Geelong Voices... World War 2...Audio: Forgotten Heroes, Aborigines at War...These edited interviews focusing on war and war related experience are part of the Geelong Voices Oral History Project. You are free to download and listen to them on a portable device....Trevor Edwards and Adam Muir, talk about their fathers, Bill Edwards and Leo Maxwell Muir who were Aboriginal returned servicemen in World War 2 and Vietnam. They were featured in the book Forgotten Heroes, with an introduction from May Owen...Stories of World War 1, World War 2 and the Vietnam War as told by Geelong residents. During World War 1 and World War 2 Geelong residents - whether joining the Armed Forces as soldiers, nurses, pilots, or helping out at home on projects ...
Stories of World War 1, World War 2 and the Vietnam War as told by Geelong residents.
During World War 1 and World War 2 Geelong residents - whether joining the Armed Forces as soldiers, nurses, pilots, or helping out at home on projects such as the Australian Women’s Land Army - were swept up in the action. Motivated by youthful enthusiasm, the desire for adventure, and intense feelings of patriotism, they joined in hordes. For many, however, the war was not what they expected.
The Geelong Voices Oral History Project was established in 2001. The project collected recordings of diverse programs broadcast by a range of groups - including multicultural groups, women’s groups, trade unions, Aboriginal groups, youth groups and Senior Citizen’s groups - on 3YYR, Geelong Community Radio from 1988 to 2000.
Keeping in Touch and Koori Hour were two such programs. Keeping In Touch was a nostalgic program hosted by Gwlad McLachlan. Gwlad conducted interviews delving into historical aspects of Geelong and Geelong West, including world scale events such as WW1 and WW2, that shaped both the city and its people.
Koori Hour was a Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative Radio Program hosted by a range of people including Richard Fry and Gwenda Black, and consisted of talk about community activities, messages to friends and family, music and discussions about current events. One such event was the launch of “Forgotten Heroes” a book about the overlooked contribution of Aboriginal people to the Australian Armed Forces.
Over 200 of these interviews were recorded off the radio by Gwlad’s neighbour and her husband, Colin. Many of these recordings have been preserved and are available to listen to in digital format at the State Library of Victoria and the Geelong Heritage Centre.
North Shore: Geelong's Boom Town 1920s-1950s... World War Two... War II in September 1939, much of the local industry was placed on war footing. Two thirds of the newly opened International Harvester was commandeered by the R.A.A.F. and an ad hoc airfield was established. The U.S. Air Force arrived shortly ...
In its heyday of the 1920s - 1950s, North Shore (a small northern suburb of Geelong) was the hub of industrial development in Victoria’s second city.
Situated against the backdrop of Corio Bay, North Shore and its immediate surrounds was home to major industries including Ford, International Harvester, Shell, the Corio Distillery and the Phosphate Cooperative Company of Australia (the 'Phossie').
Residents grew up with these companies literally over the back fence and many of their stories depict childhood memories of mischievous exploration. Many residents were employed by the industries, some hopping from job to job, whilst others spent the majority of their working lives at the likes of Ford or the Phossie.
At the commencement of World War II in September 1939, much of the local industry was placed on war footing. Two thirds of the newly opened International Harvester was commandeered by the R.A.A.F. and an ad hoc airfield was established. The U.S. Air Force arrived shortly thereafter.
The presence of American servicemen has left an enduring impression on the North Shore community. Their arrival was the cause of much local excitement, particularly among the children who made a pretty penny running errands for them. They were also a hit with the ladies, who enjoyed a social dance at the local community hall. The story of the American presence in North Shore remains largely untold, and the reflections of local residents provide a fantastically rare insight into a unique period in Victorian history.
A special thanks to local historians Ferg Hamilton and Bryan Power for their assistance during the making of this story. Also thanks to Gwlad McLachlan for sharing her treasure trove of Geelong stories.
