Jobs for Women is a true story that changed the situation for women across Australia. It is a story that is virtually unknown, it needs to be told.
The Jobs for Women 'stars' are not politicians nor celebrities nor figureheads of any kind - but working class women who, through tireless grassroots struggle and by gathering support and building alliances, stood up to a seemingly unbeatable foe, Broken Hill Pty Ltd.
It is film about equality for women, about unionism and workers' rights, of migrant justice and breaking down barriers, of challenging corporate power, of changing laws and of building solidarity.
In 1980 the situation for working class women in the city of Wollongong was dire. Denied work at the steelworks, the city's major employer, women faced either exploitation in backyard sweatshops, or having to make the pre-dawn trek to Sydney every day in the hope of finding work.
When a local shop owner's sexual exploitation of the women's desperate situation was revealed, a spark was lit that began a battle for Jobs for Women.
It was a battle where working class and migrant women came up against the country's richest and most powerful company, from factory gates to the highest court in Australia.
The company tried to pit male steelworkers against the women, including any wives that joined the campaign.
The campaign navigated anti-discrimination laws that had not been tested in court.
And where the company had bottomless pockets for its legal defence, the women struggled even to access the most basic legal aid. Yet the movement for Jobs for Women grew. From handfuls camping at the company gates, the struggle expanded to hundreds of diverse women fighting a class action to win jobs, supported by a growing collection of allies.
The Jobs for Women documentary film shows how solidarity can not only overcome the biggest of hurdles, but can change the world.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
The Jobs for Women Producers Group is a non-profit, independent filmmakers group.
We came together as community activists and independent filmmakers who realised the film needed to be made.
The aim of the film is to show how community engagement and organised, united action, can create change, as was the case nearly 40 years ago with this feminist industrial struggle again the biggest private company in Australia, BHP
The film is an important social documentary as it is about -
- the most important struggle for the right of women to work in Australia’s history, and the least remembered.
It was fought by women for women, most of them recently arrived migrants for whom the promise of a new life in a new country was an empty one without equal opportunity to work.
- determined and inspiring women who were able to win a level of support from their local community and beyond, which was solid enough to sustain a struggle on the job, and in court rooms all the way to the High Court of Australia, from 1980 to final victory in 1994.
- a fight that has to be fought once again. Today, with the institutionalisation of unemployment and underemployment, the problems of sexual harassment and discrimination experienced by women in Wollongong in 1980 have increased and been generalised.
- past struggles that we hope will both inspire a new generation of women and working people and learn from the lessons and hurdles these women had to overcome.
- Involving all those affected by injustice, building the broadest possible alliances with others to achieve shared goals, never giving up, being prepared to really struggle, is now more important than ever.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
We want to inspire by telling the story of these women, a story really of David and Goliath. Against all odds, where there is injustice, we can band together and win. By going through the many hurdles these women faced, as they recount their campaign, their lives and their aspirations, viewers will begin to understand the depth of this 14 and a half year campaign and also relate to the simple aspiration of the right to work and earn enough to bring up your family, have a better life. We wish viewers will learn about this campaign, realise the intriguing tactics and strategies, the importance of forging networks with allies that will ultimately lead to successful outcomes. To come out of this film with a feeling that we can win against injustice is our aim.
By telling the story of these women, most of them recently arrived migrants for whom the promise of a new life in a new country was an empty one without equal opportunity to work, we will inspire those that see this film.
It was only possible because these determined and inspiring women were able to win a level of support from their local community and beyond, which was solid enough to sustain a struggle on the job, and in court rooms all the way to the High Court of Australia, from 1980 to final victory in 1994.
It’s a fight that has to be fought once again.
By learning the lessons of past struggles that the film will show, we hope to inspire a new generation of women and working people. Involving all those affected by injustice, building the broadest possible alliances with others to achieve shared goals, never giving up, being prepared to really struggle, is now more important now than ever.
The film's impact will be measured by the number of organisations and individuals that view the film along with indicators of social movement involvement through further interviews.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
Our strategy is to use interviews of the women, combined with archival footage from 40 years ago, depicting the actions of the women as they took public action against the BHP steelworks. The women will tell their different stories of how they became involved, what it was like to work with each other, what it meant to gain work, to join together in a group, Still photos have also been gathered from the campaign from many of the women and old newspaper cuttings are part of presenting the story. Some reenactments have also been filmed of actions that have not as yet been found in archival research.
It is intended to liaise with various Unions to circulate the documentary and to also arrange for showings in major cities.
Our distribution plan includes the following possibilities -
Young feminists (uni, high school, social media)
Older feminist ranks (involved in 60s, 70s, 80s struggles)
Women in general with some pro-equality sympathies
Unions and worker’s organisations, union women
Legal sphere – progressive law firms, law students.
Migrant communities – especially those nationalities involved in the campaign
Educational - school students and teachers, university lecturers
History and Labour History circles
Middle class – Monthly readers, New Matilda, Conversation, The Guardian
- Four walled (the Group hires a cinema and hosts an event, not just a solo showing but including director's introduction, post-film Q&A)
- Cinema on demand ( film is available, people set up screenings and if enough people book, the screening goes ahead)
Theatrette screenings (media and special events)
Special event/location screenings
Host your own screenings
Pop Up theatre