Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Milner, L 2011, 'Framing the unions: the changing images of unionists on screen', in M Nolan (ed.), Labour history and its people: papers from the twelfth National Labour History Conference, Canberra, ACT, 15-17 September, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Branch, Canberra, ACT, pp. 204-213. ISBN: 9780909944100.

The full-text is made available in the SCU repository with the kind permission of the publisher, The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History.

Peer Reviewed



Amongst the oldest holdings of the National Film and Sound Archives is a newsreel segment showing the 1917 General Strike, a mass action that was arguably the biggest class conflict in Australian history, involving around 100,000 workers for three months. Since that era, strikes, demonstrations and industrial disputes have been a regular feature of Australian working life, despite the power and membership of unions fluctuating substantially over the course of the 20th century. However Australian screen producers have continued to depict strikes and other actions of trade union members on film, television and now on the internet. In focusing on a selection of screenworks over the past century, from silent newsreels through feature films and union documentaries to YouTube posts, this research project examines the ways that industrial disputes have been represented to their audiences, and discusses how they provide a unique window into exploring the relationships between media and identity. It considers how various screen discourses of unionist representation reflect changing national values, identities, and socio-economic trends.