The Missing... First World War...The War Graves Workers...Photograph: Relocation burials (2)...In World War 1 the deadly power of machine weapons caught armies, soldiers and families unprepared. An estimated sixteen million combatants and civilians were killed worldwide. In population terms that’s a number the size of a small country. It’s...Vera’s dedicated work for the Australian Red Cross continued until two years before her death in 1978 aged 86. During the Second World War, she and Lilian Scantlebury revived their enquiry work for the Victorian Division of the Red Cross, and later.... Particularly disturbing was the vast number of dead who were “missing” - their bodies never found. This film and series of photo essays explores two unsung humanitarian responses to the crisis of the missing of World War 1 – the Red Cross Wounded and Missing ...
When WW1 brought Australians face to face with mass death, a Red Cross Information Bureau and post-war graves workers laboured to help families grieve for the missing.
The unprecedented death toll of the First World War generated a burden of grief. Particularly disturbing was the vast number of dead who were “missing” - their bodies never found.
This film and series of photo essays explores two unsung humanitarian responses to the crisis of the missing of World War 1 – the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau and the post-war work of the Australian Graves Detachment and Graves Services. It tells of a remarkable group of men and women, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, who laboured to provide comfort and connection to grieving families in distant Australia.
Against the Odds: The victory over conscription in World War One... World War One...Against the Odds: The victory over conscription in World War One...Australia & World War One...Work on Paper: 'Conscription and Woman's Loyalty, Page 2', 1917... time she remarried, to George Lavender. This second marriage was not a success and the couple soon separated. George Lavender would enlist in the Australian Army and serve overseas during World War One; Bella Lavender would occasionally note that she...John Curtin would become the most famous of the labour activists from Brunswick and Coburg. This opponent of conscription in World War One would go on to become Prime Minister of Australia during World War Two. John Curtin’s early life was one...In October 1916 and December 1917 two contentious referendums were held in Australia, asking whether the Commonwealth government should be given the power to conscript young men into military service and send them to war overseas. These campaigns ...
In October 1916 and December 1917 two contentious referendums were held in Australia, asking whether the Commonwealth government should be given the power to conscript young men into military service and send them to war overseas.
These campaigns were momentous and their legacy long-lasting. This is the only time in history that citizens of a country have been asked their opinion about such a question, and the decisive 'No' vote that was returned remains the greatest success of the peace movement in Australia to date. Yet the campaigns split families, workplaces and organisations, and left an imprint on Australian politics that lasted for decades.
Many of the actors and events that were central to these campaigns were based in the northern Melbourne suburbs of Brunswick and Coburg. In many ways, these localities were a microcosm of the entire campaign. Against the Odds: The Victory Over Conscription in World War One tells the story of the anti-conscription movement in Australia during World War 1 through this lens.
Bull Allen... Second World War...Map: 'New Guinea and Papua', Detail 2, 1934...Map of New Guinea, 1934, at the time the territory was administered by the Australian Commonwealth, before the Japanese invasion of 1942. Australians were significant combatants in the New Guinea campaigns of World War 2. Important campaigns include...Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen was a stretcher-bearer in the Middle East and New Guinea in the Second World War who displayed great bravery in rescuing the wounded. His most celebrated act of heroism took place on the 30th July 1943 on Mount Tambu in New ...
Leslie ‘Bull’ Allen was a stretcher-bearer in the Middle East and New Guinea in the Second World War who displayed great bravery in rescuing the wounded.
His most celebrated act of heroism took place on the 30th July 1943 on Mount Tambu in New Guinea. He walked alone into a live battlefield and carried twelve wounded American soldiers out on his shoulders. Bull’s heroism was documented in a famous photograph by war correspondent Gordon Short. Bull was decorated by the US Government and awarded a US Silver Star for bravery, but his action on Tambu was never recognised by the Australian Government.
Born in Ballarat in 1916, Allen came from a background of hardship and poverty. He survived the war, returning home to Ballarat and raising a family, but suffered significant post-traumatic stress from his war experience. He died in 1982.
