteran who had been gassed on the Western front, in May 1931. Barricading the property with sandbags and barbed wire and holding large street meetings they prevented his eviction for weeks. On 17 June 120 armed police placed the occupiers under siege before moving in and shooting two of them. Amidst allegations of violence on all sides and a major campaign for their release the first trial of the occupiers was dismissed and a second ended in a hung jury before 16 activists were sentenced to between 3 and 18 months hard labour.
18 June 1970, Sydney: The first NSW Green Ban is imposed by the Builders’ Labourers Federation (BLF) at Kelly’s Bush.
18-24 June 1973, Sydney: During this week the NSW Builders Labourers Federation placed a ‘pink ban’ on the completion of the Robert Menzies College building at Macquarie University. The work ban was placed after Gay Lib club treasurer Jeremy Fisher was expelled from a Church of England residential college at the university for refusing to either be ‘chaste’ or undergo medical treatment for his sexuality. Fellow Gay Lib member and student union chairperson Jeff Hayler told the Tribune of “his disgust and horror at the fact that a Master of a College affiliated to the university and financed largely by public funds, should consider himself entitled to impose his religious and philosophical beliefs upon a resident of the College to the extent that he can interfere with the personal private life of an individual.” Following a mass meeting of students the BLF, who had been engaging in ‘green bans’ to protect Sydney’s urban and natural environment, were approached and members working at the university agreed to take a stand in solidarity.
19 June 2014, Northern Territory: Following concerted campaigning by Indigenous residents and environmentalists, the Northern Land Council and the federal government withdraw plans to build a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station.
19 June 1968, Sydney: More than 90 university students held a sit-in at the Commonwealth Centre in the office of Mr. Bury, Minister for Labour and National Service, to protest against military conscription and the war in Vietnam. One of a number of actions held at the location, this one saw them non-violently occupy the corridor for around two hours before they were forcibly evicted by police. Despite being roughly treated, none were arrested.
20 June 2004, Melbourne: Hundreds, including people recently freed from detention camps, rallied in Melbourne on World Refugee Day on June 20th 2004 calling for an end to the imprisonment and mistreatment of people seeking safety in Australia.
21 June 1993, Sydney: Direct Action Against Homelessness occupy houses in Forest Lodge left to rot for three years by the University of Sydney.
22 June 2003, Melbourne: Over 2000 people rallied to demand the Australian government abandon its inhumane policies. The march, held in support of World Refugee Day, made its way from the state library to the Yarra river where boats carrying refugees were welcomed.
24 June 1978, Sydney: The first Gay Mardi Gras march ends in a police riot.
24 June 1911, Queensland: Having brought together an alliance of Northern Queensland unions covering mining, railway and other workers in 1910, the Amalgamated Workers Association launched a major strike the following year regarding conditions in the sugar industry. Committed to direct action and mass organisation, and opposed to arbitration, a series of strike camps were set up from Bundaberg to Mossman demanding a 48, rather than 60-70, hour week and higher minimum wages for canecutters and millworkers. By June many of the big mills had been brought to a standstill, but it wasn’t until August of that year that employers capitulated, agreeing to the workers’ demands.
27 June 1949: A national coalminers’ strike in support of the 35 hour week kicks off leading to severe gas and electricity restrictions.
28 June 2006: 100 000s protest around Australia against the Howard government’s attacks on workers rights and conditions.
28 June 2006, Melbourne: As part of national rallies up to 100 000 people demonstrated in Melbourne against the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws. Some workers did so in defiance of their employers, with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission banning Australia Post employees from taking part. The laws had stripped unfair dismissal and Industrial Award protections, limited the issues subject to bargaining and industrial action, and further marginalized unions and industrial tribunals. Although the legislation was repealed in 2009 a number of changes introduced during the era, including limitations on the right to strike, remain in place.
29 June 1991, Perth: 150 queer activists and supporters march through Perth to mark Stonewall Day.
30 June 1979, Sydney: The second Mardi Gras went off rather more smoothly than the first as concerted campaigning, including hundreds of arrests, forced the state government to repeal NSW Summary Offences Act legislation which had empowered police homophobia. 3000 marchers, and rollerskaters, celebrated the victory as well as the tenth anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots on June 30th 1979.
30 June 1976, Victoria: Over 400 000 strike demanding the retention of public health care via the then government run Medibank service.
30 June, 2005, Melbourne: In one of the first major stop work rallies against the Howard government’s “Work Choices” legislation over 100 000 unionists and supporters gathered in Melbourne to oppose attacks on wages and conditions and to defend unfair dismissal protections and the ability of workers to organise and take action. The campaign against the laws eventually removed the government that introduced them and saw improvements made but some of provisions are yet to be repealed.but some of provisions are yet to be repealed.
1 July 1846, Norfolk Island: The Cooking Pot uprising was launched at one of Australia’s harshest penal colonies after constables confiscated convicts’ homemade billy cans, one of the few personal items they owned. The revolt came in the context of a period of increasingly severe discipline, introduced during the rule of Major Joseph Childs. Under his predecessor conditions on the island had become more peaceable as prisoners had been allowed to grow and cook some of their own food, worked fewer hours, and received holidays in return for good behaviour. Child’s regime had cut prison rations, abolished prisoner gardens and holidays, increased workloads, and banned personal cooking, demanding all kettles, utensils and pots be turned in. Corporal punishment also increased with 26,024 lashes inflicted during a period of 16 months.
Leadership of the revolt was attributed to William Westwood, formerly known as the ‘Gentleman Bushranger” for his suits, politeness and avoidance of violence during robberies in Tasmania. Originally transported to Australia from Essex for his part in the theft of clothes, Westwood carried out multiple escapes from various jails and prisons before being sentenced to life imprisonment at Norfolk island, a place of ‘secondary’ punishment for recalcitrant convicts.
The initial phase of the uprising saw prisoners break into the penal settlement’s stores to retrieve their possessions. While most took no further part, Westwood, whose temperament had clearly been changed by his experiences on the island, was heard to say, “I’m going to the gallows, I’ll bear this oppression no longer.” He and a group of up to 60 others went on to kill an overseer and three constables. After the island’s garrison subdued the rioters with bayonets, Westwood and ten others were sentenced to hang. As with many others executed at the settlement he greeted his sentence with relief stating, “I welcome death as a friend; the world, or what I have seen of it, has no allurements for me… Out of the bitter cup of misery I have drunk from my sixteenth year – ten long years – and the sweetest draught is that which takes away the misery of living death.”
This uprising was one of a number that had taken place at the island. Childs, whose “utter imbecility” was blamed for the revolt was removed from command six weeks later. A year later the British authorities began to wind down the penal settlement, closing it in 1856.
1 July 2013, Melbourne: Hundreds of Burger Off campaign supporters begin picketing and occupying the site of a proposed MacDonalds store in Tecoma.
2 July 1994, Pemberton: Western Australia’s first forest blockade is launched near Pemberton leading to an immediate two-week moratorium on logging in the four areas targeted by environmentalists.
2 July 1970, Sydney: The day before an Independence From America rally was to take place in the central city, unionists, students, peace activists and others invaded the Sydney Stock Exchange to highlight its role in war profiteering as well as to bring the wheels of militarism driven commerce to a brief halt. In the build up to the action more than 10 000 anti-Vietnam war broadsheets were distributed. After sneaking their way onto the trading floor where they burnt an American flag, spray painted slogans on share-price boards and scattered paperwork before departing ahead of the arrival of police.
4 July 2003, Perth: After a year of campaigning environmentalists prevent the destruction of Ningaloo reef.
5 July 2002, Adelaide: The Stamford Plaza Hotel backs down on introducing a threatened 33% pay cut after room attendants take industrial action.
7 July 1980, NSW: Protesters against sand mining at Middle Head beach disrupt preliminary work by occupying the site and pulling fence posts out as soon as contractors put them in.
8 July 1915: The Women’s Peace Army is formed to fight conscription.
9 July 2003, Wollongong: As part of action against statewide education staff cuts and increases in student fees, unionists at the Upper Illawarra Institute of TAFE place an indefinite ban on the collection and processing of money related to enrolments.
