My memories of trade union education
by Colin Macdonald

I’ll approach this daunting task by following a largely chronological schema as did Michael Beahan – although using first person singular rather than his third person.

My first active involvement with the TU movement was when I became Victorian Secretary of the ABC Staff Association (a purely honorary position) in 1960. On moving to Sydney with the ABC in 1962 I became Federal Vice-President of the Association (also an honorary position). In 1964 I was awarded a 6-month scholarship which enabled me to spend 6 months in Britain studying British political institutions, which of course included the British trade union movement. I became aware of the education/training programs offered by the TUC for full-time officials and shop stewards. Shortly after returning to Australia I resigned from the ABC to take up a paid position with the Staff Association, becoming its industrial advocate. I  began a very modest program of seminars/courses for Staff Association office bearers in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

In perhaps 1967 I read an article in “The Journal of Industrial Relations” jointly authored by a Peter Matthews and a Bill Ford lamenting the paucity of TU education in Australia and inviting any one who was working in this field to make contact. Which I did. That led to my enrolling on what I believe was the first joint ACTU/ACSPA/High Council summer school in Canberra. These schools became annual events, lasting some 8 to 10 days .(NOT just over a long weekend as claimed by one contributor to this exercise.) By 1969 I was involved as a Director of the Canberra summer schools, with Peter Matthews being the prime mover. As the schools grew in size, 4 streams of study emerged with I suppose 30 or so students enrolled on each. I was director of the Industrial Relations stream for several years, which I designed to culminate in a mock arbitration hearing before a cooperative member of the Commonwealth Conciliation & Arbitration Commission.

Early in 1973 I became the first occupant of the new position of Trade Union Education Officer with the Workers’ Education Association of S.A. – a position funded by the Dunstan Labor government in response to pressure from the Trades & Labor Council. The WEA agreed to my still being involved as a director of the Canberra summer schools.

As anticipated I encountered the full spectrum of responses from S.A. unions. There were those who welcomed and supported the programs I was able to offer; there were those which initially were wary of the whole idea;  there were some who saw the program as simply a sop designed to delay the inevitable revolution; and others which were certain that it was a leftist plot to inculcate Marxist doctrine.

One of the first unions to make contact was the PSA of SA, through its then Assistant General Secretary Greg Stevens, The WEA was to provide numerous courses for the PSA over a span of perhaps 8 to 10 years – certainly for several years after the formation of TUTA. TUTA’s charter did not allow it to offer courses for an individual union and that meant the WEA remained active in the field of union training for quite some years after TUTA appeared. The PSA and the S.A. Institute of Teachers were major “clients” of mine because of the  WEA being able to design and present courses specifically designed for their needs.But, prior to TUTA, the WEA also offered a range of courses open to all unions.

The Dunstan government facilitated the growth of the WEA’s trade union training offerings by allowing government employees who were office reps or shop stewards paid leave to attend our courses. Dunstan became an enthusiast of Industrial Democracy and the WEA’s Union Education office was retained to organise and present numerous one and two-day courses in state government departments and agencies explaining the concepts and principles of industrial democracy.

When Clyde Cameron gained cabinet backing for the creation of what became TUTA a three-man working party was established under the umbrella of the Department of Labour, comprising Peter Matthews, Michael Beahan and me. The WEA agreed to my secondment to the Department “for 3 months” early in 1974, but the secondment in fact lasted 15 months.  Although Michael moved his whole family to Melbourne during his secondment, I persuaded the Department that I could work quite effectively from home in Adelaide, using the resources of the WEA as  necessary and flying to Melbourne once or twice a month to confer and work with Peter and Michael. The air-fares would be markedly less costly than having to pay me a regular living allowance if I moved temporarily to Melbourne. The Working Party was soon involved in running pilot courses on behalf of the Interim Committee for TUTA (in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne) and initially looking for possible locations for the new national school, before Clyde was able to squeeze out funds to have a dedicated building constructed  in Wodonga.

I particularly remember organising and directing a residential course in 1975 on the ANU campus for women in the trade union movement. (It was the United Nations “Year of the Woman”). There was the irony of such a course having to be organised by me, a male, but I did manage to ensure that all of the presenters were women. One lonely male enrolled on the course – because, he said, the majority of members of his union were women.

With the establishment of TUTA I elected not to apply for a position, preferring to have the flexibility of working for  a nongovernmental organisation.  I was however occasionally asked to take sessions at the Clyde Cameron College. I was asked to organise and direct a short course in Darwin on behalf of TUTA, not all that long after Cyclone Tracy, The course was conducted in temporary Nissan huts at the TAFE campus, with no air-conditioning.

Phil Drew joined the WEA of SA for 3 months when the Director, Eric Williams took leave. I took Eric’s place and Phil acted in mine. With more funds from the Federal Government in addition to the original support of the State Government, Phil became assistant trade union education officer. When I was seconded to the Interim Working Party Phil again acted in my position until TUTA was established. He was joined for a period by a ‘young’ Bill Kelty

 I suggest that the WEA’s Trade Union Postal courses scheme deserves some recognition in the history of TU education in Australia, for it predated by some years the creation of my position in 1973 and the first of the “National TU Summer Schools” in Canberra.

Colin was the first Trade Union Education Officer with the South Australian Workers’ Education Association 1973, Interim Committee working group with Peter Matthews and Michael Beahan (1974-5).


The Golf Ball
by Michael Johnston

When the interim trade union training committee was established in New South Wales, Michael Johnston was appointed as it’s interim director. He had come to the position from the Shop Assistants and Warehouse Employees Federation where he had worn out his welcome following some clashes on policy and strategy relating to industrial relations. The strike he managed at the Revlon factory had probably been the last straw as the ‘shoppies’ were not accustomed to direct industrial action. That strike, at Revlon, was precipitated by management varying the speed of production, virtually on a whim, hour by hour. The workers got jack of it, walked off the job and called the union. Michael attended the site and became embroiled in a dispute that had lasting ramifications for his career. Suffice to say, the shoppies were happy to see him go.