Wangaratta, Textile Town... Photograph: Migrants Arrive - Bruck Workers (Wangaratta, Vic) (2)...Bruck Textiles came to Wangaratta in 1946, creating a population boom in the town. It became a working destination, attracting workers from all over Australia and Europe following the Second World War. Bruck Textiles began with manufacturing... the making of modern Australia. It traces the path of post-war migration and the accompanying growth of Australia’s economy. Following the Second World War Australia's prosperity began to boom and thousands of Europeans settled here. It was in this atmosphere ...
It is 1919, the end of First World War, and a group of Wangaratta businessmen come together with a big idea: to build a woollen mill to create jobs, keep people in the town, draw workers and families from afar, and make the town prosper.
They start a share float and one of the men, William Callander, comes up with a bold plan to promote the project. His two daughters Alma and Lena take to the skies in an open biplane, seated on kerosene tins, to scatter leaflets across the region. The Wangaratta Woollen Mills is born, and soon becomes the largest mainland woollen mill in the nation.
It was the success of its textile industry that took Wangaratta from small country town to major rural city. But Wangaratta’s story as a textile town also reflects the making of modern Australia. It traces the path of post-war migration and the accompanying growth of Australia’s economy.
Following the Second World War Australia's prosperity began to boom and thousands of Europeans settled here. It was in this atmosphere, in 1946, that a Canadian company, Bruck Textiles, comes to Wangaratta and creates a population explosion, employing thousands of workers from places as diverse as Poland, Italy, Holland and Wangaratta itself.
Some of these workers' stories are presented here, as well as interviews with employees of Australian Country Spinners (formerly Wangaratta Woollen Mills). Photographs of the factories are also presented, along with moving image postcards of the industrial processes.
School Days: Education in Victoria... war efforts...Schools Go to War...When the Port Phillip District separated from New South Wales to become the colony of Victoria in 1851, it inherited a dual system of publicly funded schools, under two separate boards: the Denominational School Board for religious schools...Almost as soon as war was declared, teachers began to enlist. A total of 753 Victorian teachers and Education Department staff enlisted in the armed services, including two female teachers who enlisted as nurses. Of these, 146 died serving... significant education reform in Victoria, and a world first! It is a history of early schooling, migrant schooling, Aboriginal schools, women in education, rural education and, of course, education during war time (1914-1918). This online exhibition is based ...
The exhibition, School Days, developed by Public Record Office Victoria and launched at Old Treasury Building in March 2015, is a history of more than 150 years of schooling in Victoria.
It is a history of the 1872 Education Act - the most significant education reform in Victoria, and a world first! It is a history of early schooling, migrant schooling, Aboriginal schools, women in education, rural education and, of course, education during war time (1914-1918).
This online exhibition is based on the physical exhibition School Days originally displayed at Old Treasury Building, 20 Spring Street, Melbourne, www.oldtreasurybuilding.org.au and curated by Kate Luciano in collaboration with Public Record Office Victoria.
Collingwood Technical School... World War I... Department, and the various Workshops of the Commonwealth Government, where there [were] good opportunities for promotion in many Professional Divisions ’. Almost immediately after the outbreak of the World War I (1914-1918), many servicemen returned... War I (1914-1918), to extra classes during the Great Depression, and the development of chrome and electroplating for machine parts for the Australian Army and Air Force during World War II (1939-1945).The precinct between Johnston, Perry ...
For over 140 years, the site of the former Collingwood Technical School on Johnston Street, Melbourne, has played an integral role in the well being of the local community.
It has been a civic hub, including courthouse (1853), Council Chambers (1860) and the Collingwood Artisans’ School of Design (1871). The school opened in 1912 when its first principal, Matthew Richmond, rang a bell on the street to attract new students. Collingwood was a poor and industrial suburb, and as a trade school, young boys were offered the opportunity to gain industrial employment skills.
