Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia

Identity area

Type of entity

Trade union

Authorized form of name

Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence

1890 - 1993


The first waterside workers' unions in Australia were formed in Port Adelaide, Sydney, and Sandridge (Port Melbourne) in 1872. By 1889 there were notable waterfront unions in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Although the various unions federated in March 1890 the Waterside Workers' Federation was not established until 7 February 1902 with Mr William Morris Hughes (Prime Minister of Australia, 1915-1923) elected its first President. The Waterside Workers' Federation was registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act on 1 July 1907 and the first comprehensive Commonwealth award for waterside workers dates from 13 December 1915. In January 1914 an office of the Waterside Workers’ Federation was established in Melbourne. After 1939 the Federation was located in Sydney. In order to manage the Waterside Workers' Federation Branches the Federal Executive, in 1902, established a Committee of Management (COM). The COM comprised delegates from the Executive of each Branch, and each Branch was entitled to one member for every 500 financial members. Furthermore, any of the COM’s resolutions that were approved by less than a 3/5 majority had to be submitted to at least 500 financial members of the rank and file for endorsement. Although designed to ease interstate rivalries this method of decision-making often exacerbated tension. The structure of the Waterside Workers' Federation remained largely unchanged until 1950 when it absorbed the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers' Union of Australia. In 1991 the Waterside Workers' Federation amalgamated with the Australian Foremen Stevedore Association but retained the name Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia. In 1993 the Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia joined with the Seamen's Union of Australia to form the Maritime Union of Australia.


Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania

Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

Representation for wharf labourers

Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

General context

Relationships area

Related entity

Australian Foremen Stevedores' Association (1914 - 1991)

Identifier of the related entity

Category of the relationship


Dates of the relationship

Description of relationship

Access points area


Control area

Authority record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Entered from deposit description, November 2012




Australian Trade Union Archives website atua.org.au. For more comprehensive information see 'Wharfies: a history of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia' / Margo Beasley. Rushcutters Bay, N.S.W. : Halstead Press in association with the Australian National Maritime Museum, 1996. ISBN 1875684182 and 'Ship to shore : a history of Melbourne's waterfront and its union struggles' / written by Rupert Lockwood for Melbourne Branch, Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia. Sydney : Hale & Iremonger, c1990. 0868064033 : 0868064041 (pbk.)

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