Strike 1912 - Looking for Australia's earliest workers' film
Australia has a rich labour history, arising out of the struggle of workers and their families to obtain fair wages and conditions and maintain a decent standard of living. Millions of words have been written on aspects of the labour movement and industrial relations in Australia, especially since the time of the great strikes of the 1890s and moves towards federation during the latter part of that decade. However local cinema contains precious few examples of feature films which bring a fair and thorough account of those struggles to the attention of the masses. The stories are there, the drama is evident. So why the absence? Why the silence? Why have Australian filmmakers shied away from portraying, and even glorifying where it is warranted, industrial conflict and the experiences of workers in seeking a better deal? Where are the dramatic presentations of picket lines, strikes and, in particular, mine disasters such as Bulli (1887) and Mount Keira (1902) which were tragedies on a world scale? This article investigates the production of the 1912 Australian silent movie Strike and the visit of the filmakers to the New South Wales coal mining district of the Illawarra.