Throughout the twentieth century, Collingwood Technical School supported the local and broader community. From training schemes for ex-servicemen who were suffering from post traumatic stress following World War I (1914-1918), to extra classes during the Great Depression, and the development of chrome and electroplating for machine parts for the Australian Army and Air Force during World War II (1939-1945).
The precinct between Johnston, Perry and Wellington Streets has transformed over time, including expansion with new buildings and school departments, and the change in the demographic of students as Collingwood evolved from an industrial centre to eventual gentrification. And in 1984, New York street artist, Keith Haring (1958-1990), painted a large mural onsite.
Collingwood Technical College closed in 1987 when it amalgamated with the Preston TAFE (Technical and Further Education) campus. Education classes continued until 2005 and the site sat empty for more than a decade, before a section was redeveloped for Circus Oz in 2013.
The former school now has a new identity as Collingwood Arts Precinct, and is being developed into an independent space for small and medium creative organisations. The heritage buildings will house the next generation of thinkers and makers, and will become a permanent home to the arts in Collingwood.
Speed, Style, Spirit: The Rob Roy Hillclimb... Machine: Bugatti Type 37 (2)... for the fastest cars. The track then was different from the one we know today and it was highly possible that they could run two vehicles together. The initial track was a very widely graded dirt road with room for a multiple start event. 1937 - 1940 THE PRE-WAR...The next owner Reg Brearley, drove the car into second place in the 1929 Grand Prix, but tragically died near Gunning in 1930 in attempting to set an interstate record. The car was then bought by two brothers by the name of McGrath, who made... half-mile, graded dirt road, a judges box and telephone boxes at the start and finish. In 1939, the track was sealed and became one of only three bitumen-surfaced purpose-built hillclimbs in the world, the other two being the Shelsley Walsh and Prescott ...
"We have at last discovered a venue for a hillclimb par excellence. I cannot tell you about it in this issue but .... This I can promise you; that when the news is released, hillclimb enthusiasts will set to work on their cars with great zest".
The Car, October issue, 1935
In 1935, members of the Light Car Club of Australia inspected a property in Christmas Hills, some thirty kilometres north-east of Melbourne, known as Clinton's Pleasure Grounds, a picnicking venue which included the Rob Roy Shetland Pony Stud, a swimming hole, tennis courts, a cricket and football field, tea room and dance hall.
Their mission was to establish a Hillclimbing venue. Hillclimbing, a speed event in which drivers compete, one at a time, on an uphill course against the clock, is one of motorsport’s oldest events; the first was held at La Turbie near Nice, France, in 1897.
Opening on February 1, 1937, the Rob Roy Hillclimb was the first purpose-built Hillclimb in Australia. Cut out of the bush, it included an uphill half-mile, graded dirt road, a judges box and telephone boxes at the start and finish. In 1939, the track was sealed and became one of only three bitumen-surfaced purpose-built hillclimbs in the world, the other two being the Shelsley Walsh and Prescott courses in the UK.
The Rob Roy Hillclimb has a special place in Australia’s motoring history, with eight record holders going on to become Australian Grand Prix winners and one – Jack Brabham – a triple F1 World Champion. The roll call of other drivers who displayed their skills at the Rob Roy includes Harry Firth, Stan Jones, Lex Davison, Bill Patterson, Doug Whiteford, Peter Whitehead, Reg Hunt, Diana Davison Gaze, Tony Gaze and Len Lukey.
The Rob Roy Hillclimb was more than a racing event, it was a culture. Connected to Formula One racing, celebrities, champion drivers, patrons, collectors, and prestige and iconic cars, the Rob Roy had an aura of glamour, and club meets were social occasions, with drivers adhering to collar and tie dress codes and picnickers fashionably attired.
Nevertheless the cars were central. Over the years Bugattis, Jaguars, MGs, Falkenbergs, Oldses and Altas have competed with Australian makes such as Holdens, Fords and Elfins, from road cars to specialist cars. Many Australian cars started or developed their racing history at Rob Roy, including the Chamberlain, Maybach, BWA, Wyliecar, Klienig Special, the Walton JAP, and numerous other Australian Specials.