He competed for the job against another applicant, Warwick McDonald, who had been an officer of the Miscellaneous Workers Union. The shoppies and the missos had been at loggerheads for years over membership disputes and over factional politics, the former ‘right’ and the latter ‘left’. In the event, factional interests prevailed and, unsurprisingly, Michael got the job, having come from the ‘right’. (Incidentally, Warwick went on to carve out a distinguished career in TUTA, the union movement and the public service, rising to Director General of Industrial Relations for New South Wales).

Initially, Michael was technically an employee of the Commonwealth, as TUTA had not yet been promulgated as a statutory authority. Michael received a bundle of manilla folders that described how the then Department of Labour and National Service had related to this new concept of ‘trade union training’. The file exhibited a degree of departmental skepticism about the prospects for union training even if only by it’s complete lack of organisation, with bits of paper randomly included in no particular order. “This will give you an idea of the history”, he was told.
The fact is that there was very little history. Michael was grudgingly accommodated, on a pro-tem basis, in the Department’s Sydney office.

Some Summer Schools had been conducted in Canberra over recent years but the papers included no detail of them so Michael decided to make a few phone calls. The first call was to his former Professor, Bill Ford, with whom he had forged a lifelong association and friendship and whose name populated many of the papers randomly secreted in the manilla folders, he having tutored at several trade union Summer Schools in Canberra. Bill was delighted at the news of Michael’s appointment but reminded Michael that he had edited a book – “Australian Trade Unions” – with Peter Matthews, the then Interim Director of the Interim Trade Union Training Council. Bill thought Michael’s appointment closed the circle and augered well for the future of trade union education. “You’d better get cracking, there’s no time to lose”, Bill advised.
The next call was to Peter Matthews who welcomed Michael to the position and suggested that he get busy and recruit some support staff as there was a lot of work to tackle.

Pam Wray was the first admin support staff member recruited in NSW and she and Michael, now ensconced in an office in the Department’s Chifley Square building, went about obtaining some office equipment (desks, chairs ) stationery and basic requisites. Each was new to the ‘public service’ and paid little heed to the customs, standard operating procedures, shibboleths and requirements of “the Australian Public Service”. The APS had a fairly rigid ‘class’ system in which entitlements to office equipment and such was determined by the ‘Class’ seniority of the employee seeking the equipment. This applied to virtually every item of stationery and office requisites. Pam and Michael, being largely ignorant of these customs were, collectively, ‘babes in the wood’. This meant they had no fear!

When it came to acquiring a typewriter they went for a top of the range IBM Golfball ‘Selectric’ model. The problem was that no other Personal Assistant in the whole of Chifley Square had such a machine. Word got around and within hours a conga line of personal assistants and typists queued to see this wondrous new technology. Pam beamed with pride as she demonstrated the attributes of the machine.

“How long have you been here?” she was asked.

“Two weeks” she replied.
“I’ve been here ten years … banging away at an old Remington” was one response, “how come you got such preferential treatment?”

Pam detected a level of envy – if not jealousy – from the ensuing conversations so she decided to distract the emerging anger by showing how the typewriter actually worked: “the golfball follows the page so you don’t have to shift the carriage for each line and you can correct mistakes by simply positioning the letter over the mistake and the white tape just lifts the letter off and then you proceed normally,” she explained “… it’s like magic”. This made matters worse and didn’t really seem to settle the growing frustration.

“ the carton came with six other golfballs for different fonts … and you can determine the sound!”

“ the sound?”

“ yes .. if it’s too noisy, you just dial back the noises it makes!”

These exchanges spoke volumes about the fledgling and, yet to be proclaimed, TUTA:
an upstart;
who did they think they are?
how can they overturn procedures?
why doesn’t my boss get me an IBM golfball selectric?

Several regional and divisional directors complained about this new upstart on the block upsetting the staff. Michael went into diplomatic mode and proceeded, with urgency, to locate the new trade union training organisation in it’s own premises … far from the madding crowds at the Chifley Square headquarters of the Department of Labour and National Service.

This little incident serves to illustrate the environment that TUTA was about to enter:
computers were just around the corner but the IBM Selectric was state of the art;
PAs still existed as did typing pools, soon to be displaced and rendered extinct by PCs;
the digital revolution was about to commence with massive ramifications for the world of work;
TUTA was one of the first institutions to focus on, and conduct courses to consider, ‘technological change’;
the decline of union density accompanied the rapid diffusion of new technology, of which the ‘typing pool’ was an illustrative canary at the workplace.

It needs to be recorded that many Departmental officers provided substantial support for the formation and establishment of TUTA … but there were a few glitches!

Eight years of union training

by Michael Beahan

It was January 1973. Gough Whitlam was now in power and Clyde Cameron, his Minister for Industrial Relations was encouraging the union movement to engage in education programs and making federal funding available in support of this. This was a time when over 50% of the workforce was unionised and the union movement had real clout. The Western Australian Trades and Labor Council (TLC), the peak body representing WA unions had been a leader in union training with figures such as union Secretary and then TLC President, Bill Latter and TLC Industrial Officer, Des Hanlon conducting interesting programs employing modern teaching methods.  With funds now available, they advertised for an Education Officer to run these programs and develop a comprehensive array of union training offerings for all union officials – from shop stewards and convenors to secretaries, industrial and research officers and those handling finance and media. 

The advertisement attracted the attention of Michael Beahan. It was a job in which his experiences as a tradesman were as relevant as his more recent training and experience as a teacher and in which his involvement in Labor politics were equally relevant.  At 36 he had by now turned his BA, DipEd. into a BA, B.Ed and had gained the Teacher’s Higher Certificate.  He had been teaching adults for four years and had had experience both as a union organiser with the Teachers Union and as a political campaigner.  It seemed that the advertisement had been written for him.  He applied, made the shortlist and faced what he described as a gruelling interview with then TLC President, Bill Latter and Secretary Jim Coleman.  On completion of the interview he was not confident he would be selected, but he was and he commenced work shortly afterwards, sharing a small and dingy office in the old trades hall building in Beaufort Street with then TLC Industrial Officer, Des Hanlon and a shared secretary.

