Stevedoring industry

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).

Collection references

Title or description of record Date range Series number
Reports of proceedings and minutes of the Stevedoring Industry Commission 1942–49 SP1515/1
Minutes of meetings of the Waterside Employment Committees, all ports 1942–49 SP1515/2
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1509/1
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1509/2
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1509/3
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1509/4
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1509/5
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1509/6
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1510/1
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1510/2
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1510/3
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1510/4
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1510/5
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1510/6
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1510/7
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1515/18
General correspondence files 1942–78 SP1529/1
General correspondence files 1942–78 ST4433/1
Miscellaneous papers and documents 1942–77 SP1525/1
Report on Stevedoring Industry control by Judge Foster 1946 SP1515/9
Annual reports of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority 1950–77 SP1515/14
Report on the turn round of ships in Australia by Henry Basten, CMG 1952 SP1515/8
Binder titled History of Stevedoring in Australia 1953 C4311
Records from the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954, Committee of Inquiry, and transcripts of evidence and report of the Board of Reference case 1954 SP1515/4
Records from the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954, Committee of Inquiry, and transcripts of evidence and report of the Board of Reference case 1954 SP1515/5
Records from the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954, Committee of Inquiry, and transcripts of evidence and report of the Board of Reference case 1954 SP1515/6
Transcripts of evidence of log of claims – hearing of an application relating to the Waterside Workers Award 1956–58 SP1515/7
Reports and drafts of reports 1956–77 SP1515/15
Minutes of meetings of the Port Safety Advisory Panels and the Federal Advisory Committee on waterfront accident prevention 1960–77 SP1515/16

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.