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Great Strike 1917, The (ATOM Study Guide)

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The Great Strike 1917 (Amanda King, 2019) is a 70-minute documentary film about the largely forgotten most serious industrial upheaval that occurred at home in Australia during World War 1.

Thousands of men and women stopped work; the State Government recruited volunteers to break the strike, allowing some to carry weapons; trade unions were de-registered and some of their leaders were charged with criminal offences. It was a time of violent emotions and government and police action against workers, their families and supporters, as well as individual acts of violence by and against strikers. A striker was shot and killed. A filmmaker had his film censored and embargoed. It was Sydney, 1917.

The stoppage became the biggest and most long-lasting industrial upheaval Australia had seen or has seen since. At its height the strike stopped coastal shipping, mining, the
handling of cargo on wharves, and transport. It involved nearly one hundred thousand workers in Australia’s eastern states, and thousands more sympathisers.

Despite being a crushing defeat at the time for the strikers, it had lasting consequences for the Australian labour movement.It was over 100 years ago, but personal stories rarely spoken about still filter through, illustrating the trauma as well as some positive legacies of the event, which still strongly resonate today.

Despite being a crushing defeat at the time for the strikers, it had lasting consequences for the Australian labour movement. It was over 100 years ago, but personal stories rarely spoken about still filter through, illustrating the trauma as well as some positive legacies of the event, which still strongly resonate today.

The Great Strike 1917 has a narrative structure that covers three main aspects:

  • The story of the strike
  • The ways the strike has been largely forgotten in the past
  • The ways the story is being remembered and commemorated today, particularly through a 2017 centennial exhibition

The Great Strike 1917 is suitable for students in Years 9-12 in History, Civics and Citizenship, and Media Studies.

The study guide also suggests an approach that can be used to help students analyse The Great Strike 1917 as a representation of history, and also as an example of the documentary form of media.

Curriculum Links:

  • History: Knowledge and Understanding
  • Geography: Geographical Knowledge and Understanding
  • Law and Citizens
  • Civics and Citizenship
  • Economics and Business
  • Media Arts

Streaming:

The Great Strike 1917 is available for streaming from The Education Shop here.

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