Des Hanlon and Bill Latter were pivotal figure in supporting and organising training for union officials and later Des, when employed by the Trade Union Training Authority at its national college in Albury-Wodonga, would see his undoubted talent for divergent thinking reflected in the design of the college itself and in some of the teaching methods and support materials such as films which were produced there.

Within a week of commencing work at the TLC Michael was flying up to the Pilbara (his first commercial jet flight – at 36 years of age; he had flown before in a MacRobertson Miller DC3 to Meekatharra) to participate in a series of pre-arranged union training schools. It was a bit of a shock at first, he said, to be confronted in one of Hamersley Iron’s training rooms by a group of mostly burly and grimy shop stewards and convenors (senior shop stewards) in work shorts, boots, Hi Vis. vests and hard hats, all covered in the ubiquitous red dust of the Pilbara.  They looked tough and flinty and he had the feeling they ate little boys like him for breakfast.  Despite early impressions, however, they were among the most, attentive, well-behaved and responsive group of students he had faced and he enjoyed their directness and honesty.

This being Michael’s first experience he was there mainly as an observer, but handled a discussion session around a Canadian film based on the daily life of a shop steward in a paper mill.  From discussion around this he and the shop stewards would draw principles applying to the role of the shop steward. These practical sessions seemed to work well.  A segment of the course presented by a visiting economics lecturer from Melbourne University employed a clever schema of the industrial relations system in which all of the various groups and individuals were charted as players in an unfolding drama.  This was also useful in demonstrating the complexity of the industrial relations system, how its various component parts related to each other and how they as local shop stewards fitted into it. 

He was, however, a little concerned when the same lecturer ventured into an ideological diatribe excoriating the capitalist system while vaguely hinting at a utopian world in which industrial harmony would prevail. This had the twin effects of exciting the participants whilst leaving them bewildered.  Michael did not know then that this was a foretaste of some of the difficulties he and union training would confront in the settling in period for union training which followed. 

The next few months were a whirlwind of activity as Michael settled into the job, designed and wrote courses, organised and conducted residential training schools, sourced funding from a well-disposed federal government, negotiated leave entitlements with companies for shop stewards and other union officials, established the administrative structures necessary to support the new funding and activity being generated, managed the inevitable political spot fires in dealing with a varied, politically active and highly opinionated union movement, and dealing with the media’s interest in the new phenomenon of union training.  He commented that it was a very full and impossibly varied role but a thoroughly absorbing one in which he and the others involved were establishing something unique in the world.

It was around this time that Michael attended a national residential course for union officials in Canberra, his first visit to the capital.  The course was run jointly by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations (ACSPA) and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations (CAGEO) and was run at John XXIII College. It was organised by Peter Matthews, an Oxford Don, who had been appointed as ACTU Education Officer and was later to become National Director of the Trade Union Training Authority. It was a detailed and demanding few days in cloistered seclusion. 

A key part of the course was working in groups to negotiate a wages and conditions award before a commissioner from the then Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Michael’s team included Jenny George, later President of the ACTU and Member of the House of Representatives and John Lewin, later a National Conciliation and Arbirtation Commissioner.  The case they prepared was thorough and professional and well-presented before the commissioner who praised their efforts. The whole experience was an eye opener for Michael as a tyro union trainer and he claimed it enhanced his confidence considerably.

Meanwhile Clyde Cameron, the then Minister for Labour, had been beavering a way at the national level setting up the preconditions that were to lead to the establishment of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority (TUTA).  He first established the Interim Committee for the National Council for Union Training and interim committees in each state.  Michael was appointed to the state interim committee and in 1973 was appointed to the national interim committee, where he was, for the first time, exposed to national union politics.  The committee comprised an independent chairperson, representatives from the (ACTU) and from the two major national white collar union peak bodies, ACSPA and CAGEO. It had an employer representative, union representatives from each state and was serviced by the then Department of Labour and Immigration. Michael, in his own words, was a very junior operator, representing Western Australia among some heavy hitters, although he did have the advantage of having a fuller background in education and training than many around the table.

The Council’s role was to plan the establishment of TUTA, a national statutory authority to provide training for union officials at all levels right across the country and to establish a national college and training centres in each state. Funding was at first channelled through existing union training institutions such as the Trades and Labor Councils and organisations such as the Workers Educational Association (WEA) in South Australia.  Apart from Michael’s overall role as a board member he had the specific task of bidding for WA’s needs, but also of ensuring that funding to individual courses was for bona fide training purposes, not for ideological education or indoctrination.  This was a difficult line to tread and was at times a source of considerable pressure and personal stress.

As Education officer for the WA Trades and Labor Council Michael was also a member of the state interim council, which was chaired by the independent Professor Roy Lourens, a lecturer in accounting at the University of WA and later Vice Chancellor of Edith Cowan University. Also on the board was Bill Brown, Chairman of the WA Chamber of Commerce, the remainder comprising senior union officials from both blue and white collar unions.  Among these were Bill Latter, then President of the WA trades and Labor Council and Denis Hagen, Secretary of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. Despite the balance of representation of the board there were sometimes serious challenges from more extreme elements within the union movement who sought to undermine the standards of probity which the fledgling body was attempting to establish.

Towards the end of 1973 Michael was asked by the National Interim Council if he would agree to be seconded to Melbourne to join Peter Matthews and Colin McDonald, then Director of South Australia’s Workers Educational Association to undertake the task of setting up TUTA. He agreed and in early 1974 travelled to Melbourne with his then wife Jenny and two and a half year old son, Daniel to join this three person team which was housed in the offices of the then Department of Labour and Immigration in Tivoli Court, Bourke Street in the CBD. Their task was to provide advice to the Department on the writing of the Bill, to carry out the various administrative tasks necessary to establish structures in each state and nationally and to organise the first national courses.

