May Day was commemorated today with a festival and march through the streets of Fremantle. Unionists took the occasion to commit to supporting the Yes campaign in the upcoming Voice to Parliament Referendum.
Owen Whittle, UnionsWA Secretary said:
“Unions have a long history of providing practical support to First Nations Australians.
“The longest strike in Australian history, for pay and human rights occurred in the Pilbara and commenced on May Day, 1946.
“Union support in that and other disputes, including in 1979 the Yungngora community sought to prevent mining on their lands in Noonkanbah in the Kimberley is a continuation of our values of a fair go.
“The legacy of discrimination in our workplaces against First Nation Australians was part of WA industrial laws for more than a century that specifically excluded most agricultural and domestic workers from the protection of fair pay and working conditions.
“The full reform of those laws only extended to protect domestic workers after reforms by the McGowan Government in 2022.
“Before this, our WA laws prevented Australia from being a signatory to the International Convention on Modern Slavery.
“Research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that for non-Indigenous workers the two most common occupations in Australia are as professionals followed by tradespeople while for Aboriginal workers the most common jobs held are as labourers or community service workers.
“Overall, in 2018-19, Aboriginal workers earned about half of the average wages when compared with non-Aboriginal workers.
“The Voice to Parliament is a natural continuation of trade union values, which aim to improve people’s lives.
“Just as a collective voice in workplaces is necessary for fair pay and safety, a constitutional Voice will give First Nations Australians the ability to be heard by decision makers, which is necessary for solutions on jobs, health and education.”
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework referenced data available online here.