The Women of Steel documentary film follows the activities of the campaigners from their direct action right through their landmark court cases. It's 1980 and employment for working-class women in Wollongong is scarce. There's work sewing for piecemeal rates in backyard sweatshops, but it's dangerous and not covered by the union. Some women trek to Sydney to work in factories, leaving before dawn and coming home after dark.
BHP, the city's largest employer, flat out refuse to hire women at their steelworks. Outraged, a group of women decide to take them on. Inspired by the fierce union and feminist movements of the time, they launch a political campaign calling for 'Jobs for Women'. Soon word gets out and they are joined by hundreds of migrant women, who face discrimination of their own. Their tactics include street protests, a tent embassy, and building alliances with friendly unions. New anti–discrimination laws seem promising, but they have not yet been tested in court. So the women launch a legal battle and take BHP – Australia's richest and most powerful company – to the highest court in the country. But it isn’t easy. While the company has bottomless pockets for its legal defence, the women struggle to access the most basic legal aid. Yet the movement grows. It shows how solidarity can not only overcome the biggest hurdles, but can affect real change in the world.
Women of Steel can be linked to the following subject areas in the Australian Curriculum:
- Civics and Citizenship (Year 7-10)
- English (Year 7-10)
- Health and Physical Education (Year 10)
- History (Year 10)
- The General Capabilities of 'Ethical Understanding' and 'Personal and Social Capability'
Women of Steel is also recommended as a supplementary text for students studying the following Senior School and tertiary subjects:
- Business Studies
- Legal Studies
- Women's Studies
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