Stevedoring industry – Fact sheet 141

Commonwealth regulation of the stevedoring industry

Before World War II, the Commonwealth government had little involvement in the running of the stevedoring industry. In 1942, because of continuing industrial disruption on the waterfront, the government established the first Stevedoring Industry Commission, to be responsible for regulating stevedoring functions allocated to the Commonwealth under the National Security (Stevedoring Industry) Regulations. With the aim of improving efficiency in loading and unloading ships, the Commission was charged Australia-wide with coordinating labour, controlling and regulating waterside work and stevedoring operations at all Australian wharves, and providing for the safety of workers in the event of an enemy attack.

After the war, regulatory authority was extended to a permanent Stevedoring Industry Commission under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947. Subsequent legislation in 1949 replaced the Commission with a three-member board for administrative purposes, while a judge within the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was responsible for industrial functions.

Following recommendations of the 1954 Committee of Inquiry, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority was established by the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956. At the same time the Commonwealth Industrial Court and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission took over industrial functions from the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Various entitlements were paid, through several awards, by the Arbitration Commission to the Authority which, from October 1965, also had full responsibility for the recruitment of waterside workers.

Commonwealth agencies with responsibility for administering the stevedoring function since 1942 are listed below.

Name of AgencyDateAgency no.

Stevedoring Industry Commission [I]


CA 272

Stevedoring Industry Commission [II]


CA 3551

Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, Head Office


CA 131

Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, Head Office


CA 78

Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee


CA 3934

The records

Records of the agencies listed below are held by the National Archives in Sydney, having been transferred from agency head offices located in Sydney from 1943. Records of agency state offices have not been transferred to the Archives.

A variety of records is held, including correspondence files, registration cards, minutes, reports, transcripts and financial papers (see the table below for details). Note that the waterside workers registration cards held as ST4359/1 may be a useful family history source.


Collection references

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesReports of proceedings and minutes of the Stevedoring Industry Commission1942–49SP1515/1
SeriesMinutes of meetings of the Waterside Employment Committees, all ports1942–49SP1515/2
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1509/1
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1509/2
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1509/3
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1509/4
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1509/5
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1509/6
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1510/1
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1510/2
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1510/3
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1510/4
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1510/5
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1510/6
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1510/7
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1515/18
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78SP1529/1
SeriesGeneral correspondence files1942–78ST4433/1
SeriesMiscellaneous papers and documents1942–77SP1525/1
SeriesWaterside workers registration cards1942–77ST4359/1
SeriesReport on Stevedoring Industry control by Judge Foster1946SP1515/9
SeriesAnnual reports of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority1950–77SP1515/14
SeriesReport on the turn round of ships in Australia by Henry Basten, CMG1952SP1515/8
SeriesBinder titled History of Stevedoring in Australia1953C4311
SeriesRecords from the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954, Committee of Inquiry, and transcripts of evidence and report of the Board of Reference case1954SP1515/4
SeriesRecords from the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954, Committee of Inquiry, and transcripts of evidence and report of the Board of Reference case1954SP1515/5
SeriesRecords from the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954, Committee of Inquiry, and transcripts of evidence and report of the Board of Reference case1954SP1515/6
SeriesTranscripts of evidence of log of claims – hearing of an application relating to the Waterside Workers Award1956–58SP1515/7
SeriesReports and drafts of reports1956–77SP1515/15
SeriesMinutes of meetings of the Port Safety Advisory Panels and the Federal Advisory Committee on waterfront accident prevention1960–77SP1515/16

For more information

You can obtain more information about the record series listed above (and the items within the series) from RecordSearch, the Archives database. Follow the links in the series lists to go directly to information on that series. Searches using keywords in items titles, such as 'waterside worker', 'wharfies', or 'maritime worker' or other synonyms will help you to identify material of interest. You can also use RecordSearch to find out about the agencies that created the records and to locate more records on your subject. You might also explore PhotoSearch to find out if there are photos pertaining to your subject.

Further information on records of Australia’s industrial relations system are available.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018