The Specials were modified and home-built cars. Hillclimbs make particular demands – lightweight cars with loads of torque are ideal – and so engines were upgraded, bodies stripped, cars were made up of the most suitable parts or whatever one had access to. The Specials were evidence of the culture of creativity and passion that surrounded the Hillclimb. Many cars, some pre-war, and modified constantly over time, have passed from driver to driver along with their history, to compete to this day.
In 1962, bushfires ravaged the Rob Roy, and it lay unused for another 30 years until the MG Car Club of Victoria secured a lease on the property and faithfully restored the track to host a bustling schedule of Hillclimb events. Since 1993, the Rob Roy Hillclimb culture – the drivers, the cars, the inventive mechanics and the enthralled daytrippers – thrives in the Christmas Hills.
Sources: Leon Sims, A history of Rob Roy Hillclimb - 1937 to 1961 - The Hill, The Drivers, The Cars. And, the MG Car Club of Victoria
A Sensory Experience... , it seemed as if the world was passing me by. Worse, I developed a nagging feeling that I was becoming too stupid to understand the joke even were I to hear it. I came to dislike people who loved jokes, and laughter was becoming something I feared... of the world from another perspective. The accompanying images complement the films, giving further understanding to the rich history held within the two groups. In addition, two contemporary essays by prominent writers offer the unique opportunity to share ...
The mainstream understanding of deaf and blind people has shifted over time. When once it was thought that blind people should be taken care of and sheltered, or deaf people taught to hear and speak, a deeper awareness of distinct culture and experience has emerged.
'A Sensory Experience' explores the world through the eyes and ears of the deaf and blind communities in Victoria and seeks to demystify some of the stereotypes and preconceptions that survive to this day.
The four films that make up part of this story highlight Victoria’s Deaf and blind communities within an historical framework, fostering new insights and provoking thought about the way we understand these communities today. Each film is an open invitation to share the experience of the world from another perspective.
The accompanying images complement the films, giving further understanding to the rich history held within the two groups. In addition, two contemporary essays by prominent writers offer the unique opportunity to share their lived experiences. Finally, the story contains an education kit for secondary students, which allows for a deeper study and understanding.
History Teachers Association of Victoria / Chinese Museum
Chinese Anzacs... World War One...When World War One was declared, Australia issued a call to arms. The Chinese-Australian community rallied behind the war efforts. Over two hundred Australians of Chinese descent enlisted. One hundred and seven of these were from Victoria. Of those ...
When World War One was declared, Australia issued a call to arms.
The Chinese-Australian community rallied behind the war efforts. Over two hundred Australians of Chinese descent enlisted. One hundred and seven of these were from Victoria. Of those Chinese Australians who fought, forty-one died. No Chinese-Australian nurses who served in the War have been identified to date.
The story of the Chinese Anzacs is often overlooked in the greater narratives of World War One. Their experiences during and after the war were the subject of the 'Chinese Anzacs' exhibition on display at the Chinese Museum in 2014.
Drouin: A Small Town at War... Second World War...Drouin: A Small Town at War...A collection of photographs of the dairying town of Drouin in West Gippsland Victoria taken during the Second World War. In 1981, two packets of old photographs were returned to Australia by the New York office of the Australian Information Service ...
A collection of photographs of the dairying town of Drouin in West Gippsland Victoria taken during the Second World War.
In 1981, two packets of old photographs were returned to Australia by the New York office of the Australian Information Service. Inside these packets were images from the dairying town of Drouin, in West Gippsland, taken during the Second World War.
Presenting the ideal picture of a prosperous and hard-working Victorian town dealing with rationing and manpower shortages caused by the war, these photographs were part of the Department of Information's war effort publicity campaign.
