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Post-print of: Coyle, R & Milner, L 2007, ‘Showing some fight: Kemira’s challenge to industrial relations’, Metro Magazine, vol. 153, pp. 178–183.


Inspired by the ‘Work Choices’ policies initiated by the Coalition-led Australian Federal Government in 2006, this paper offers a historical overview of Australian documentaries associated with industrial relations. Our paper will case study the 1984 film Kemira: Diary Of A Strike (dir. Tom Zubrycki) documenting the 1982 BHP sacking of 400 miners, and the 16-day occupation of the Kemira pit by 31 miners. As a government-funded, union-sanctioned and award-winning film, Kemira holds a particular place in Australian documentary genre. We will outline how the perspective of the film, which focused attention on the miners' families, was conveyed via the diegesis, mise-en-scene, dialogue and sound/music. Addressing the theme of the uses of historical film theory and criticism, we will explore the notion of whether documentary can be an advocate for change. Kemira represents a historical moment of workplace upheaval in the 1980s. It also represents a particular historical moment in film production, for example, as a Creative Development Fund-supported production. By examining these historical aspects, and drawing on the work of Felicity Collins and Therese Davis (Australian Cinema After Mabo, 2005), we will question whether such a documentary project would be possible in the context of contemporary media and socioscapes.

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