Oral history testimony has the power to impart personal and evocative insights in the past, not often found in the written historical record. In this talk for History Week 2021, City of Sydney historian Laila Ellmoos will look at the way that Sydneysiders who lived through one of Australia’s largest industrial conflicts remembered it in later life.
The Great Strike erupted on the NSW railways and tramways in August 1917 in response to the introduction of a new way of monitoring worker productivity imposed at the end of World War 1. The strike started when employees at Eveleigh Railway Workshops and the Randwick Tramsheds walked-off the job to protest new working conditions imposed during wartime.
The strike officially lasted just over six weeks, but its consequences lingered for decades, dividing loyalties and shaping political consciousness. Despite these legacies, the event slipped from popular memory. The strike’s failure was considered by many to be a defeat for the labour movement, and the action was soon overshadowed by the memory of war and the conscription debates.
Seventy years after the strike ended, oral history testimony was collected from around the state as part of the NSW Bicentennial Oral History project. Around a quarter of the 200 people interviewed had memories of the strike. Laila will draw upon these oral histories to share personal stories and perspectives to better understand this watershed moment in Sydney’s history.
Laila Ellmoos is a professional historian who is passionate about communicating history to a wide range of audiences through exhibitions, talks and the written word. She is a historian at the City of Sydney, and a long-standing member of the Professional Historians Association of NSW & ACT.
Register for this event as part of the City of Sydney’s program for History Week, the statewide festival coordinated by the History Council of NSW. For more events happening around the state, check out the History Council's online festival calendar.
This event will be Auslan interpreted.