10 July, 1984, Melbourne: The Unemployed Workers Union occupy a Commonwealth Employment Service office removing cards advertising jobs paying less than minimum award rates and demanding toilets and childcare facilities.
11 July 1974, Sydney: Union action forces Frank Sinatra to apologise for branding Australian journalists “pimps” and “hookers”.
12 July 1978, Sydney: Amidst a major wave of activism against uranium mining in the 1970s French detonations in Polynesia attracted major attention. Unions placed bans on the loading and servicing of French ships and planes, as well as carrying French mail, and consumer boycotts were placed on French goods. Demonstrations were also regularly held ranging from huge marches to small events, such as the one pictured above which involved 20 people protesting outside the French consulate in mid-July 1978.
12 July 1976: 1.6 million people, close to half the Australian workforce, strike over the Fraser government’s attacks on Medibank.
14 July 1972, Sydney: As part of a national Moratorium for Black Rights 500 Indigenous Australians led a march numbering 6000 from Redfern into central Sydney under the banner of “Ningla-na—we are hungry for our land.” Amongst the crowd were 2000 students, who had initially rallied at Sydney University, as well as a number of builders labourers, ship painters, dock workers, teachers and others who undertook a half-day strike in support of Indigenous rights. The largest protest up to this point for sovereignty and against discrimination, the march was joined by events held in Darwin, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and regional centres.
14 July 2004, South Australia: The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta senior Aboriginal women’s council wins a six-year battle to prevent the federal government from dumping nuclear waste on their lands.
16 July 1984, Darwin: Two stowaways and a protest flotilla delay a uranium shipment from leaving Australia onboard the British carrier the Clydebank.
18 July 2015, Melbourne: Attempting to exploit the racism peddled by the Federal government and commercial media various fascists, religious fanatics and bigots came together in 2015 as part of erroneously named “Reclaim Australia” rallies. Their xenophobia and prejudice was met with counter-demonstrations across the country. During one held in Melbourne on 18 July 2015 thousands of protesters vastly outnumbered the right wing extremists and prevented many of them from reaching their rally point.
19 July 1917, Perth: The WA Trades Hall Council warns that strike action will meet any attempt to sack workers for refusing to enlist in the military.
19 July 1981, Sydney: As part of a series of housing actions held throughout the month, members of the Squatters Support Group occupied a disused hotel in Cumberland Street, the Rocks to highlight the thousands of properties left empty while people went homeless. Nine were arrested after barricading themselves into the top floor while another escaped. 100 rallied outside and further protests occurred in Newtown and Edgecliffe.
20 July 2010, Sydney: Over 5000 building workers and others rally in support of unionist Ark Tribe as he faces a South Australian court over his refusal to answer questions from the Australian Building and Construction Commission about union activities.
July 21, 1982, Northern NSW: The Nightcap Action Group begins blockading old growth logging at Grier’s Scrub.
22 July 1936, Sydney: The New Theatre Sydney grew out of the Communist Party of Australia affiliated Sydney Workers’ Art Club and began performing plays in the early 1930s. In 1936 it ran up against government censorship when the play, ‘Till The Day I Die’ was banned, at the request of Hitler’s Consul General, due to its anti-nazi themes. The then conservative federal government prevailed upon its state counterparts to crack down on performances, which New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia duly did.
On July 22 1936 the New Theatre defied a state ban with a performance at the Savoy Theatre. The play was not officially billed but the police, who had brought a long a shorthand writer to take a transcript of the actor’s words were in attendance and the New Theatre’s secretary later received a fine. After this the play, which depicted the repression, torture and murder of leftists in Germany, was performed privately in the New Theatre’s clubrooms and other venues. A postcard campaign was also launched to lobby the government. Despite the ban remaining, the controversy backfired on those supporting appeasement and over 150 performances were carried out in the coming years, reaching up to 18 000 people.
Melbourne’s New Theatre faced similar difficulties. Finding that none of the city’s theatres were open to them they took advantage of a loophole to use the Collingwood Town Hall in November 1936. On the night thousands arrived to witness the showdown but police had locked the building up, and despite assistance from the mayor, who tried to force a side window open, the play was unable to go on due to all the chairs in the hall being removed. A hurried attempt to perform it in a nearby vacant lot was also deterred. It would not be until the following February that a performance finally went ahead at Brunswick Town Hall with members of Victoria’s political police in attendance.
The play was not banned in Western Australia, but the failure of audiences to sing the national anthem before performances caused much controversy. The production, which used innovative methods such as blaring police sirens and performances within the audience, drew large crowds and the local branch of the Workers Art Club put on extra performances before taking it on the road.
It was not until 1941, well into the second world war, that the ban on the anti-fascist play was finally lifted in NSW. A truck advertising the play travelled around city and an uncredited reviewer in the Sydney Morning Herald acclaimed its “stirring drama and emotional depth.”
23 July 1980, Perth: Psychiatric nurses at Swanbourne Hospital end a week-long strike over the sacking of a unionist for conducting a safety survey.
24 July 1998: Students across Australia stage high school walk outs over the racist policies of One Nation.
25 July 1970, Sydney: Protesters gathered inside Sydney’s then biggest mall, Roselands in Kingsgrove, to call on shoppers to boycott Vesteys products in solidarity with the Gurindji land rights struggle and strike at Wave Hill. Vesteys, a multinational meat-packing company, controlled Gurindji land and had a history of refusing to pay wages to Aboriginal workers. Read more Gurindji Land Rights Struggle: Case study and Training Guide.
After being roughed up and evicted by police and security, with one member arrested, the protest regrouped outside the mall to hear a speech from the Aboriginal Organiser of the North Australian Workers’ Union Dexter Daniels. Demonstrators then entered a supermarket to fill shopping trolleys with Vesteys products, which were dumped at the registers. Fearing further disruption, a Roselands executive offered the use of the mall’s main hall and loudspeaker. After an indoor rally the protest wound up. This was one of many solidarity actions which supported the Gurindji people’s successful campaign to take back part of their land from Vesteys.
26 July 1903, Melbourne: Pioneering anarchist activist J.A. Andrews died on this date. After being sacked in 1886 from his job in the Victorian public service for “insubordination”, he travelled the East Coast of Australia opposing racism and agitating for revolution, personal freedoms, and workers’ rights. Living in penury and jailed on two occasions, once for sedition and once for ‘publishing without a printer’s imprint’, his propaganda work took in a variety of forms including graffiti, newspaper and magazine articles and public speaking as well as prints, manifestoes and journals created on a hand-made cut-out wooden fount and tobacco-tin press.
30 July 1970, Melbourne: Members of the women’s group Save Our Sons hold an anti-war protest at Doncaster Shopping Town.
30 July 1972, Canberra: The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was set up outside Parliament House on January 26th 1972 to represent the exclusion of Indigenous people from Australian society, demonstrate their continuing sovereignty and demand land rights. Despite coming under a series of political and physical attacks a loophole in Australian Capital Territory law initially meant that it could not be removed as up to 11 tents could be legally erected on the federal parliament’s lawns. This was rescinded and subsequently two violent evictions of the embassy took place in July.
Responding to this, on July 30th more than 2,000 people marched from the Australian National University, where 500 Aboriginal people had gathered from across Australia for a Black Caucus, to Parliament House. This followed a strategy meeting and rally that morning during which protesters had agreed to temporarily restore the embassy, to resist any attempt to pull it down, and to actively attempt to rescue anyone arrested.
Braving police threats, a tent was re-erected on Parliament lawns and hours of speeches ensued before the embassy was once again removed and activists returned home to their communities to continue the push for land rights. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy would be re-established in various places across the ACT in the coming months and years before returning to its original site in 1992, where it remains today. Read more The Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
31 July 1832, Sydney: 14 convicts are sentenced to flogging after they strike over the poor quality of their rations.
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.
1 September 1885, Adelaide: Huge crowds thronged the streets of Adelaide for the annual Eight Hour Day procession. Stating in King-William street members of 2500 workers from more than a dozen unions, bearing banners and accompanied by brass bands, marched to Exhibition gardens. Upon arrival there a ball and picnic was enjoyed by more than 12000 people along with an athletics carnival.