Michael was the junior of the three and treated as such. The one independent responsibility he was given was to organise the first national residential train the trainer course to be run in Melbourne with a view to training potential staff for the authority once established.

Otherwise he was engaged in minor back-up roles. It was nevertheless an interesting and instructive experience.  He was classed as a third division officer within the Commonwealth public service, but was dealing with first division officers taking prime responsibility for establishing the new statutory authority.  Because the Minister, Clyde Cameron, had a close interest in the project, any bureaucratic blockages or public service timidity was easily overcome by taking matters directly to the Minister for decision.  This was not often done, but proved useful at times and had the effect of affording the trio greater respect among senior officers within the department than might otherwise have been the case.  It must be said, however, that public servants were generally very supportive and helpful, most of them welcoming the new initiatives of the Whitlam Government following years of torpor under 23 years of conservative rule.

Union education in Australia reached a high-point in the 1970s.  Individual unions, such as the then Building Workers Industrial Union (BWIU) and the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union (AMWU) had commenced their own union education programs.  Some union training was being provided by Workers’ Educational Associations (WEAs) in New South Wales and South Australia, and annual national residential schools were being run jointly by the peak union bodies, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations (ACSPA) and the Council of Australian Government Employees Associations (CAGEO).  

The first course to be run by the new authority was a residential train the trainer course, for which Michael was responsible.  Since TUTA had not been formally established and had no training staff Michael engaged the Department’s staff to prepare and run the course.  Their training rooms were in Windsor, just off the Nepean Highway, so he accommodated the participants in the Diplomat Hotel in St Kilda and he and the participants walked across each morning to the training centre.  

The opening of the course was a big affair, since it was effectively the launch of TUTA, Clyde Cameron’s dream.  The media and key union officials were invited as were members of the Interim Council.  It was officially opened by Bob Hawke, then President of the ACTU and a very well-known, popular and colourful character.  He gave a good opening address, launched the course and TUTA, talked with the media and mingled with the guests.  

The media coverage was generally good, although one cynical journalist, surprisingly from the Age, with snide references to the Diplomat and comparing its St Kilda location to the left bank of Paris, wrote the whole thing up as a frivolous waste of money.  Michael wrote an angry and detailed response stressing the value of union education for a group previously ignored.  In discussions with the other members of the trio he decided not to ask for publication; seeing the letter rather as educational for an ignorant and short-sighted journalist, but in retrospect he regretted not having it published as the start of what turned out to be the need for a long and constant defence of union training against a backdrop of sustained attack and cynical attempts to undermine it.  

Many critics seemed to be happy enough with the place of unions within the system, provided its leaders were denied any opportunity to refine their skills or broaden their view of the world. Others, of course, opposed the very existence of unions and so saw no value in training union officials to make them more effective.

Earlier on in WA Michael had debated the question on ABC TV with Bill Brown, Director of the Chamber of Commerce in that state. Bill was relatively moderate in his views and later became a productive and supportive member of the Interim Committee for Union Training in WA.  It was generally thought that Michael had won the debate because he was able to demonstrate this dichotomy – acceptance of the role of unions but rejection of the need to train union officials to do their jobs more effectively.

In October 1974 Bob Hawke arranged for Michael to be part of a group of union officials to tour Germany at the invitation of the German Government to study unions and union training in that country.  The other members of the delegation were Fred Peterson, National Secretary of the Clothing and Textile Union, Harry Haunschild, Queensland State Secretary of the then Amalgamated Metalworkers Union (AMWU), George McGurk, Secretary of the Commercial Travellers and Salesman’s Guild, and Bob Carr, then Education Officer with the NSW Labor Council and later Premier of New South Wales, then senator and Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Gillard Government.

This being Michael’s first overseas trip since leaving England in 1954, he found it an enthralling experience.  German hosts provided top level access and the group learned much about Germany’s co-determination laws (Mitbestimmung) under which unions have legislated representation on the boards of major companies and the high level of professionalism of German unions. The group visited Berlin, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Bremen, Nuremberg and Munich and Michael later travelled on to England and Ireland to meet union officials in both countries as well as using the opportunity to meet his extended family and to enjoy again some of the haunts of his youth. Unfortunately, the trip meant that he missed the birth of his daughter, Kate, who arrived earlier than expected, which made it impossible for him to get home in time.

On his return from Germany Michael had to face the challenge of applying for the job of Director of the WA branch of TUTA.  Having been part of the team establishing TUTA in Melbourne and having serviced the interim council in WA in an acting capacity he was seen by some as the natural choice for the position, but in the murky world of union politics this was no foregone conclusion. He had inevitably made enemies in some of the difficult funding decisions which had to be made, but also in setting standards which some unions felt unnecessarily onerous.  The position was strongly contested in the end coming down to a battle between Douglas Mitchell, a more academically qualified candidate and Michael.  Michael won, but it was a closely run contest.

The first TUTA training centre in WA was established in a former warehouse/factory building on the corner of Adelaide Terrace and Plain Street in East Perth.  It was a modest building with a small office on the ground floor level at the front, a seminar room on the first floor above the office and a larger training area in what was the warehouse at ground level at the rear. It was furnished with contemporary furniture, constrained only by the fact that, as a Commonwealth agency they had to comply with the then fairly rigid constraints on office furniture. Desk sizes and types of chairs were determined by one’s level within the public service, although they had some flexibility with training furniture and equipment.

Part of Michael’s role as state director was participating nationally as the fledgling organisation was established. This involved regular meetings of directors, but also meetings of sub committees and working groups charged with responsibility for specific tasks to assist in the establishment of the organisation.  Michael pressed strongly and against early opposition from some, for the appointment of a professional finance officer to ensure that systems and controls were set up tightly from the outset.  

He had learned from early experience in Perth that a union organisation receiving government funds would be under greater scrutiny than most and that strict probity, sound systems and meticulous oversight were essential ingredients in building a structure which could withstand the inevitable scrutiny it would receive. To some this was boring administrative detail.  All those involved were enthusiastic and excited about setting up this new and long-needed institution to address the educational needs of a hitherto neglected sector of the community and some wanted simply to get on with this.  Michael found himself in a minority, insisting on sound administration as a foundation for the organisation at the outset, but the experience stood him in good stead in later positions. 

