Reminiscences of the Port Kembla Waterfront during the Depression Years

Between 23 September 1976 and 6 January 1977, Glenn Mitchell interviewed several people about their experiences on the Port Kembla waterfront during the Depression years of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The audio files have been digitised from cassette tapes and are uneven in quality.


Joe Carter Jack Williams Icon

Joe Carter and Jack Williams

Joe Carter and Jack Williams were both employed as waterfront workers at Port Kembla. They describe the political climate of those years, and discuss bulls, unions, work conditions, and the environmental impact of the steelworks.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Port Kembla Harbour – Sydney – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Fairy Creek – Depression – Tom Thumb Bridge – Lake Illawarra – Communists – Communism – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers

Joe and Jack’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


Sam Dominey Icon

Sam Dominey

Sam Dominey initially worked in the Rothbury Colliery in the Hunter Region and discusses the Rothbury Riot of 1929. He later worked on the waterfront at Port Kembla and briefly speaks of his time there.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Port Kembla Harbour – Sydney – Wharves – Wharfies – Waterside Workers – Coal Mines – Rothbury Coal Mines – Rothbury Riots – Scab Labour – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers – Steelworks Environmental Impact

Sam’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


Matt Munro Icon

Matt Munro

Matt Munro shares a detailed reflection of his role as a Member of the Sydney Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation. He discusses the heated political climate in which the Unions fought for reforms to ensure fair working conditions for waterside workers in Sydney and in Australia.  He also recounts a colourful anecdote of his earlier life when he stowed away on a ship to New Zealand.

Keywords

Sydney Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation – Port Kembla – Sydney – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Scab Labour – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Communism – Communists – Fair Work Conditions – Pig Iron – Robert Menzies – Pig Iron Bob – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers

Matt’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


George Murray Icon

George Murray

George Murray was born in Scotland and arrived in Australia in 1926 at the age of fifteen. He moved to Port Kembla and gained employment on the waterfront in 1941, where he remained for the rest of his working life.

Part One :

George Murray discusses his committee management duties within the union and the federation’s role in environmental care and the health of the waterfront workers and their families.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Scotland – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Pig Iron – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers – Port Kembla Environmental Issues

Part One of George’s audio interview can be downloaded here

Part Two :

George Murray speaks of his earlier experiences in the Northern Coalfields in 1927-1928 and recounts his memories of the Rothbury Riot. He then tells of his role as trustee and president of the Wollongong Workers’ Club, which was initially established in Keira Street.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Rothbury Riot – Northern Coalfields – Cessnock – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers

Part Two of George’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


Glyn Wingate Icon

Glyn Wingate

Glyn Wingate began working on the Port Kembla waterfront with his father. He eventually became a supervisor and was still there in 1976. He describes the working conditions during the Depression and later years.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Steel – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers – Port Kembla Environmental Issues

Glyn’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


Jack Hill Smokey Wade Icon

Jack Hill and Smokey Wade

Jack Hill and Smokey Wade were born and raised in Wollongong. Both men worked on the Port Kembla wharves and share their experiences of the waterfront and their time living and fishing near Hill 60 to put food on the table during the Depression.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Steel – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront workers – Port Kembla Environmental Issues – Fishing – Coomaditchie – Kirton Beach – Fisherman’s Beach

Jack and Smokey’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


Walter Bailey Icon

Walter Bailey

Walter Bailey was born in Dapto, moved away from the area, then returned and gained his first job as a waterside worker at Port Kembla at about eighteen years of age.

Part One :

Walter Bailey discusses the bull system and work conditions on the Port Kembla waterfront.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Steel – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers

Part One of Walter’s audio interview can be downloaded here.

Part Two :

Walter Bailey talks about the grey draught horse employed on the No. 3 Jetty; the lack of amenities; pollution in the harbour and its effects on fish; conditions of work on the high level coal loader; and fishing on Rabbit Island and Toothbrush Island.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Steel – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers – Port Kembla Environmental Issues – Port Kembla Harbour Water Conditions – Fishing – Hill 60 – Toothbrush Island – Rabbit Island

Part Two of Walter’s audio interview can be downloaded here.

Part Three :

Walter Bailey talks about the environment and landscape that surrounded Port Kembla, including Tom Thumb Lagoon. He discusses how he cleared land around the area as a tree feller and outlines the types of vegetation in the vicinity of Port Kembla from 1926 onward, detailing how pollution and industrialisation changed the landscape.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Steel – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers – Port Kembla Environmental Issues – Port Kembla Harbour Water Conditions – Tom Thumb Lagoon – Fishing – Tree Felling – Land Clearing – Port Kembla Shops

Part Three of Walter’s audio interview can be downloaded here.

Part Four :

Walter Bailey continues to talk about the Port Kembla area, particularly Lake Illawarra and the surrounding environment. He discusses how it has changed and notes the effects of industry and development. Walter also provides detailed descriptions of the varieties of fish and birds in the vicinity.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Wharfies – Union – Bulls – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Steel – Port Kembla Waterfront – Port Kembla Waterfront Workers – Port Kembla Environmental Issues – Port Kembla Harbour Water Conditions – Hill 60 – Toothbrush Island – Rabbit Island – Lake Illawarra – Air Pollution

Part Four of Walter’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


Snowy Webster Icon

Snowy Webster

Snowy Webster was born in Melbourne in 1920, where he worked on the waterfront before embarking upon a career as a seaman. Snowy moved to Port Kembla and eventually became an official in the Seamen’s Union. He discusses work conditions and various union campaigns.

Keywords

Port Kembla – Wharves – Seamen’s Union of Australia – Port Kemba – Bulls – Scabs – Seamen – Waterfront Workers – Fair Work Conditions – Port Kembla Environmental Issues – Environment

Snowy’s audio interview can be downloaded here.


The Port Kembla Waterfront Photo Album