Eight years earlier engineering and metal workers had won the 48 hour week at various sites around South Australia, followed by railway workers and those in other industries. As in other states annual celebrations were adopted shortly thereafter to celebrate the gain and promote its spread. With the celebration of unionism quickly becoming one of the major events of the year the state government agreed to make the event a public holiday in 1882. The date of the commemoration would move around until landing on the first Monday of October in the early Twentieth century.
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 August 1974, Sydney: Following a decision by the federal Labour government to defer $130 million in spending on childcare, women and children rallied at Wynard before turning the Sydney General Post Office and Martin Plaza into a protest playground. This was held on the same day that the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) organised a protest against the cuts outside Parliament House in Canberra featuring a larger scale kids party including a fire engine, carousel, balloons and toffee apples. Placards reprinting an election poster reading “Only Whitlam has a programme for Childcare” were stamped with “Cancelled.” The widespread campaign led to $75 million in funding bring restored the following month.
2-3 August 1937, Adelaide: Defying the advice of the United Trades and Labor Council, 450 employees of the South Australian Gas Company carried out South Australia’s first “sit-in strike” at Brompton. Taking action over the refusal of their employer to restore an industry allowance regarding health risks and obnoxious smells associated with the job, the workers occupied a disused stoke house from 8 am. Entertained by an improvised jazz band, mouth organists and an accordion player, the unionists initially allowed a skeleton staff, made up of office workers, foremen and others, to perform work before running them off the site around 10pm. Following this action, and threats by railway and metal workers to potentially widen the strike, the company caved in at 1.30am restoring the full wage.
3 August 1972, Sydney: Following a series of protests, students at Fort Street Boys School won the reinstatement of six students. These had been suspended for taking part in a two day strike over the issue of male hair length. In addition to overturning the punishment, school authorities agreed to waive hair length rules and end the harassment of student activists.
3 August 1933, Melbourne: An eviction was protested by 70 people in Claude Street, Northcote and the evictee arrested after she told police, “You are not men, you are mongrels.”
5 September 2018, Canberra: As part of strikes and protests involving more than 7000 childcare staff across Australia workers gathered in Canberra to demand living wages and better conditions. This was the fourth strike in the Big Steps campaign and the biggest national industrial action yet seen in the sector.
6 August, 1984: Northern Queensland: Having delayed the ramming of a 33km four-wheel drive track through the Daintree rainforest during 1983, forest defenders kicked off a new round of blockading on August 6 1984. Faced with activists buried up to six feet deep in the ground, some with their legs chained to concrete slabs and logs, as well as by others chained to a series of ‘fiddlesticks’ (logs spiked with nails to prevent them being cut with chainsaws), bulldozers were halted for days. Once removed, activists took to tree sits and held out against arrests, heavy fines and attacks by police dogs for a further 13 days.
Although the Queensland state government and local council triumphed in the short term, destroying much old growth forest in the process, the delays and publicity associated with the blockade played an invaluable role in the campaign against the destruction of the Wet Tropics. The track’s launch in October proved to be an embarrassing affair. Even before the wet season had fully arrived a 50 vehicle convoy, including those carrying the Douglas Shire Council mayor and Queensland’s Environment Minister, became bogged with eight or nine cars stuck late into the night. Within three months, sections of the road had collapsed 300 metres from its beginning at Cape Tribulation. Despite remaining inaccessible to most vehicles, the project was unofficially abandoned and promised upgrades never eventuated. Following concerted campaigning, World Heritage status and greater protection for over 900,000ha of forests in North Queensland was granted by the federal government four years later. See other blockades.
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
6 August 2006, Melbourne: Hundreds gather each year to commemorate and mourn the first use of an atomic bomb in war on Hiroshima Day.
6 August 1933, Pingrup: Carloads of locals at Pingrup, WA saved a World War 1 veteran’s personal property, stock and farm equipment by transferring it to another location before bailiffs arrived to evict him.
6 August 1948, Sydney: 2000 women working in the metal trades struck and gathered at Sydney Town Hall demanding that they receive at least 90% of the male rate. A wave of new women had come into heavy industry during World War 2 (as seen in this image) and remained on the job in peace time. However many gains made around their pay and condition were lost as the 1940s progressed, necessitating a new round of campaigning and industrial action. As a militant union the Electrical Trades Union had begun fighting for equal pay back in the 1920s and during 1948 held a number of stop work meetings around the issue.
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.
8 August 1933, Melbourne: 95 members of the Unemployed Single Men’s Group of Melbourne were evicted by a similar number of police. Previous attempts to remove them from seven terrace houses on James Street had been stymied by crowds numbering up to a thousand. Following the surprise attack, the group and supporters marched to Parliament House where they dumped their belongings on tram tracks. Attacked by mounted police, a number were forced to shelter for safety in the churchyard of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Nevertheless the protest, and threats to sleep on their beds in the street, immediately forced the Minister for Sustenance to provide the men with new accommodation.
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. Also, listen to the songs of the Terania forest blockade.
13 August 1979, Sydney: The Unemployed People’s Union threw a huge party just outside the gates of a Liberal Party fundraiser at the fancy Wentworth Hotel. Despite the presence of numerous police the 400 unemployed revellers got close enough to give a rowdy welcome to those who had paid $250 a ticket (over $1000 today), then the equivalent of five weeks unemployment benefits. Providing a contrast in living conditions the UPU set up a soup kitchen, held placards reading “Stuff your face while people starve” and sang Depression era protest songs. Then Prime Minister Fraser, famous for the homily “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”, which clearly didn’t apply to his fellow dinner goers, had food thrown in his direction by one protester who had infiltrated the event dressed as a waitress.
17 August 2013, Melbourne: The ninth anniversary of John Howard’s rewriting of the Marriage Act to exclude same sex couples was marked in 2013 with a rally and march in Melbourne. It concluded with a marriage ceremony outside the Registry Office for those couples who wished to formalise their relationship in what Equal Love described as “an act of defiance against discrimination and to send a message to the politicians in Canberra that LGBTI people are tired of waiting for their rights.”
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.
16 August, 2010: 30 students, parents and teachers joined with FairWear activists at Brunswick South West Primary School to celebrate the school’s commitment to only wear uniforms that were manufactured ethically. A group then travelled onto Thomastown where they protested outside BuxWear and called on it end the use of outworkers. A ‘Fail’report card was presented to the company, who FairWear spokesperson Mark Riley stated did not receive minimum wages, annual leave, sick leave or superannuation contributions.
17 August 2013, Cairns: The Freedom Flotilla leaves for West Papua to support resistance against Indonesian occupation.
17 August 2013, Melbourne: The ninth anniversary of John Howard’s rewriting of the Marriage Act to exclude same sex couples was marked in 2013 with a rally and march in Melbourne. It concluded with a marriage ceremony outside the Registry Office for those couples who wished to formalise their relationship in what Equal Love described as “an act of defiance against discrimination and to send a message to the politicians in Canberra that LGBTI people are tired of waiting for their rights.”
18 September 1888, NSW: Beginning in late August 1888 coal miners struck against industry practices that employed non-union labour at sub-standard wages to work in newer mines and seams with impurities. On 18 September mine owners provocatively brought in six black-legs to load previously mined coal at the New Lambton C pit. 1000 strikers massed in response. Armed police were mobilized to protect the strike breakers and at one stage deployed a Nordenfeldt gun, an anti-personnel rifle capable of firing multiple bullets at once, to threaten the crowd. The following day the NSW Premier sent in military reinforcements, armed with another Nordenfeldt gun, to further deter protest. Despite this show of force the strike continued until late November.
18 August, 1857, Victoria: From 1855 onwards the Victorian government introduced a series of discriminatory taxes and laws aimed at isolating, segregating and driving out the settler colony’s Chinese immigrant community. Each set of measures were resisted via various means, including collecting petitions such as one tabled on 18 August 1857. Decrying the racist taxes and “insults and oppressions from the ignorant, the cruel, and the malicious” that the community was suffering, petitioners, including European supporters, called for equality under law as well as an inquiry into allegations against their community.
