Abstract

Peak union councils have had a lasting impact on society in New South Wales (NSW). The pre-eminent council in the state has been the Labor Council of New South Wales (Labor Council of NSW), which has functioned for well over 100 years. At the regional level the Barrier Industrial Council at Broken Hill, the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, the Illawarra Trades and Labour Council and the Western District Labor Council at Lithgow have been in existence for most of the twentieth century. In fact, the Barrier Industrial Council has dominated day-to-day life in Broken Hill. Regional peak councils have also been formed throughout the state in a host of towns and cities that include Albury, Griffith, Leeton, Young, Wagga Wagga, Goulburn, Bathurst and Tamworth, and in regional areas such as the Manning, the Richmond-Tweed and the Shoalhaven. These regional councils have never enjoyed the success or longevity of their more illustrious counterparts due to the interaction of local, national, and international factors. For these councils, the early years were characterised by high levels of activity and enthusiasm, but each soon entered into a cycle of inexorable decline that eventually led to moribundity and, finally, closure. After varying lengths of time, in some cases many years, they were reformed and the cycle of growth and decline would begin again. There was little long-term stability for these councils, which has had a detrimental impact on rates of unionisation in regional Australia. This paper is an analysis of the factors that led to the formation of the Wagga Wagga Eight-Hour Association (EHA) and the Wagga Wagga and District Trades and Labor Council (TLC) and the activities they pursued and the problems they encountered as they passed through their many cycles of growth and decline.

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