Photographer Jim Fitzpatrick was commissioned to take the photos in 1944 and 1945, and he concentrated on images of healthy and industrious women and children, as well as soldiers on leave and men working in the town. The photographs appeared in the bimonthly South West Pacific which was distributed free to overseas press, and was designed to promote Australia to her allies, particularly the United States.
The images that make up this story now form part of the Drouin Town and Rural Life During World War II collection at the National Library of Australia.
Post-War Europe... Second World War...Post-War Europe.... Discover the story of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War, from primary sources at the State Library of Victoria's Ergo site : - Australia & WWII ...
In 1945, Australian Prime Minister Chifley lead the Labor Party to power in Canberra and sought to change the national focus from agriculture to industry.
His government established the Department of Immigration, which soon introduced a policy of financially supporting migration to Australia. Due to the 2nd World War, large numbers of displaced people and refugees that took up this opportunity. Most came from Great Britain and Europe and on arrival were provided accommodation in hostels or transition camps in return for a commitment to provide labour on government funded projects for a period of two years.
These personal stories produced as part of the ACMI Digital Storytelling program recount the journeys of people in the Post War Immigration Scheme.
Discover the story of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War, from primary sources at the State Library of Victoria's Ergo site : - Australia & WWII
At the Going Down of the Sun... Second World War...One hundred years on, evidence of the impact of the First World War can be plainly seen across Victoria. Built heritage including cenotaphs, statues, plaques and obelisks are peppered across the state’s public spaces, each dedicated ...
One hundred years on, evidence of the impact of the First World War can be plainly seen across Victoria.
Built heritage including cenotaphs, statues, plaques and obelisks are peppered across the state’s public spaces, each dedicated to the commemoration of the war service of the thousands of Victorians who served between 1914 and 1918.
Many of these men and women died in active service and were buried overseas, so locally built monuments served as important places to mourn and remember them. They were places for private and collective mourning, commemoration and remembrance.
These memorials were truly local, often built through community fundraising and supported by communities who shared a sense of loss. Most are inscribed with the names of those who died from the region, while others list the names of all those who served.
Across Victoria, cenotaphs and built memorials remain central to ANZAC Day services, but the way we commemorate has changed with each generation and so has the way we remember and mourn the servicemen of the First World War. Photographic and material culture collections from across the state, catalogued here on Victorian Collections, capture some of the tangible and intangible heritage associated with the shifting ways we commemorate the First World War. They provide meaningful insight in to our society and how we make sense of war and loss.
The McIntyre Family... World War I...The First World War was an event that involved the whole world. Thousands of Australian troops were sent into battle in support of Britain and France. Among them were two brothers, John and Jim McIntyre. John McIntyre's experiences are particularly ...
The First World War was an event that involved the whole world.
Thousands of Australian troops were sent into battle in support of Britain and France. Among them were two brothers, John and Jim McIntyre. John McIntyre's experiences are particularly well documented because he brought back many objects from all the places he visited. He also sent many postcards home to his family during the war.
John Lachlan McIntyre was born at Beeac, Victoria in December 1890. He enlisted in the 1st AIF in July 1915. John fought on the Western Front, taking part in the battles of Fromelles and the 2nd Battle of the Somme. He was severely wounded at Fromelles and spent 12 months in hospital in England before returning to the front.
Melbourne Trams: Step aboard!... Audio: Daphne Rooms, 'Trams in War-time Melbourne'...This map from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB), Report and Statement of Accounts for the Year ended 30 June 1950, shows how extensive Melbourne's tram network was in the immediate post-war era. By this stage, cable trams had... the routes and began electrifying all cable lines. Manpower shortages during World War II meant that Australian women stepped into many roles previously reserved for men. The tramways were no exception, with women being recruited as tram conductors ...
'Introduction to Melbourne Trams: Step aboard!'