TUTA employed an excellent finance officer in Tony Wade, who surpassed all of their expectations both in his capacity for professional administration and financial control, but also in his commitment to the concept of union education. He ruffled many feathers with his insistence on tight administration and stringent systems, but few ultimately challenged the importance of his work in providing the foundations of a strong organisation able to sustain the attacks that were to come. 

After he left TUTA Tony joined the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN, based in Rome, retiring due to ill-health at a very senior level.

Another area in which Michael had some influence was in pushing for a branding exercise to help establish the identity of the authority. The organisation was, at the time, was known by a plethora of different names. There was the Australian Council for Union Training, six state councils for union training, the National Centre for Union Training, six state centres for union training and the Trade Union Training Authority. Influenced in part by his younger brother, Denny, who had his own small advertising agency called AdPower in Perth, Michael pressed for and achieved the commissioning of a graphic designer, Melbourne-based Terry Baker, to design unifying branding for the organisation and to produce a style guide.  Michael was given the task of meeting with Terry and briefing him on the needs if the organisation.  In an exercise, which Michael later used as a text book example of the importance of branding, Terry came up with the simple logotype TUTA with arrows downwards from the U and up wards from the A. The use of this logotype, together with the style guide gave TUTA a recognisable image within about six months.

With the advent of Malcolm Fraser’s coalition Government in December 1975, TUTA’s future was in doubt.  A Committee of Enquiry into Trade Union Training, was announced by the Government and chaired by Commissioner Paine of the then Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The enquiry, to the surprise of many, painted a positive picture of what TUTA was doing and resulted in increased funding and strong support for union training during the Fraser years. It helped that the two Ministers for Industrial Relations through this period were both moderate Liberals – Tony Street and Ian MacPhee. TUTA would not have survived as long as it did had the Minister been Eric Abetz or Michaela Cash.

Michael and all the initial TUTA staff attended short film making courses at Film Australia in Ryde, NSW so that they could use the latest technology – the J standard reel-to-reel video recorder. Archaic by today’s standards, it required floodlighting to obtain a clear picture, but at the time it was state of the art and allowed TUTA’s trainers to make role playing a centrepiece technique. Several teaching films were made at Clyde Cameron College, under the guidance of Des Hanlon and these were widely used both at the college and at the state centres. Teachers notes were also prepared as were exercises for students.

It could be argued that union training programs in the 1980’s and 90’s (after Michael had left) had a direct bearing on national productivity through support for a number of government reform initiatives during this period.  Certainly TUTA courses and some individual union courses included strong support for the Prices and Incomes Accord and, later, for amalgamation of unions and enterprise bargaining.  They also provided training in support of changes to Occupational Health and Safety laws and, by means of industry development courses, which brought together union officials from the full range of unions within a particular industry (e.g. steel, textile, clothing and footwear) support for the then Government’s industry policies.  TUTA worked closely with the Trade Development Council Secretariat (TDCS) in supporting manufacturing industry policy.

On the other hand it is argued by some that this open support for government initiatives damaged TUTA’s independence and led to it becoming a target for the Howard Government, which abolished the Authority as one of its first acts after being elected to government in 1996.

Michael left TUTA in 1981, having spent eight years in union training, six of them with TUTA.  He went on to become State Secretary of the Labor Party in WA, a senator representing WA I the Australian Parliament and ultimately president of the Senate.



by Mike Newman

1. Risking all in Wodonga

I came home to Australia in 1982, bringing Marianne and the kids with me; and from 1983 to 1989 I worked as a national trainer for the Australian Trade Union Training Authority. TUTA was set up in 1975 by the federal Labor government to provide education and training for trade unionists. I lived in Sydney but did most of my work at the Clyde Cameron College, a residential college in a town called Wodonga, in the north of the state of Victoria. I would fly into Wodonga on a Sunday afternoon and conduct courses that lasted one, two or three weeks. The group would meet for a preliminary session at 7.30 on Sunday evening, and the course proper would start at 9.00 the next morning. 

The courses were full-on. There were two 90-minute sessions in the morning, two in the afternoon and one in the evening. The college could accommodate three courses of up to 25 participants each, and the place, particularly in the bar after the evening sessions, could really hum …

In early 1985 I ran a two-week course for senior workplace reps in the oil industry. There were 16 participants, and the session on Sunday evening was short, consisting of a briefing about the course and a quick round of introductions. The majority came off oil-rigs—a couple of them were divers—and the rest were from refineries. Almost all of them were big, lanky blokes, amiable enough, but not people with whom I would want to have a serious disagreement. We went to the bar at about 8.30, and dispersed to our rooms reasonably quickly after that. In the bar I felt the participants were ready to give me the benefit of the doubt, but only for the time being.

The first morning session involved some input from me about the current industrial relations scene, a period of small-group discussion in which people could put their own views, and then a round-up in the full group again. Some fifteen minutes into the session I could sense the participants’ attention was wandering and one of them, called Jamie, spoke up:

“Listen, Mike. We work outdoors …”

“And under water,” one of the divers said. 

“ … and we’re not used to sitting still for so long.”

“We stop here.” I said. “Get up, go out of the room, and talk among yourselves. I’m here if there is any college info you want. Come back in ten minutes, and we’ll decide what to do.”

It is standard practice in adult training to hand problems back to the participants, and reduce one’s own role to that of a resource, but there’s always a risk. What if some silly bugger proposes conducting the rest of the course in a Wodonga pub? It was with this possibility in mind that I sent them out of the training room into the corridor. This meant that I continued to occupy the training room, and the authority implicit in that.  

They were out for ten minutes and not a second more. Punctuality is important on an oil-rig. They trooped back in and proposed two ten-minute breaks per session, and the odd five-minute break, when the opportunity arose. 