After initial taxes were rendered unfeasible through widespread non-payment and the exploitation of loopholes, authorities introduced a new set accompanied by increased penalties, including prison. These were met by with civil disobedience and boycotts of racist businesses as well as protest meetings and public demonstrations in various towns. One rally in Castlemaine, numbering 3000, featured a speech declaring, “We have feelings like other men, we want to be brothers with the Englishmen – why not let it be so?” Mass tax refusal by tens of thousands, which saw many fined and gaoled, piled on costs and pressure which saw the authorities eventually annul the laws and abandon their campaign.
19 August 1984, Roxby Downs: With the ALP federal cabinet giving uranium mining at Roxby Downs the go ahead in 1983, activists opposed to the dangers associated with all stages of the nuclear cycle, the massive waste of water in an arid zone, and the abrogation of Indigenous sovereignty, shifted gears. In August 1983 hundreds were arrested during 9 days of action at the Olympic Dam site and after a small number maintained a year long vigil another major protest was launched on August 19th 1984. With the aim of “hindering and frustrating” the mine while drawing public attention to it, around 400 people took part in road occupations, site invasions, street theatre, letterboxing of the mine camp regarding safety issues, lock-ons, and a cyclist cavalcade. In the decades since protests, including the Lizards Revenge protestivals in 2012 and 2016, have periodically occurred at the site.
20 August 1934, Northern Queensland: Cane cutters at Ingham began a wildcat strike after employers refused to prevent the spread of Weil’s disease by burning cane prior to harvesting. Spread by rats, the disease had affected over 170 workers during three recent outbreaks, hospitalising many and killing seven. Since burning would reduce output, employers prioritised profits, ignoring expert advice and claiming that other causes were to blame.
The strike, and another that followed in Innisfail, forced the Australian Workers Union (AWU) to take the matter before the arbitration courts. Initial decisions to enforce burning were soon overturned in favour of less effective methods. With people continuing to be infected, 2000 cutters defied orders from the AWU leadership and engaged in a new strike across cane areas from early August 1935 onwards.
Such action united workers in a region known for prejudice against Italians and other recent migrants. It followed on patient work by members of the Communist Party of Australia and other militants. These had dealt with both workplace issues and community ones, such as residential evictions, stressing the common problems faced by all.
After nine weeks the 1935 strike was defeated, largely through the intervention of the state ALP government, which passed laws criminalising the promotion of “illegal” strikes and sent in 150 armed police to evict strikers and accompany scab labour. While it did not win immediate change, industrial action played a major role in what was eventually a successful campaign. In 1936 the arbitration courts, following yet another outbreak, finally ordered the burning of cane and the state government began paying workers compensation to the hundreds of workers affected in recent years.
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.
21 August 1969, Melbourne: After a hard fought campaign the Federal Attorney General relents and frees draft resister John Zarb from Pentridge prison 14 months early. Having refused to register and then repudiated call up notices, Zarb was summonsed in October 1968. After telling the court that “I refuse to compromise my established conscientious objection beliefs and comply with a notice that demands I do military service” Zarb is sentenced to two years in prison.
As the first conscientious objector to be jailed in a civilian prison Zarb’s two year prison sentence kicked off a huge support campaign. Over the following ten months his trade union, the Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union, joined efforts by the Victorian ALP, Victorian Trades Hall, unions and anti-war activists around the country to pressure the federal government. 50 union officials protested outside the High Court in Sydney during Zarb’s appeal and 1000 people rallied outside Pentridge. While inside Zarb received mail bags full of letters from supporters. Protests, mass meetings and a mass graffiti campaign were also held with the words “Free John Zarb” appearing along railway
23 August 1967: Occupations are a great way to disrupt business as usual, present demands directly to those responsible for anti-social activities and policies, and attract attention to an issue. Throughout the the Vietnam War, regular protests at the US consulate took place. These ranged from silent vigils to blasting the building with speeches from loud speakers. In one of many occupations a group of anti-war activists responded to the intensified bombing of Vietnam by taking over the consulate’s office passageway on August 23rd 1967. This protest came at a point when the majority of Australians still supported the war, but within a few years opposition had built to the point where hundreds of thousands were taking part in anti-war marches.
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.
25 August 1892, Broken Hill: One of many bitter and lengthy strikes carried out by miners in Broken Hill, a dispute in 1892 lasted 16 weeks and saw employees and their families fight an attempt by the Barrier Ranges Mining Managers’ Association to increase working hours and lower wages. During the dispute rallies and street marches were regularly held peaking with what became known as the “Fateful 25th” of August. On that day around 10 000 people gathered to witness the arrival of large numbers of police brought in to defend strike breakers. A street march of strikers accompanied by a brass band was followed later in the day by a procession of 500 women. Mass picketing by women and men kept the ‘blacklegs’ out of the mine on this occasion but the jailing of union leaders and further police reinforcements eventually broke the strike in late October. Although wages were cut by 10% and at least 1000 unionists left the district, labour organisation continued, resulting in further major strikes. An 18 month one in 1920-21 eventually secured improved safety conditions and the introduction of the 35 hour working week.
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. Learn more about the Gurindji Land Rights Struggle.
26 August 2007, Melbourne: The rescue of refugees at sea by the crew of the MV Tampa was commemorated at Southbank, Melbourne via a celebration of community combined with a protest against the Australian government’s inhumane immigration policies.
27 September 2013, Perth: On September 27 1983 16 year old First Nations Australian John Pat died in Roebourne police station in Western Australia from massive head injuries. His death in custody sparked outrage across Australia leading to many demonstrations. Sustained campaigning, and a case put before the United Nations, led to the calling of a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1987. This eventually made 339 recommendations for change, the majority of which are yet to be taken up. The police officers involved in the teenager’s death were acquitted of manslaughter by an all-white jury but thirty years later the West Australian State Parliament voted unanimously to formally apologise to Pat’s family and observe a minute’s silence in respect to them. This was witnessed by John’s mother and other relatives while hundreds of others rallied outside parliament.
27 August, 1978, Sydney: In the months following the first Mardi Gras march in 1978, lesbian and gay activists continued to demonstrate, both against discrimination and for the right to protest. Following the Fourth National Homosexual Conference a march was held from Paddington Town Hall to Taylor Square, and then onto Hyde Park, where the far right Festival of Light were rallying both against the conference and abortion rights. Once again police intervened, arresting 73 people at Taylor Square and another 31 at Hyde Park. This would prove to be the highwater mark of police repression as continued campaigning saw the majority of charges dropped the following year. The Summary Offences Act 1970 (NSW), which had been used a ‘catch all’ means of persecuting protesters, the homeless, sex workers, First nations community members, people showing same-sex affection, and others was also repealed in 1979.
28 August 1925, Queensland: Three years of campaigning by Queensland unions to restore the basic wage from cuts which had been introduced three years earlier culminated in a successful state-wide strike by 18 000 railway workers. This followed earlier industrial action by seafarers and miners as well as widespread discontent which had seen the resignation of Labor Premier Ted Theodore. Following a decision by the arbitration court to maintain the cuts workers were locked out at railway workshops in Ipswich after they held stop work meetings. This in turn fuelled a campaign asserting both the right to take industrial action and to receive a living wage. Having gained the support of the Trades and Labour Council, 25 railway unions formed a strike council and, rejecting arbitration, launched an all-out industrial campaign which included meetings such as this the one seen in this image at Townsville. Described by the Worker as a “tremendously dynamic and spontaneous display of solidarity on the part of the rank and file” the rail strike shut down the state. Within eight days the government capitulated and the following month legislation was enacted which restored wages for government workers across Queensland.
29 August 1939, Sydney: Prison reform activist Samuel Rosenberg ends an 18 day hunger strike protesting NSW’s use of the death penalty.
29 August 1977, Sydney: An anti-uranium mining occupation – 20 activists shut down the Ranger Uranium Mining Company’s Sydney offices as part of a national day of action which saw thousands rally across the country against the expansion of Australian involvement in the nuclear cycle.
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 threats from the government to send in 1000 constables and armed militia to “fire low and lay them out”, 60 000 people gathered in the city in support of the ongoing maritime strike. This had begun 16 days earlier when officers walked off ships in response to employers ending negotiations. In addition to long running difference over pay and conditions shipowners objected to the Mercantile Marine Officers Association’s decision to join Melbourne’s Trades Hall Council.
