We South Australians have just enjoyed a “Long Weekend” to celebrate “Labour Day” and many marched in the streets in remembrance. Mum always determinedly referred to it at “8 hours day” and reminded her children how hard the Unions toiled, with the workers, for better working conditions.

“eight hours of work, eight hours for recreation and eight hours for sleep” 

labour-day 2013. Brisbane

In the early 19th century, most labourers worked 10- or 12-hour days for six days each week. The 1850s brought a strong push for better conditions.  The fight was for an eight-hour day, effectively a 48-hour week to replace the 60-hour week and Australian workers stopped work and marched from the University of Melbourne to Parliament House.

1856 Union Banner.  Source: Wikipedia

1856 Union Banner. Source: Wikipedia

The government finally agreed to an eight-hour day for workers employed on public works, with no loss of pay. This win was a world first but did not end all labour problems. Many working conditions were harsh and demanding, and women were paid a lot less than men. However, the victory for the eight-hour day was a significant breakthrough, by the Unions to improve working conditions in Australia.

As our three day weekend came to a close mum’s words came flooding back so I checked Trove to see what I could find on our National Library of Australia site and to my delight was advised of a photo held here in our State Library of South Australia.

It shows Holden’s float for the 8 Hour Day procession in 1925 with a group of men standing alongside. The lorry was an A.E.C. registration number 24-347 and was new in 1925. This is the year my mum was born and her dad, Frederick Alexander ALLAN, would have been marching in that parade with others in the Waterside Workers Federation.  

Holden's Float in South Australia's 8 hour day Parade - 1925 - Source: SLSA  B56561

Holden’s Float in South Australia’s 8 hour day Parade – 1925 – Source: SLSA B56561



Many thanks also to Amy Houston, of Branches, Leaves & Pollen, for initiating the TROVE TUESDAY Theme.

Please click HERE  to visit Amy’s Blog and HERE  to read the contributions of others.




Copyright © 2013. Catherine Ann Crout-Habel

6 thoughts on “TROVE TUESDAY: 8 Hour Day

    • So glad you enjoyed my reflections 🙂 Yep, it sure did become a world wide issue, like so many other matters regarding fairness and equity. Yet still the battle continues to prevent losing these hard fought for working conditions 🙄 Thanks for commenting.

    • Isn’t it just Su?… My grandparents were both strong Union supporters/ marchers and I was teethed on the need for workers to stand together to get rid of the “Dickensian” working conditions and demand fairness and equity for all.
      One day I will find the photo of my Nana, in a peaceful march during the Great Depression, cradling my 3 year old mum in her arms as a “Special Constable” on a horse is beating her over the head with a baton. “Special Constables” were, I understand, business owners/ employed men who were signed up to keep the long term unemployed “in their place”.
      Unfortunately the newspaper pic got thrown out when I was living interstate and my mum “downsized” from our family home 😦 No worries, no doubt if I keep looking I’ll eventually find it on TROVE, or my children will 🙂 Lovely comment, thanks.

      • I so hope you find it! What an amazing photo and not a million miles from what happens to protesters today. The more I learn about the past, the more I feel as though I’ve lived my life so far in something of a utopian bubble which is about to burst. My generation (certainly in NZ) grew up in a time of relative peace, with our fathers mostly in work and our mothers mostly at home (not necessarily an ideal state, but it was because households could survive on one income), we had free education, cheap/free healthcare, clean food and water and the likelihood that we too would be employed – if not in the same was as our parents were. It was a golden age and one that is substantially over for many people. We have stood by and watched all our grandparents’ fought for taken away in the name of “growth” and “progress.” Oh oh … I’m ranting. Sorry. 🙂

      • No need to apologise Su… “ranting” is good for the soul 🙂
        I do know exactly what you’re saying because when I first began searching old newspapers for that elusive photograph, on Microfiche, way back “before Adam was a boy”, I was shocked to read the similarities.
        It now seems pretty clear to me that the gains won by our Ancestors are always under threat but I have trust in the younger generations to not be “hoodwinked” and will make their opinions clear at the “Election Box”. The internet and Social Media has helped heaps in spreading the message and so is no surprise that there are those, using every “scare tactic” possible, to try to regain control of the media. Well, that’s what I think. That’s my “rant” over now 🙄 Thanks for bearing with me… 🙂

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