Deposit N117 - Australian Workers' Union deposit 3

Identity area

Reference code



Australian Workers' Union deposit 3


  • 1881 - 1986 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium


Context area

Name of creator

(1887 - 1892)

Biographical history

The Queensland Shearers' Union was formed in January 1887 to help combat pastoralists' attempts to reduce the shearing rate. By the time the union had registered under the Queensland Trade Union Act in August 1888 it had well over nine hundred members, and a year later close to three thousand. Constantly at odds with the larger Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia, the QSU rejected amalgamation attempts from that union only to accept by plebiscite an amalgamation with the Queensland Labourers' Union in October 1891 to form the Amalgamated Workers' Union of Queensland, which it did in April 1892. In an ironic twist, however, the Amalgamated Workers Union of Queensland ultimately merged with the newly formed Australian Workers' Union, a creation of the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia, in 1904.

Name of creator

(1892 - 1904)

Biographical history

The Amalgamated Workers' Union of Queensland was formed through the merging of the powerful Queensland Shearers' Union and the Queensland Workers' Union in April 1892. The three branches of the Amalgamated Workers' Union of Queensland, at Longreach, Hughenden and Charleville, amalgamated with the Australian Workers' Union in 1904 and became the Queensland branches of that Union. By 1908, however, the Hughenden Branch had closed down, leaving just the two other branches to represent Queensland in the AWU.

Name of creator

(1905 -)

Biographical history

The Australian Workers' Union, registered federally in 1905, initially sought to serve unskilled rural workers such as shearers and general labourers and eventually grew to be politically influential within the Australian Labor Party. Increasing in size as members from deregistered unions such as the South Australian United Laborers' Union and the Australian Carriers' Union were absorbed into the fold, the AWU postured itself as the 'One Big Union' of Australian trade unionism. In 1976 the union was reregistered following an amalgamation with the Wool and Basil Workers' Federation of Australia. The Union was again reregistered in 1988 when it merged with the Undertakers' Assistants and Cemetery Employees' Union. A final amalgamation in 1993 with Federation of Industrial Manufacturing and Engineering Employees brought about the AWU-FIME Amalgamated Union but it continues to be known as the Australian Workers' Union.

Name of creator

(1910 - 1965)

Administrative history

Labor Papers Limited published the Australian Workers' Union newspaper, The Australian Worker. It formed in 1910 with John Christian Watson, former prime minister, as its initial chairman of directors and from 1914 its Managing Director. He resigned in 1916 over his support for conscription. The company was deregistered in 1965 as Labor Newspapers Limited.

Name of creator

(1910 - 1968)

Administrative history

The People's Printing and Publishing Company of Western Australia published the union newspaper 'The Westralian Worker'. John Curtin, a future prime minister, was editor of the newspaper from 1917 to 1928. By 1958, the company was known as the Westland Broadcasting Company.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Annual convention minute books (1895-1982), Executive Council papers (1915-1985), membership records (1905-1980), papers of General Secretaries, records of NSW, Tasmanian, Western, Central and Railway Workers' Industrial Branches, financial records, photographs and printed material. Includes records of The Worker Board of Control , the People's Printing and Publishing Company, Westland Broadcasting Company and Labor Papers Ltd. Records of Thomas Cavanagh, union member and delegate to the NSW Trades and Labour Council and the ALP Conference, and union tickets of Martin Butler and Richard Hinton. Also contains miscellaneous records of other bodies: United Labourers' Protective Society of New South Wales, Amalgamated Miners' Association of New South Wales, Associated Workers Union, Amalgamated Workers Association of Queensland, Amalgamated Workers Association of North Queensland and General Labourers' Union of Australasia.


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Archives staff will need to request permission from the owner of the records before access can be given.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

NBAC: M44, Australian Workers' Union microfilm deposit

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

Dates of creation revision deletion

Entered from deposit description 10 October 2012


  • English



Accession area