The shipowners’ action came in the context of an employer offensive aimed at breaking the growing power of “new unionism”, which extended coverage beyond traditional, highly skilled trades to the majority of workers. Seamen and other maritime workers across the east coast of Australia rapidly joined the strike which then merged with a shearer’s dispute over the employment of non-union labour. Miners and other workers refused to supply coal to affected ships, widening the dispute further. Some employers, such as in Broken Hill, used transport hold ups as an excuse to close down workplaces and reduce hours and wages.
To break the strike armed police and troops were brought in to disperse pickets and accompany deliveries and strike breakers to ships in ports including Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Newcastle. A shortage of strike funds, a series of jailings, and the mobilisation of conservatives, which included the Church of England’s Brisbane bishop personally assisting with the loading of a ship, added to the pressure. The strike began to collapse, with the Marine Officers’ Association agreeing to return to work and to end their affiliation with Trades Hall in November. This led to wage cuts of up to 30% across the maritime industry. For their part Illawarra coal miners fought on until January the following year.
1 September 1999, Melbourne: Construction sites are shut down across the city as part of protests demanding, in the wake of marking the death of the tenth building worker for the year, improved workplace safety and industrial manslaughter laws.
6 September 1898, Victoria: Calling for women’s suffrage more than 200 protesters invade the Parliamentary clubroom of the Legislative Council.
8 September 2007, Sydney: Despite a massive security crackdown and sections of Sydney being blocked off more than 10 000 protesters turned out to protest against the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Sydney. Amidst demonstrations against the ongoing occupation of Iraq and for climate action, a group of 50 “Bums for Bush” protesters dropped their pants to reveal slogans denouncing the US President.
10 September 1976, Sydney: ABC TV transmissions are blacked out for half an hour during a stop work to protest censorship by the station’s new chairman.
11 September 1866, Brisbane: Agitation concerning widespread poverty and unemployment came to a head in Brisbane on 11 September when around 500 unemployed people gathered outside the Dunmore Arms hotel in George Street (pictured here). In previous weeks railway stores had been raided in Laidley and large groups of unemployed labourers had begun a march on Brisbane. These had joined local unemployed people to hold a public meeting and send a deputation to the government, which resulted in offers of limited rations, some work at reduced wages, and transport to other parts of the state.
On the morning of 11 September another deputation attempted to put their case for full wages and relief before the Governor but were sent off to the Secretary for Public Works instead. Following a rowdy meeting in the afternoon, a larger group reconvened at 8pm where they heard incendiary speeches, including one which declared, “We did not come here to be paupers, nor to accept of charity, but to work and work we cannot get, and bread we cannot do without – and bread we will have – if we don’t get bread we will have blood. And bread or blood we will have tonight -let us do it now.”
Following this call, the group marched on the city’s Commissariat Store where stones were thrown and attempts made to break in the door. Authorities had already stationed artillery outside Government house and sworn in hundreds of government officials as special constables. These were not called on, but regular police read the Riot Act twice and repeatedly charged the crowd, who only dispersed after officers fixed bayonets and loaded live ammunition. Key activists were arrested and on the following day the wharves flooded with police to prevent further demonstrations against the shipping of unemployed to other parts of the state.
12 September 2014, NSW: Residents set up a protest camp and begin picketing to prevent AGL from carrying out coal seam gas exploration in the Gloucester Valley.
14 September 1984, Alice Springs: 1500 march against proposals to weaken protection for Aboriginal sacred sites.
15 September 1983, Brisbane: In 1978 the ultra-conservative Queensland state government cracked down on progressive movements by banning street protests. This resulted in a long and hard fought campaign of defiance which led to thousands of arrests. After six years a group of activists tried a new tack by declaring Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall a “Free Speech Mall” on 15 September 1983. On the day a ribbon cutting ceremony took place before application forms for protest permits, which the government was notorious for never granting, were torn up. Festivities concluded with protesters marching out of the mall carrying a banner reading “Permit Schmermit” before 22 were promptly arrested. Months of further action would ensue before authorities backed down in November, unofficially allowing soapbox speaking in the mall to continue unopposed.
15 September 1973, Australia: Gay Pride Week events were held across Australia, raising the fight against discrimination and hatred to new levels. On 15 September hundreds of people gathered at Sydney Town Hall to express solidarity with all oppressed by heterosexism. When protesters attempted to march down George Street to Martin Plaza they were set upon by police and forced to take another route. Having reached Pitt Street they soon found the road blocked by police cars. When officers attacked the crowd, sympathetic Builders Labourers tipped a bucket of water on them from a construction site. The protest was eventually able to make it to the Cenotaph where wreaths were laid for all those killed for the sexuality, with a particular focus on the victims of Nazi concentration camps and the recent killing of Adelaide man Dr Arthur Duncan. While marching on to Hyde Park, where more speeches were given, and then a police station where arrestees were being held, police meted out further violence and made three more arrests. Protesters eventually made it to the Gay Liberation Centre on Glebe Point Road from where bail was arranged with help from the Builders Labourers Federation, Communist Party of Australia, and the MacQuarie University Students’ Council. Those locked up continued to protest by singing and chanting, and holding what the Tribune described as a “love in”, until they were freed. They then joined up to 1000 people at that evening’s Gay Pride Dance at Sydney University.
The protest and dance came at the peak of Gay Pride events which ran from September 6 to 13. Other activities included a festival in the Domain and a public meeting at Paddington Town Hall. Smaller protests also took place, including one in Martin Place where activists were harassed by police and council officers for handing out “written material” and one outside the offices of psychosurgeon Dr Bailey where slices of sheep brains were given out to symbolize the operations he was carrying out to “cure” same-sex desire.
During the same period Brisbane activists belonging to Campus Camp and other groups held a speak-outs and distributed badges and pamphlets. Adelaide hosted a large pride march, a Homosexual Remembrance Day at the war memorial, a dance, and other activities. In Melbourne people also marched, a picnic was held in the Botanical gardens, schools leafleted, a meeting for parents held alongside a dance, poetry and film night and more. In all places graffiti runs were carried out, creative “Zap” actions held, and media interviews undertaken.
15 September 2011, Darwin: Refugees stage a roof top protest at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre hanging banners reading “We need help” and “People smugglers and DIAC [Department of Immigration and Citizneship] are the same, both playing with our life.”
15 September 1994, Canberra: Following a rally hundreds of students occupied the Chancellery building at the Australian National University for eight days before police broke through a Trades and Labor Council endorsed picket to evict them. Having already seen the Federal ALP Hawke government abolish free university education in 1989, after the Whitlam government originally introduced it in 1974, ANU students reacted swiftly to moves by the administration to introduce a $5000 up-front fee for a law course. During the occupation students further disrupted the functioning of the university by setting up a union endorsed picket of its mail room.
Watch: The Battle for Bowen Hills (21 mins by Peter Gray and Garry Lane. Courtesy of Reason in Revolt website (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 AU)
16 September 1973, Brisbane: Anti-freeway protestors squat houses in Bowen Hills as part of a successful campaign to save parts of the suburb from destruction.
17 September 1936, Melbourne: Over 4000 people attend an International Peace Congress held at the Exhibition Buildings.
18 September 2012, NSW: Residents of Nattai declare their town, and much of Sydney’s water catchment, CSG free.
18 September 1970, Australia: Rallies all over Australia opposing the Vietnam War. On September 18 1970 tens of thousands of Australians gathered across Australia for the second Moratorium to end the war in Vietnam. With public opinion having swung heavily against conscription and Australian involvement, the event continued to push against federal government resistance by aiming to ‘stop work to stop the war’ through bringing ‘the life of the nation to a standstill in transport, factories, offices and educational institutions.’ Although the first Moratorium in May 1970 had been accompanied by hyberbolic claims of looming violence from authorities, the events had passed off with few incidents. Nevertheless state governments had cracked down on protest since, proposing draconian anti-demonstration laws and banning marchers from using spaces such as Sydney’s Hyde Park and the Domain. School students across Australia were punished and expelled for wearing Moratorium badges, the Federal government banned African-American comedian Dick Gregory from entering the country, and once again the media whipped up a storm of negative publicity surrounding anti-war activists. Despite facing a concerted effort by police to assert their domination of the streets, mass rallies were held in major Australian towns and cities. 200 protesters were violently arrested in Sydney and 140 in Adelaide, where they also faced tear gas and charges by mounted police. In other states, marches were rerouted and forced to run the gauntlet of a heavy police presence. The bravery and defiance of protesters stoked overall opposition, and within a year the Liberal federal government had declared Australia would withdraw from Vietnam. With the election of the ALP in 1972 conscription was also abolished. More about the Moratorium movement.
