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Australian Biography Series - Jack Mundey (Study Guide)

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    SYNOPSIS

    Jack Mundey became a national figure in the early 1970s when as Secretary of the NSW Branch of the Builders’ Labourers Federation (BLF), he led the union’s famous ‘green bans’. This extraordinary conservation campaign redefined the development of Australia’s major cities. The BLF refused to work on developments thought to be destructive of the environment or requiring the demolition of buildings considered part of our social heritage. Under Jack’s guidance, they joined with local communities to preserve such significant  sites as Sydney’s historic Rocks area, Centennial Park, Victoria Street in Kings Cross and the last stretch of public bushland on the Parramatta River. As a crusading unionist, Jack also fought for safety reforms on building sites and, from the 1960s, helped usher in a new era of union activism for wider social issues, from feminism and gay liberation to land rights and international politics. In this interview, Jack reflects on his lifelong commitment to social justice. Born in 1929 on a poor dairy farm in far north Queensland, Jack’s early life was shaped by the death of his mother when he was six. The family of five children was split up, and Jack spent much of his remaining childhood with his father, an early infl uence on his later politics and social values. Arriving in Sydney as a young man to play rugby league, he joined the Communist Party. Since then, political activism has been the focus of his life, despite setbacks and personal tragedies. Jack talks about the corrupt forces within the BLF that eventually destroyed his leadership, the sudden death of his first wife and later his son, and his hopes that the modern era of economic rationalism and corporatization will return again to values of fairness and compassion. 

    CURRICULUM LINKS

    This episode of this series of the Australian Biography project is an excellent teaching resource for middle to senior secondary school and tertiary students. It is particularly relevant to:

    •  History
    •  Geography
    •  Political Studies
    •  Studies of Society and Environment
    •  English

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