“What about the time lost?” I asked. 

Jamie replied. “We can get some of that back by going on for an extra fifteen minutes into the lunch and dinner breaks.”

We spent the last twenty minutes of this first session preparing questions to put to an official from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who was scheduled to address them in the second session. I tracked the official down during the morning break and explained our group’s decision to have ten-minute pauses.

“Bugger that,” the official said. “I’ve flown up from Melbourne this morning to talk to these blokes and they are just going to have to wear it. I’ve got a lot to cover.”

The second session was not a success. Some of the bigger blokes began shifting uneasily and waving their arms and legs about, a bit like kids in a kindergarten. Others entered a kind of catatonic state. The divers looked serene, and one of them was rocking gently from side to side. Impervious to this, the ACTU official droned on. On our way to the cafeteria for lunch Jamie said to me: “Why didn’t you tell that silly bastard about our ten minute breaks?”

“I did.”

“Why didn’t you insist?”

“Why didn’t you?” I said, and we looked at each other.

This brief conversation was illuminating. If I wanted to stop everything becoming my fault then I would have to do something to save the situation, and do it quickly. I peeled off before we got to the cafeteria, got the keys for the college car, and drove into Wodonga. There I found a shop that sold sweets, and I bought a packet of boiled lollies—pieces of hard candy that are wrapped in cellophane and closed with a twist at both ends. I got back to the college, grabbed and ate a banana, put the lollies loose in my pockets, and headed for the training room and the first of the two afternoon sessions.

The session was about solving problems and I had a perfect example from the morning. I kicked the session off by getting the group to discuss how they had arrived at the decision to have ten-minute breaks. 

“There’s a process in all this,” I said and ran a short trigger film showing a problem developing in a workplace. The film ends with a number of options but no resolution. When the film came to an end I said: “I’m going to ask you a series of questions, and there’s a prize for whoever gives me the right answer first.” The group looked at me.

I asked my first question, one of the participants answered, and I took a lolly out of my pocket and threw it to him. Now this was one of those moments. Once the lolly was airborne there was no turning back. As it flew through the air in a beautiful arc, I thought to myself: “There goes my career.” 

The participants were seated around heavy wooden desks arranged in the shape of a U. My throw was not all that accurate, and the person who answered had to jump up and lean over the desk to catch the lolly. This meant that he was standing, and he remained standing as he unwrapped the lolly slowly, and popped it into his mouth. He sat down and looked round the room with a smirk on his face.

I asked another question, and several people shouted out an answer. I threw another lolly, and the mood had changed. I tried to be even-handed in the way I threw the lollies, and most people got one, but one participant kept missing out. When he finally got a lolly, there was cheering and laughter. We had one of their breaks, and the rest of the course went well …

As the course progressed, the participants got caught up in the exercises and scenarios, and abandoned their ten-minute breaks but still worked into their lunch and dinner breaks. On the second Wednesday, when I said for the second time that they should stop for lunch and no one took any notice of me, I looked across at Jamie, and he shrugged.

2. On love, on love

In 1986 I was asked to coordinate a two-day course for 22 job representatives (shop stewards) of the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Employees’ Union. The union covered people who laid and maintained the pipes, managed and maintained the treatment plants, and kept the water and sewage of Sydney moving. The course was held on the union’s own premises in an improvised training room. I worked on the course along with the Secretary and the union’s research officer, and we covered the union’s history (the Secretary), a little about the industrial relations system in general (me), a lot about the particular agreement covering their members (the research officer), and representing a member, negotiation, and meeting procedure (me) …

The Secretary was Joe Fisher, a redoubtable figure in the trade union movement, a self-educated man who had worked his way up the union’s ranks to the top job. He was a man of strongly held beliefs and principles. When Sydney was constructing a monorail, which was opposed by many on aesthetic grounds, Joe and his union held up construction for some months by refusing to reveal the location of the sewage pipes running under the city streets. This prevented the pilons designed to hold the monorail aloft from being driven into the ground. Joe was a no-nonsense man, and opened his section on the union’s history with the words: “I won’t take long because I don’t know much.”

There had been a slight hiccup during the planning of the course. I had gone to the union’s offices and met with Joe and the research officer. When Joe was outlining what he wanted the troops to learn, he made particular mention of formal meeting procedure.

“But why formal meeting procedure?” I said. “Surely, when a job rep calls a meeting at a plant or a depot, they simply discuss the problem and arrive at a consensus. Wouldn’t it be better if I looked at the way informal groups work, and how you can manage them.”

He looked at me for a while, and then said: “I want you to do formal meeting procedure.” He had a gravelly voice.

I said: “Right. Understood.”

The reps were a cheerful lot. There was a lot of talk before we started, and lots of banter and laughter once the course was underway. But it was more than just good humour. There was a sense of companionship. Working several metres underground had a levelling effect. And there was a sense of trust. Working in a potentially dangerous job meant they had to look after each other.

The tone was set the moment the Secretary began introducing the course and introducing me. They all seemed to know him personally, or behaved as if they did. Very quickly he was interrupted by one of the participants. The matter raised by the participant appeared to have no relationship to the Secretary’s introduction to the course, but neither he nor anyone else seemed to mind. The Secretary dealt with the interruption, finished up, and I began the first session. I was accepted genially enough but certainly not with a respectful silence. Participants felt free, as they had done with their Secretary, to interject, offer me advice, and weigh up what I was saying or doing against their own experience, in a kind of running commentary. It was clear from their demeanour that this was their course, not the Secretary’s, and not mine.

There were people who stood out. There was a large man, in his late fifties, articulate, completely bald, no eyebrows, clad in black and wearing tall black leather boots. There was a young man, younger than most, who was unremarkable in appearance but was listened to hard and accorded a lot of respect. I was handing out printed instructions for an exercise, and one of the participants said: “You are wasting your time giving me one of those, Mike. I can’t read.” And there was a dark-haired, dark-eyed man who sat silent, watching me attentively throughout the two days, but who did not say a word during any of the sessions. ‘Are you having trouble understanding my English?’ I asked him during a break. ‘No,’ he replied.