20 September 1970, Australia: Following months of organizing, tens of thousands students from hundreds of schools joined Australia’s first national school strike on September 20 1972. The strike received support from tertiary student unions, including the Australian Union of Students, Young Labor organisations, socialist groups such as Resistance and the Communist Party of Australia, and some trade unions. Common demands included the democratization of education, transparency around school rules, increases in education funding and an end to corporal punishment and gender segregation.
23 September 1983, Hobart: Over 100 people assembled at Brooke St pier to protest the presence of the USS Boston, an American nuclear submarine. A re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party (a protest held in Boston in 1773 against British colonial rule) saw tea chests containing “radioactive” material thrown into the harbour as speakers called for Australian independence and an end to nuclear power and weapons.
25 September, 1991, Chaelundi: Logging is ended in Northern NSW’s Chaelundi old growth forest after months of intensive blockading using lock-ons, tripods and tree-sits.
Rising Tide website
26 September 2010, Newcastle: Members of Rising Tide occupy loaders and other infrastructure shutting down the world’s biggest coal port for eight hours. Watch video, read media releases on the Rising Tide 7 website.
26 September 2000, Sydney: The Sydney Broadway squats ran for almost a year from August 2000 to July 2001. Located on a major traffic route into the central city the shopfronts not only provided housing and a social space for a variety of activities, but also created a vibrant and highly visible symbol of resistance to the gentrification caused by the 2000 Olympics.
An attempt by the South Sydney City Council, which had long left the properties empty, to evict residents on 26 September 2000 was deterred by a picket line which brought together unionists, squatters, students and other community members. Under pressure, the council agreed to grant the squatters a caretakers lease.
27 September 1971, Melbourne: Activists opposed to the war against Vietnam create a Draft Resisters Sanctuary and shelter those defying conscription during a three day occupation of the Melbourne University Student Union.
29 September 1891, Melbourne: Victorian Parliament was presented with a “Monster Petition” containing 30,000 signatures in support of women’s suffrage. Individual petitions were joined together to form a long roll which was 20 centimetres wide and 260 metres long. Taking hours to unspool its impressive size and unique format garnered much attention. Similarly impressive was the fact that activists had collected the signatures in a concentrated six week door knocking drive. Although suffrage for non-Indigenous women would not be granted in the state of Victoria until 1908 this stage of the campaign spread the word far and wide and brought a core of determined activists together for the long haul.
1 October 2004, Melbourne: Refugees, peace activists and others picket the Melbourne Arts Centre in disgust at Foreign Minister Alexander Downer being invited to address a symposium on ‘Iraq and Human Rights Challenges.’ Despite avoiding a rat trap laid at the entrance the politician was still served with a warrant to answer crimes relating to the invasion of Iraq and the torture of its citizens.
1 October 1968, NSW: The state’s first ever teacher strike is held demanding improved work conditions and education funding.
2 October 1989, Sydney: Renowned homophobe Fred Nile and his followers from the “Festival of Light” found themselves humiliated when they attempted to carry out a “Cleansing March of Witness for Jesus” through the heart of LGBTIQ+ Sydney. Falling far short of the 100 000 followers he had claimed would arrive Nile’s band of bigots, numbered at around 1500, were met by a crowd of over 8000 people. Protesters, many wearing masks featuring a caricature of Nile’s face, spread out along the route and confronted the far-right Christians with chants such as “Repent, Relent, Re-decorate!” and “Two, four, six eight. Are you sure your priest is straight?” With same-sex couples making out in front of the homophobes, one brave fellow kissed the notorious Reverend Fred Nile whilst another grabbed a Festival Of Light microphone to shout, “Gay love is best. Go to hell Fred!”
4 October 1916, Melbourne: In the run up to Australia’s 1916 referendum concerning the introduction of military conscription around 100,000 unionists and other opponents of the measure rallied and marched on October 4th in a mile long procession through Melbourne. Defying restrictions on free speech, activists sang banned anti-war songs, distributed illegal pamphlets and organised scores of rallies and meetings during their campaign, resulting in a successful vote against conscription on two occasions.
3 October 1927, Sydney: Aboriginal activists petition the NSW government to call for an end to the forced removal of their children.
5 October 1995, Brisbane: 4000 Secondary students from 45 schools strike as part of ongoing protests against French nuclear testing.
7 October 2012, Victoria: Following a series of packed public meetings throughout the region and promises of direct action, mining company ECI International gives up its licence to explore for CSG in a 500km area covering Colac and the Otway Ranges.
8 October 1989, Sydney: 1000 attend a rally at Bondi Beach organised by People Opposed to Ocean Outfall (POOO).
9 October 1989, Perth: Police evict members of the Nyungar community and their supporters who have been occupying sacred land at the Old Swan Brewery Site, but union bans and community pickets continue to halt destructive redevelopment until August 1992.
11 October 1982, Melbourne: Members of the Women With Disabilities Feminist Collective invade the stage to disrupt the Miss Victoria beauty pageant.
11 October 2019, Australia: On 9 and 11 October 2019 Extinction Rebellion activists took part in ‘Disco Disruption’ actions that blocked streets in central Melbourne and featured choreographed performances to the tune of the Bee Gee’s ‘Stayin’ Alive’. In Adelaide climate rebels, dancing to the 70’s disco classic, ‘Nutbush City Limits’, halted traffic outside the State Administration Building, forcing the South Australian Premier “to face the music.” These actions were just a small part of a ‘Spring Rebellion’ which saw scores of disruptive actions draw attention to the need for immediate climate action across Australia. They also formed part of an ‘International Rebellion’ and inspired further disco based actions around the world.
12 October 1944, Sydney: Striking newspaper workers produce their own paper and sell over 100 000 copies.
14 October 1967, Melbourne: Conscientious objector John Zarb is sentenced to two years in prison and receives a life membership from his union, the Amalgamated Postal Workers, for his stand against conscription.
14 October 1976, Sydney: Demanding that the introduction of new typesetting and computer technology benefit workers rather than make them redundant, as well as seeking a 35 hour working week and pay increases, printers employed by the Fairfax media empire began go slows and intermittent strike action in September 1976. Although scab labour brought in from other sections of the company managed to keep the presses going, the Sun-Herald’s circulation dropped by more than 100 000 copies. When the dispute became an indefinite strike in October, 1400 members of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union ignored court orders to return to work and the union was threatened with deregistration. During the eight and a half week strike picketing intensified, workers were arrested, scab produced newspapers burnt, and mail bans placed in solidarity by postal workers. A finding of the arbitration court in 1977 saw hundreds of jobs lost over 3 years, but a number of workers also won the right to retrain and stayed on in properly paid roles.
15 October 2006, Australia: On International Anti-Poverty Day cleaners rally in all capitals in support of the Clean Start, Fair Deal for Cleaners campaign.
15 October 2011, Melbourne: In response to calls for global solidarity with occupiers in the US and Spain and for action against corporate greed in Australia Occupy Melbourne established an encampment in the City Square on October 15 with a rally involving up to 3000 people. Over the following days the number of campers built up. Daily General Assemblies and regular protests were held until the camp was evicted by police 6 days later, during which more than 40 protesters were injured and 95 arrested before being freed without charges. In the following months six other sites were occupied by campers and regular protests against police violence, worker exploitation, and multiple forms of injustice carried out.
19 October 1987, Alice Springs: With the lease on the United States Pine Gap spy base up for renewal in 1987 hundreds of protesters made their way to Alice Springs to take part in a convergence for peace, land rights and foreign policy independence, and against nuclear war and militarism. The peak of the protest came on 19 October when more than 600 people gathered at the base’s gates to hear local Aboriginal people and peace activists from across the country and around the world give speeches and read out an eviction notice. Anti-nuclear Senator Jo Vallentine was arrested for attempting to deliver this document to military personnel and a further 97 people were arrested for entering the base. A group of 10 grandparents, including Aboriginal activist Mum Shirl, were arrested the following day during another attempt to deliver the eviction notice.
