Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Hons.)


Department of History and Politics


A general situation of economic depression between 1893-97 imposed conditions of harsh privation upon the coal mining community of the Illawarra. With employment increasingly intermittent, the Illawarra Miners' Association declined in effectiveness. The union's function of managing discontent became absorbed within the informal social response of the mining community. This essentially defensive response was founded upon a resilient group identity which had evolved from an inheritance of occupational adversity and social ostracism.

An explicit workplace grievance then provided the union with means to regain the initiative. In an essentially offensive response, the Miners' Association harnessed the influence of political labour to achieve the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1896, one clause of which rendered culpable any neglect on the part of the colliery proprietor to accurately weigh the individual miner's production of coal, upon which his remuneration was calculated.

It is maintained here that because the old industrial organization of the miners' Lodges was essentially parochial and its inherent introversion antithetical to the wider concept of working-class solidarity, the coal-miners of the Illawarra were unable to seize the advantage gained for them by the new alliance of unionism and political labour. The thesis concludes that during the period 1893-97 the Illawarra coal-miners demonstrated a social cohesion which, paradoxically, prevented achievement of industrial unity in support of the labour movement.