  So we came to the last afternoon of the course and my session on formal

meeting procedure. The session went smoothly for a while, with unsolicited comments at a level I had come to accept as moderate. I used a film as the starting point for talking about the elements of a meeting and the factors we need to bear in mind to understand and control those elements. Then the participants practised writing motions to put to a meeting, and finally we began an exercise in which we would work stage by stage through the formal procedure of putting a motion to a meeting, seconding it, debating it, amending it and voting on it.

I realise now that I should have used one of the motions written in the

previous exercise. Instead I said: “Let’s assume that we have a motion that says:

‘That this meeting of members of the MWSEU condemns the action of management in moving the time clock from the gates of the site to the workshop doors and calls upon its – ” 

‘They wouldn’t do that, Mike.”

“Wouldn’t do what?”

“Not on our site.”

“Look, that doesn’t matter. I’m just giving it as an example of a motion.” My motion was a hoary one. If the clock is at the gates, then the workers walk to their work on the bosses’ time. If the clock is moved to the workshop doors, the workers walk to work on their own time.

“His example’s no good.”

“Give him a go.”

“What’s the point if it’d never happen?”

The debate continued on three levels: whether or not my choice of example was appropriate; whether or not the union would brook such behaviour by management; and whether or not I should be given a chance to continue the session.

I sat down for a while and waited until the matter was decided by consensus—in the way many workplace union meetings reach decisions anyway. The decision went my way, I was invited to continue, and they let me take them through the stages of debating, amending, and voting on the motion with their usual good humour …

Fast forward to 2017, and I am a member of a group of five, all of us retired, who lunch together and talk politics. All of us have been involved in the trade union movement. Some of us produce papers or, if that sounds too serious, collections of thoughts. 

One of our number was bemoaning the fact that all the recent grand theories—the enlightenment, capitalism, communism, socialism, neo-liberalism, postmodernism—had failed us, and he issued the challenge to our group to come up with a new grand theory. Nothing like thinking big!

For the fun of it, I had a go, and produced a paper. No need for details here, but in it I said that a new kind of society would encourage love, and I used this quote from the social theorist Zygmunt Bauman.

To love means to value the other for its otherness, to wish to reinforce its otherness, to protect the otherness and make it bloom and thrive, and to be ready to sacrifice one’s own comfort, including one’s own mortal existence, if that is what is needed to fulfill that intention.

Bauman’s love is the polar opposite of possession. It is not mawkish, or submissive. It is tough, and, if needs be, demanding. 

Having quoted Bauman, I went looking for an example of his kind of love and I came up with the riotous gang from the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Employees’ Union. Fairness, honesty, solidarity, openness, respect … and, yes, I think there was love.

3. Bringing the state of Victoria to a halt

I imagine most of us would admit to getting a thrill when we find ourselves in the presence of greatness. In my case, greatness came in the form of a smallish, quietly spoken union official …

Another trainer and I were running a two-week course on union management and administration at the college in Wodonga. The course was for newly elected union Secretaries and Presidents who had found themselves responsible for budgets in the millions of dollars, the maintenance of valuable property, the management of staff, and the welfare of thousands of members. They had changed from workplace activist to manager, and they needed to do some rapid learning. There were eighteen participants and it was 1987.

My co-trainer and I had run the course before, and I found it a buzz. The participants were committed unionists who knew the challenges they faced, and they were eager to learn, from each other as much as from the trainers and the guests we invited. These were perfect conditions in which we could run sessions with lots of exchange, and use a complex scenario. For the scenario the participants were divided into two groups, and given the job of preparing for the amalgamation of two unions, each of which had its different history, culture, finances, structure, constitution and rules. 

We started the course on Sunday evening by giving participants three minutes each to introduce themselves. One participant in particular stood out. His name was Len and he had been elected recently to lead a transport workers union in the state of Victoria. His introduction was succinct. The amount of information matched the time available perfectly. And he took up the last 30 seconds or so of his time to argue that every action a union activist took should be aimed at making a gain for her or his members. In the bar afterwards he said little but still somehow seemed to be at the centre of things.

My co-trainer and I led sessions over the first two days on organisational theory, different styles of management, and key management skills. By Wednesday we had the scenario up and running, but took breaks from it for sessions run by visiting experts on industrial law, managing finances, and leadership. On the first Thursday we suggested that the participants elect a course committee, to which we handed over the responsibility for getting (or not getting) expert speakers for the following week. There were no sessions on Saturday but I saw that both groups were hard at work in the college library. 

Because the participants were all busy people, I had a little speech, which I gave on the Sunday evening when the group first gathered. “I know that you have loads of work to do back at the union office,” I would say, “and that there are people who will want your advice or to get you to make a decision for them. This course involves a lot of hard work and you have to throw yourselves into it, so, for the next two weeks I want you to try to forget about what is going on outside.  And please, please, please, don’t ring your office.” This was in the pre-mobile phone era, but the lure of the public phones in the college foyer was irresistible for some.

Late on the second Monday Len approached me. 

“I have to go back to Melbourne,” he said. “And I won’t be back till Wednesday morning.”

“Hang on,” I said. “Don’t you remember what I said at the beginning of the course?”

“I know, I know. But it can’t be helped. I have to go.”


“I can’t really say.”

“Great. I can’t stop you going, but it gives me shits.”

Len left, and I wandered off to the Monday evening session in a foul mood. 

During the break between sessions on Tuesday morning we heard that the State of Victoria was coming to a standstill. The trains were not running. At the lunch break we crowded into the common room where there was a television and watched the news. The union, we were told, had been in negotiations with management for some weeks now. This morning its leaders had delivered an ultimatum, but management had turned them down. The union had called a stoppage in response, and by 11.00 a.m. there were fewer and fewer trains running. Management was caught off guard because they had not believed that the union could act so quickly. Behind the news-reader were shots of empty rail lines. And then, introduced as the “union boss” who had called the strike, Len came on, and the course participants shouted and whistled and cheered, and I could not hear what he said. 