Numerous other protests were carried out, focusing attention on the existence of the base and resulting in more than 200 arrests. An excursion through Alice Springs was held, during which spots usually left off the tourist trail, such as the local Central Intelligence Agency office, were pointed out. Other actions included street theatre and graffiti runs, and people disrupted operations by supergluing themselves to poles, climbing fences, and setting off distress flares.
20 October 1989, Canberra: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence cast out the demons of “homophobia, racism and National Party cronyism” at the Queensland Tourism Bureau during a rally over homophobic laws and violence in that state as well as around the rest of the country.
21 October 21 1985, Sydney: During October 1985 Australian unions carried out industrial bans targeting the racist regime in South Africa. These covered aviation, shipping, building, mail, telecommunications and other industries and were capped off with a march and rally in Sydney outside South African Airways on October 21. Their action came after the 1985 CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) meeting in the Bahamas watered down sanctions against apartheid.
21 October 1969, Melbourne: Zelda D’Aprano chains herself to the Commonwealth building in Melbourne. Sick and tired of government and union footdragging, and echoing the struggles of the British suffragettes, Zelda D’Aprano chained herself across the doors of the Commonwealth Building in Spring Street, Melbourne on 21st October 1969 to demand equal pay for women. As she later recalled in her autobiography, “I felt strongly about the need for women to begin fighting their own battles…The press, radio and TV arrived and it was on. They asked why I was protesting in this manner and what I hoped to gain from this demonstration. I explained that I was protesting against the injustice done to women over the right to equal pay and, when asked how I felt about being the only woman prepared to do this, I told them that today it was me, tomorrow there would be two, then four women, and it would go on until all women were demanding their rights.” Ten days later she was joined by two other women in chaining themselves to the doors of the Arbitration Court, “the institution which refused to grant women equal pay for work of equal value… There was just sufficient chain to allow the door to open slightly and people had to bend down and crawl in sideways to enter the building. This was so undignified for the ‘important’ people and one commissioner told a union official in the building that he was lucky I didn’t know who he was or I may have wrapped the chain around his neck.”
22 October 1966, Brisbane: When US President Lyndon Baines Johnson toured Australia in October 1966 he was generally met with a welcome previously reserved only for British royalty and The Beatles. Echoing a cultural and foreign policy shift from one empire to another, massive crowds, numbering more than 500,000 in Melbourne, turned out to cheer him. The visit also sparked the first widespread and consistent series of national protests against Australian involvement in the Vietnam war, protests which within a few years would turn the tide of national opinion against the Vietnam war. LBJ’s stop in Brisbane on October 22 encountered a lively demonstration in King George Square.
24 October 1977, Melbourne: In 1977 the Victorian State Government announced its plan to demolish a number of residential homes in Melbourne’s inner north in order to make way for the construction of the F19 freeway. A coalition of residents and political activists from the Carlton area came together with the local council to resist the resulting wave of compulsory evictions. Over a period of months, the anti-Freeway campaign saw Alexandra Parade transformed into parkland before a brick wall was constructed across the site on October 24. Barricades built out of cars and scrap material were also erected to slow the pace of construction. Although the blockade was eventually broken and the freeway completed, the protests achieved victories further afield with proposed road projects cancelled and planning processes reviewed.
26 October 2005, Queensland: In their first statewide strike ever ambulance workers stop work to demand improvements in staffing and conditions.
27 October 1827, Parramatta: Five days of strikes and protest by convicts at the Parramatta Female Factory peaked on 27 October when women broke down the gates, escaping into the bush and fighting soldiers and constables in the streets. This followed months of unrest over harsh punishments, poor rations and clothes, and the grueling living and working conditions that inmates and women assigned to the workhouse had to endure.
The retiring Matron responding to resistance by cutting rations and instituting other punishments. In response a strike began on 22 October during which women engaged in tasks as varied as cleaning, cooking, manufacturing and rock breaking stopped work. Two days later women in one section of the factory threw out a constable and took over their yard. On 26 October the Matron called in reinforcements and was escorted from the site after being threatened and roughed up by strikers.
The following day her replacement cut off all supplies of bread and sugar. At this point women took up hammers and sledges and smashed down the gates allowing hundreds to escape. Additional armed soldiers and constables were brought in to put down the rebellion. Following skirmishes, many women agreed to return to the Factory, but only after authorities agreed to restore rations and allow them to keep any food they had requisitioned from nearby shops. Around 100 escaped and four days later 19 women remained at large. The final escapees would not be located until December. Five further uprisings took place before the Factory was turned into an asylum in 1848.
28 October 1937, Sydney: The Council of Action for Equal Pay is founded to gain wage parity for women.
28 Oct 2011, Perth: Inspired by New York’s Occupy Wall Street protest Perth residents joined 950 other cities around the world in occupying public space in Forrest Place from October 28th 2011 onwards to express their disgust at the fact that “the basic needs of 99% of the global population are continually ignored by governments who instead cater for the richest 1% of corporations who control most of the world’s wealth.” Kicking off later than most of the other Australian occupations, the Perth protests were mainly focused on the elites gathered in the city for the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
28 October 1916: On the 28 October 1916 a narrow majority of Australians voted against the introduction of military conscription in a national referendum. Rather than bringing Australians together, as patriotic myths would have it, involvement in the First World War divided the nation. Although PM Billy Hughes’ federal government officially had the power to introduce compulsory military service the depth of opposition forced them to seek a mandate. In the end concerted campaigning ensured that mandate was not forthcoming. Defying restrictions on free speech, activists sang banned anti-war songs, distributed illegal pamphlets and organised scores of rallies and meetings, resulting in a successful vote against conscription on this and a second occasion in 1917.
28 October 1916, Australia: Defeat of the first referendum on conscription. In defiance of government censorship and repression unionists, syndicalists, pacifists, socialists, Irish republicans and others waged a long campaign to see military conscription defeated via referendum on 28th October 1916. In the run-up to the vote, tens of thousands rallied against conscription in Melbourne with 15 000 unionists holding a stop-work meeting and 60 000 joining a parade held by the United Women’s No-Conscription Committee. Having been asked, “Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this War, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?” 1,160,033 Australians voted against the bill and 1,087,557 in favour. Incensed at the defeat Prime Minister Billy Hughes left the Australian Labor Party, passed draconian anti-protest laws, instituted a crackdown on the vehemently anti-war Industrial Workers of the World. Nevertheless, conscription was again rejected at the second referendum in 1917.
October 1971: African-American activist and philosophy lecturer Angela Davis was arrested on October 13 1970 on ‘conspiracy’ charges related to Black Panther Johnathon Jackson’s failed attempt to free fellow party members by kidnapping a judge and others hearing their case. Held in prison for 16 months she gained bail in 1972 and was subsequently found not guilty. Solidarity came from across the world and in Australia Free Angela Davis committees were set up around the country. Beginning at the end of September and continuing throughout October 1971 a series of protests, including those pictured here, took place outside the US embassy in Canberra, the Sydney Town Hall, the US consulate in Sydney and other locations.
1 November 1979, Sydney: Sydney’s first lesbian and gay radio program, Gaywaves, began broadcasting on 2SER in November 1979. In a time when male same-sex relationships were still illegal in all states and territories except South Australia and the ACT the program had a strong activist focus and included interviews with community members, talkback, news and current affairs. From August 1983 onwards it featured the Gay Radio Information News Service (GRINS) segment, which was in turn syndicated via a number of community radio stations. Weathering complaints from bigots, and a ruling from the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal which found an 1982 episode about lesbian sexuality “indecent and obscene”, the volunteer based program ran until 2005. Listen and explore the Gaywaves Collection at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia website.
3 November 1920, North Stradbroke Island: Aboriginal author and activist Oodgeroo Nooncuccal (also known as Kath Walker) is born.
4 November 2006, Australia: More than 80 000 nationally take part in Walk Against Warming protests.
5 November 1880, Melbourne: 4000 protest demanding clemency for Ned Kelly.
6 November 2010, Melbourne: Several thousand people rallied to demand the total closure of Victoria’s coal powered Hazelwood Power Station and tougher action on climate change by state and federal governments. Eight ‘smoke stacks’ were carried through the city and eventually toppled outside Parliament House. Concerted campaigning over the coming years would see the plant closed in 2017.
