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 Agency||Date||Agency no.|
|Stevedoring Industry Commission [I]||1942–47||CA 272|
|Stevedoring Industry Commission [II]||1947–49||CA 3551|
|Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, Head Office||1949–56||CA 131|
|Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, Head Office||1956–78||CA 78|
|Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee||1977–ongoing||CA 3934|
Documenting 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 National Archives.
A variety of records is held, including correspondence files, registration cards, minutes, reports, transcripts and financial papers (see the table below for details).
For more information
You can obtain more information about the record series listed above (and the items within the series) from RecordSearch, the National 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.
For further information on records of Australia’s industrial relations system please see Fact sheet 232 – Industrial relations records held in Melbourne.