Horse drawn wagon and men with  banner taking part in eight hour day procession

The Adelaide Branch holds bi-monthly meetings, which focus on guest speakers rather than administration. Featured topics are wide ranging. Talks have included class inequality, economic development, gender equality, racism, freedom of association, superannuation, unemployment, and trade union histories.

Meetings are free and open to members, visitors and the general public. Afternoon tea is provided giving plenty of opportunity to chat with like-minded people.

The Branch also supports labour movement events, holds special dinners and participates in national Labour History conferences and the annual South Australian History festival.

You can register for events on the form below or just turn up. We look forward to seeing you. You can also use the form to send us your ideas for speakers, topics and other activities.

Where available, papers from previous events are included on the Papers page of this site. Recorded talks are lodged with the State Library of South Australia and can be accessed via its website (see Links page) Available publicity from past events is also included below.

Open Meeting  18 June 2017

Professor Andrew Stewart: The Right to Strike in Australia: A Brief History

With the new ACTU Secretary decrying the “unjust laws” that restrict Australian workers from taking industrial action, it seems timely to look at the history and development of those laws. In this presentation, Professor Andrew Stewart will explain how the treatment of collective action in the nineteenth century gradually moved from repression to reluctant tolerance, before the introduction of the conciliation and arbitration systems decisively changed the relationship between trade unions and the state.  For the bulk of the twentieth century, unions were accommodated and protected by those systems, with work stoppages nominally unlawful but highly common in practice  – and only rarely the subject of legal sanctions.

Yet since the Keating Government legislated in 1993 to create the first ever right to take industrial action, as part of its new emphasis on enterprise bargaining, the incidence of industrial action has plummeted. At the same time, it has become far more common for employers or government agencies to pursue legal sanctions against unions , officials and individual workers when unlawful action is taken or threatened. And, as Sally McManus has highlighted, the capacity for “protected” action to be taken falls far short of international labour standards. The question now is whether there is any future for the right to strike – and what the past might tell us about the struggle to reclaim one.

Andrew Stewart is the John Bray Professor of Law at the University of Adelaide and a Legal Consultant to the law firm Piper Alderman. One of Australia’s leading experts in employment law and workplace relations, he is the President of the Australian Labour Law Association, an editor of the Australian Journal of Labour Law and co-director of the Adelaide Law School’s Work and Employment Regulation research group. His books include Stewart’s Guide to Employment Law and Creighton & Stewart’s Labour Law. His current research includes Australian Research Council-funded projects on the regulation of unpaid work experience and the role of industrial tribunals in promoting workplace cooperation.

See meeting information 18 June 2017

15th Biennial Labour History Conference

23 – 25 September 2017 

The 15th Biennial Labour History Conference is being held at Emmanuel College in the grounds of the University of Queensland.

Conference theme: Workers of the World

Today, the Australian working class are workers of the world: in the sense that we are a predominantly immigrant working class (or the descendants of relatively recent immigrants); and in the sense that workers from so many of the world’s nations, languages and cultures have made their homes here.

The year 2017 also marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, which had such a profound impact on the labour movement in every country, not least as a result of its internationalism.

The 2017 Labour History conference invites academic papers and presentations by labour activists around our theme; and the broader agenda of labour history.

Details can be found at:

Past Events


7 May 2017  History Festival event: What is Labour History? Panel: David Faber, Ralph Clarke & Don Longo,

23 April 2017  Philip Payton, The Early Labor Movement in Yorke Peninsula’s Copper Mining Industry 1864-1907

19 February 2017   Bernard Whimpress, Politics and Cricket—the brief lives of Cecil and Marie Skitch


16 October 2016  David Faber, Adelaide 1916: The Advertiser, Conscription & The Easter Rising

28 February 2016  Phil Palmer, The survival & influence of the Ambulance Employees Association of SA
17 April 2016 Stephanie McCarthy, Tom Price: from Stonecutter to Premier
19 June 2016 Rhonda Sharpe, Are we there yet? The evolution of superannuation policy in Australia
AGM & speaker 21 August 2016 Dr Paul Chapman, Can Weatherill play Playford?


22 February 2015 Greg Stevens, Campaigning for Peace in Vietnam : The Adelaide Mobilisation
12 April 2015 David Faber, Today We Own the Streets
About Time History Festival May 2015 Jude Elton, Remember the Eight Hour Day?
16 August 2015 Andrew Leigh, Inequalty In Australia
AGM notice & speaker 18 October 2015 Will Sergeant, Bert Edwards, King of The West End


Labour History Ambassadors Dinner 11 October 2014


Day Trip Correspondence 1999-2000


Notice of Meetings 1988 – 1991

To register for an event please contact us

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Minutes of Executive Meetings & AGMs


A selection of President’s Reports, submissions, talks by guest speakers and papers presented at conferences