Deposit Z248 - Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia, Sydney Branch deposit

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Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia, Sydney Branch deposit


  • 1890 - 1994 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

29 m

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Name of creator

(1890 - 1993)

Biographical history

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.

Name of creator

(1872 – circa 1916)

Biographical history

Founded in 1872 and registered under the New South Wales Trade Union Act (1881), 10 January 1883, the Sydney Wharf Labourers’ Union almost ceased to exist in the years following the 1890 Maritime Strike. It was revived by State MLA William Morris Hughes (Prime Minister of Australia, 1915-1923), whose electorate covered the waterfront from Darling Harbour to Balmain. In 1899 Hughes became Sydney Wharf Labourers’ Union Secretary. Following Federation it was believed that the state and port-based unions would have common concerns that could be more adequately addressed by a federal body. The Sydney Wharf Labourers’ Union was eventually absorbed into the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia; Hughes remained Secretary until 1916.

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Scope and content

Minutes of meetings - Sydney Wharf Labourers’ Union, 1889-1922, WWF Sydney Branch, 1922-1991, Federal Council, 1944-1964, Federal Committee of Management, 1942-1954, Sydney Port Committee, 1991-1993, Stop Work meetings, 1944-1992; Disciplinary Committee minutes and other papers, 1910-1990; Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority files, 1942-1978; membership records, 1891-1952; letter books, 1902-1916; subject/correspondence files, 1917-1992; arbitration material, 1902-1992; elections, 1930-1987; Ron Maxwell’s papers, 1952-1972; conference minutes and reports, 1914-1965; WWF rules and awards, 1890-1991; other unions’ rule books and membership cards, 1910-1957; photographs, 1880s-1960s, 1994; ephemera, 1992, audiovisual material, 1992; clubs’, groups’ and committees’ files, printed material, newspapers and journals. Includes, also, records of the Sydney Mechanical Branch, 1950-1983.


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Dates of creation revision deletion

Entered from deposit description, November 2012




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