Wollongong, 1980: Denied jobs at the steelworks - the city's main employer - working class / migrant women refused to accept discrimination. They began a campaign for the right to work that lasted for fourteen years. Their battle against BHP, the country's richest and most powerful company, took them from factory gate to the highest court in the land and changed the rules for women throughout Australia. Using rare archival footage and speaking directly to camera, these Women of Steel tell their own stories for the first time on film.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
1980 in Wollongong meant high unemployment, especially for women, more particularly migrant women. Desperate for work, they made the daily pre-dawn trek to Sydney factories, enduring exploitation in backyard sweatshops or facing sexual exploitation in the local food and retail sector. In this intolerable situation, the city's main employer, BHP / Australian Iron and Steel, employed over 20,000 men, but refused jobs to women. When local activists started to stand up for women's right to work, a spark was lit that began a fourteen year battle for Jobs for Women, drawing in hundreds of women from non-English speaking backgrounds. With local union support, their fight took them from factory gate to the highest court in Australia, setting legal precedents for the industrial rights for women - and also for men. 'Women of Steel' is a film about equality for women, unionism, workers rights, migrant justice, breaking down barriers, challenging corporate power, changing laws, the power of unity.
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
'Women of Steel' documents the complex realities of a successful campaign against inequality and discrimination which we hope might inspire a new generation of women and working people. For those affected by injustice today it suggests the value of building the broadest possible alliances with others to achieve shared goals, making an analysis of circumstances and opportunities, persisting in the face of difficulties and seemingly overwhelming odds, and being prepared to really struggle.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
To the degree that a film can be one element in the formation of people's ideas and opinions, we hope that through viewing and discussing this exciting and moving documentary, viewers will be taken into the depths of the fourteen year campaign. We believe that such an experience will encourage them to relate to the simple aspiration of people's right to work and to earn a living wage, no matter their gender or background. Implicit in the drama of the film are the campaign's intriguing tactics and strategies, particularly the importance of forging alliances that ultimately lead to successful outcomes. For viewers to come out of this film with a feeling that ordinary people can and do find ways to win against injustice is our aim.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
Throughout the process of producing Women of Steel, we continue to increase the number of our partnerships with unions, women's groups, and a range of other organizations, both in Australia and overseas. We also reach out for funding to interested individuals, many of whom are activists and people of influence in civil society and government, thus enlarging the network of those with a stake in promoting the film's distribution and educational screenings. We keep them in touch with developments through direct e-news bulletins and maintain our website and facebook page.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
As we have written above, we hope our viewers will come out of this film with the sense that people can win against injustice. Our study guide and efforts to promote screenings in an environment of discussion, will, we believe, raise questions that should lead people to their own answers about the issues they may be facing.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
The film's impact will be measured by the number and influence of organisations and individuals we engage to screen/view the film along with indicators of social movement involvement through further interviews with sponsoring organisations.