Written by Carla Pascoe, May 2012
Trams are what make Melbourne distinctive as a city. For interstate and overseas visitors, one of the experiences considered compulsory is to ride a tram. When Melbourne is presented to the rest of the world, the tram is often the icon used. The flying tram was one of the most unforgettable moments of the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. When Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia in 2011, she was trundled with regal dignity along St Kilda Road in her very own ‘royal tram’.
The history of trams is closely bound up with the history of this southerly metropolis. Melbourne’s tram system originated during the 1880s economic boom when the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company opened the first cable line. Cable tram routes soon criss-crossed much of the growing city and cable engine houses can still be seen in some inner suburbs, such as the grand building on the south-east corner of Gertrude and Nicholson streets, Fitzroy. Some older passengers like Daphne Rooms still remember riding cable cars.
In the late 19th century, cable and electric tram technologies were vying for supremacy. Australia’s first electric tram line opened in 1889, running through what was then farmland from Box Hill station to Doncaster. The only surviving clue that a tram line once traversed this eastern suburb is the eponymous Tram Road, which follows the former tram route in Doncaster.
Gradually, various local councils joined together to create municipal Tramways Trusts, constructing electric lines that extended the reach of the cable system. In 1920 the tram system came under centralised control when the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) consolidated the routes and began electrifying all cable lines.
Manpower shortages during World War II meant that Australian women stepped into many roles previously reserved for men. The tramways were no exception, with women being recruited as tram conductors for the first time. After the war, tram systems were slowly shut down in cities around both Australia and the world, as transport policies favoured the motor vehicle. But thanks to the stubborn resistance of MMTB Chairman, Sir Robert Risson, as well as the wide, flat streets that characterise the city’s geography, Melbourne retained its trams.
Melbourne’s tram industry has always possessed a unique workplace culture, characterised by fierce camaraderie and pride in the role of the ‘trammie’ (the nickname for a tram worker). Many Trammies, like Bruce MacKenzie, recall that they joined the tramways because a government job was seen as a job for life. But the reason they often remain for decades in the job is because of the strong bonds within the trammie ‘family’. This is partly due to the many social events and sporting clubs that have been attended by Trammies, as Bruce MacKenzie remembers. It is also because the demands of shift work bond people together, explains Roberto D’Andrea.
The tram industry once employed mainly working-class, Anglo-Australian men. After World War II, many returned servicemen joined the ranks, bringing a military-style discipline with them. With waves of post-war migration the industry became more ethnically diverse, as Lou Di Gregorio recalls. Initially receiving Italian and Greek workers from the 1950s and 1960s, from the 1970s the tramways welcomed an even broader range of Trammies, from Vietnamese, South American, Turkish and other backgrounds.
Trammies perform a wide range of tasks critical to keeping the system running, including driving, track maintenance, tram maintenance, time tabling, customer service and more. But just as designs of ‘rolling stock’ have changed - from the beloved veteran W class trams to the modern trams with their low floors, climate control and greater capacity - so too have the jobs of Trammies changed over time. Bruce MacKenzie remembers joining the Preston Workshops in the 1950s when all of Melbourne’s fleet was constructed by hand in this giant tram factory. Roberto D’Andrea fondly recalls the way that flamboyant conductors of the 1980s and 1990s would perform to a tram-load of passengers and get them talking together. As a passenger, Daphne Rooms remembers gratefully the helping role that the connies would play by offering a steadying arm or a piece of travel advice.
Trams have moved Melburnians around their metropolis for decades. As Daphne maintains, ‘If you can’t get there by tram, it’s not worth going’. Everyone has memories of their experiences travelling on trams: some funny, some heart-warming and some frustrating. Tram driver, Lenny Bates, tells the poignant story of the blind boy who would sometimes board his tram on Collins Street and unhesitatingly call out the names of the streets they passed. As the films in this collection demonstrate, every passenger has their routes that they customarily ride and these routes take on a personal meaning to their regulars. You could say that every tram line has its own distinct personality. Whilst the way the tram system is run inevitably changes across time, one thing has been constant: trams have always played a central role in the theatre of everyday life in Melbourne.