7 November 1836, Tasmania: Convict Eleanor Redding is charged for turning her Master’s shirts into “pasteboard” after he complained of her using insufficient starch.
7 November 1945, Sydney: More than 200 people demonstrated in support of Indonesian independence at Wooloomooloo wharf in Sydney, 1945 where Dutch troops were being transported aboard the British ship the Stirling Castle. During the rally water hoses were turned on the crowd. Following the withdrawal of Japanese troops Indonesians had declared independence from the Netherlands on 17 August 1945. With the support of the US, Australia and other allies, the Dutch government moved to reoccupy its colonial holding. Four years of armed conflict would ensue before Indonesia’s sovereignty was finally recognised. Australian unionists, communists and others were quick to support the anti-colonial movement with more than 4000 waterside workers laying bans on the shipment of arms and troops and a number of protests held.
10 November 1992, Melbourne: Over 200 000 people march and strike against austerity measures introduced by the Kennett Government.
11 November 1964, Sydney: The first demonstration against conscription is held the day after PM Menzies announces its reintroduction.
12 November 2013, Melbourne: 200 Kingsville residents blockade Somerville Road calling for a ban on container trucks along the street during school crossing times.
13 November 2002, Sydney: Over 1000 rally against a meeting of the World Trade Organisation.
14 November 1980, Perth: Firefighters engage in their first-ever strike after management disciplines unionists for attending workplace meetings.
15 November 1938, Port Kembla: Wharfies refuse to load pig iron knowing that it will be used to manufacture bombs in Japan known as the Dalfram Dispute. Read more about the dispute in Against Fascism and War: Pig Iron Bob and the Dalfram Dispute – Port Kembla 1938 by Mike Donaldson and Nick Southall. Find out more about Unions and communities working together.
15 November 1927, NSW: The Australian Aborigines Progressive Association petitions the King of England demanding land rights.
15 November 2005, Melbourne: As part of the national day of action over half a million people rallied in Melbourne on against the Howards government’s so-called Workchoices legislation which stripped unfair dismissal and Industrial Award protections, limited the issues subject to bargaining and industrial action, and further marginalized unions and industrial tribunals. Although it was repealed in 2009 a number of changes introduced during the Howard era, including limitations on the right to strike, remained in place.
18 November 1938, Darwin: 6 Aboriginal domestic workers employed at Darwin Hospital strike over restrictions placed on their movements by the managers of government accommodation.
19 November 1946, Sydney: A large demonstration against price rises blocks traffic in Macquarie Street.
20 November 1989, South Australia: Greenpeace block a pipe to prevent a pulp mill pipe from spewing toxic waste into Lake Bonney.
22 November 1916, Perth: Future PM John Curtin is jailed for refusing to register for conscription.
23 November 1991, Canberra: Protests disrupting the AIDEX arms fair for five days lead to the cancellation of future events. Find out more – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life: The AIDEX ’91 Story
24 November, 1995, Melbourne: Melbourne’s first Critical Mass bike ride is held. A form of mass civil obedience the event involved around 600 cyclists joining together to reclaim the city streets, using their mass numbers to ensure safety and draw attention to the regular flouting of their right to enjoy full access to roadways. Over the next two decades up to 1000 people regularly met at the State Library of Victoria to enjoy mass rides with events occurring on a sporadic basis thereafter.
26 November 1990, Brisbane: 350 women attend Queensland’s first Reclaim The Streets march.
30 November 2006, Australia: On the anniversary of the Eureka Stockade 270 000 march nationally against Work Choices legislation that seeks to drive down wages and conditions and crush unions.
30 November 1983, Northern Queensland: The first of two blockades begins at Cape Tribulation after council workers move in to build a 33km path through the Daintree rainforest. Read more from the excerpt of Bill Wilkie’s book – The Daintree Blockade: The battle for Australia’s rainforests. Listen to podcast ABC Radio interview on the Daintree Blockade.
1 December 2002, Melbourne: As part of a national weekend of action thousands rallied around Australia against the impending second invasion of Iraq. Up to 10 000 rallied in Melbourne and Sydney with thousands more in Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin, Taree, Brisbane, Launceston, Ipswich, Alice Springs, Perth and Hobart.
5 December 1972, Melbourne: After a long dispute with her union Joyce Day becomes Victoria’s first female tram driver.
6 December 1975, Sydney: As part of events capping off International Women’s Year hundreds marched through Sydney on 6 December 1975 joining a national day of action demanding the repeal of all abortion laws, access to freely available and safe contraceptives, and an end to forced sterilisation.
6 December 1980, Perth: Santa Claus and others are arrested at a demonstration defying Western Australia’s 54-B anti-protest laws which make it an offence to.
9 December 2005, Pine Gap: On Dec 9th 2005 four members of Christians Against All Terrorism were arrested after they entered the US run Pine Gap spy base to hang protest banners and carry out a citizen’s inspection in regards to the installation’s involvement in suspected terrorist activity. Despite receiving permission from the Traditional Owners of the land all were charged with “trespass” and “damaging government property” and served up to two weeks in jail after refusing to pay fines. Photo courtesy of pinegap6.ivejournal.com
10 December 2013, Melbourne: Hundreds rallied outside Victorian Parliament against plans to allocate up to 13 billion tonnes of brown coal for mining and export from the La Trobe Valley and Gippsland. Opposition was also expressed over the tens of millions of dollars of Federal and State subsidies on offer for coal expansion.
11 December 1890, Sydney: An Aboriginal deputation from Maloga Mission visits the Premier demanding land and independence.
16 December, 1929, Rothbury: During picketing striking coal miner Norman Brown is shot dead by police.
18 December 1906, Melbourne: Victorian Socialist Party leader Tom Mann addressed a huge public meeting after serving 5 weeks in prison for defying attempts by the Prahran City Council and police to quash free speech. Having been denied permits the VSP continued to hold street meetings with the result that more than 20 members were fined or imprisoned. To commemorate the events a series of postcards, entitled the ‘Melbourne Gaol Series, were also released.
19 December 2006, Melbourne: As part of regular anti-sweatshop actions the Fair Wear campaign targeted fashion retailer Rich with sweat-free carols calling for a living wage and basic safety and conditions for Xmas after the company refused to sign up to the Homeworkers Code of Practice.
19 December 2014, Sydney: After a refugee protests his handcuffing and forced removal, seven passengers aboard an Air China plane refuse to take their seats forcing Immigration officials to abandon the deportation process. Photo courtesy of Refugee Action Coalition Sydney.
20 December 1917: Australians reject Prime Minister Billy Hughes’ conscription proposals for a second time.
22 December 1846, Sydney: The Anti-Transportation Committee is formed to agitate for an end to the convict system.
23 December 1983, Sydney: Three members of Women For Survival are arrested while painting an anti-war slogan on the side of the UK warship the Invincible.
24 December 1941: After the government bans Christmas holidays under war provisions thousands of workers around the country resign their jobs on Xmas eve only to reapply for them in January.
27 December 1950, Darwin: More than 200 Aboriginal workers strike for a living wage.
28 December 1941: Musicals in Sydney and Melbourne are forced to carry on minus dancers and chorus singers due to strikes carried out by members of Actors Equity concerning poor pay and conditions.
28 December 1968, Melbourne: A conference bringing together Students for a Democratic Society members from across Australia was held in Melbourne, beginning on December 28, 1968. During it the Draft Resistance Movement launched a national “Don’t Register” campaign against conscription. A major civil disobedience campaign kicked off in the months that followed after activists were arrested in Melbourne for handing out leaflets calling on 20 year old men to refuse to register for the draft. Hundreds were arrested and some protesters jailed before the police backed off and the Melbourne City Council rescinded By-Law 418, a rarely used statute which had long enabled anyone to be arrested for passing out unauthorised materials. This campaign fed into the national movement for all out resistance to conscription, one which would grow in popularity over the coming years and help turn the majority of Australians against the Vietnam war. See a detailed chronology of Australian protest action in opposition to the war.
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