An agreement was reached and trains were running again late that afternoon. Most services were resumed over night, and things were approaching normal the next morning. In the morning newscasts there was comment on how rapidly the strike had been called and how rapidly services had been resumed. 

I went into the training room the next morning a few minutes before 9.00, and there were only two participants there, sitting and waiting for the others to arrive. One of them Len. He smiled.

The scenario culminated with two role-plays on Thursday. Each group played a committee of officials meeting with their members to outline how the amalgamation would be managed, and the form the new union would take. After their presentation, each group took questions, and the rest of the course participants tested and challenged everything they had said. 

The two role-plays took up the whole day. We held mini-debriefings after each one, then a major debriefing on Friday morning. The course ended just before lunch. 

Following his return on the Wednesday morning, Len had knuckled down and participated in the rest of the course. Now I watched him in the second role-play. Others of his group did the presentation, and took questions. Len remained silent. However, I did notice that, when a curly question was asked, the others in the group glanced his way, and he nodded at the person he thought should give the answer …

How do I describe greatness? The French deal much more easily in abstracts than we poor anglophones. We prefer to deal with the physical world. Instead of defining greatness then, I shall describe a great person, and let you decide if Len fitted the bill. A great person provides a role model, has presence, is a mover and shaker, always acts with the general good in mind, and has an effect on history. 


TUTA training methods

by Phil Drew

The training methods which TUTA trainers used involved limited lecturing, use of questions in presentations, small group discussion and report back, role playing with reports being presented on butcher’s paper stuck to training room walls. A number of trainers, particularly in the early days were involved with the adult education organisations and were very interested in the idea of second chance education.

Trainer training courses included consideration of the balance between process (the methods used) and content (what was to be learnt). An example of this is in the use of role play. Participants were not encouraged to take on personas but rather to present their ideas as they would in their normal character. Process in that context referred to learning by doing. But it is always important in either role play or small group work that the review by the trainer be related to necessary content. There will be some issues that should be covered in any discussion of the issue. Any of the content that does not form part of reports from the group should be drawn out in discussion with the whole group. As Clyde Cameron stressed a major objective for TUTA was improved skills and knowledge by union officials and delegates – content. Ensuring that learning was active and tested was the process.

At the college each of the three training suites included six tutorial rooms. In most State centres there were several tutorial rooms to which participants would retire to carry out group work.

Over time TUTA improved its use of course objectives and course reviews. End of course reviews sought responses in terms of the objectives set for the various sessions and the course which were clearly outlined in writing at the outset.

Handouts varied, some were copies of articles and chapters of books but gradually handouts were tailored to each session. Over time each centre and the College used lots of butcher’s paper pasted to the walls of training rooms for group work reports back. During the three week international program the corridor to the furthest training room (Siberia) was clothed almost all the way in such materials which could be referred to during the course.

Film was used sparingly. A substantial film library was built up over time. A half dozen short ‘trigger’ films were made for TUTA by Film Australia. The Director was Keith Gow who had been one of three members of the Waterside Workers’ Film Unit. A longer film was The Claim which explained the process of conciliation and arbitration.

During one of the College’s international courses Mike Newman scripted some short trigger films for participants to use in their training programs at home. The films were made at the College using course participants and was directed by one of them an Indian film director based in the alternative Bollywood of Chennai. The cameraman was David Jones of the College admin.




Anecdotes from WA

by Michael Beahan

Unions as Employers 1

There is a certain irony in the fact that the TLC, the peak body representing unions whose role was to fight for decent conditions for workers should itself be such a poor employer.  Michael’s salary and conditions were based on those of an Education Officer within the Department of Education. This meant a slight drop in salary for him, which he accepted. However, when Education Officers gained an increase and he applied for a corresponding adjustment to his salary he was told by Jim Coleman, Secretary of the TLC that it was not assumed that he would receive automatic increases in line with increases in the Education Department position. Michael did not accept this and had to campaign among TLC delegates to obtain the increased wage.  Luckily, Bill Latter, then President of the TLC and a powerful advocate supported his claim as did many others and he eventually received it, but not without a fight.

On another occasion his application for annual leave was referred to the full TLC, a body of around 200 delegates, for consideration. They approved it, but it was not a foregone conclusion!

Unions as Employers 2

The arrangement for Michael’s secondment was that he would continue to be paid by the WATLC and that the Department would reimburse them. He was also paid a living allowance, which covered the rental cost of the St Kilda apartment he and his wfe rented for the period.  This would have been acceptable had the TLC been more efficient in paying Michael. Frequently his pay cheque would arrive a week or more late.  This made things very tight and difficult at times. He and his wife had let the house in Kalamunda that they were paying off, but the rental was low and did not fully cover the repayments and outgoings, meaning that they were frequently living hand to mouth.  Michael recounts one Sunday in Acland Street, St Kilda, just around the corner from where they lived, having only 20 cents in his pocket, wondering how they were going to manage.

First Encounter with Brian Harradine

The first question asked of Michael by the then doyen of the right wing of the labour movement, Brian Harradine, Secretary General of the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council and a member of the ACTU executive was why he had used Paddy Troy, a well-known Communist union leader in WA, as a tutor in one of his courses.  Paddy had a wonderful knowledge of the history of unionism and was an engaging and well-informed teacher, but the question identified what a wide church is the union movement.  Brian Harradine was later expelled from the Labor Party, but stood as an independent candidate to win a Senate seat from Tasmania. Despite his occasional extreme outbursts and ingrained Catholic conservatism, he wasa strong supporter of worker rights and Michael and he got on well later in life as senators. He was particularly supportive of Michael’s role as Senate president.

Some Difficulties with Unions

On one occasion a dispute arose between the mercurial State Secretary of the Water Supply Union, Gordon Bennett, who insisted on a curriculum for courses for the union’s shop stewards, which did not meet the requirements set by the Council. On Michael’s refusal to fund the courses, his retaliation was to block the sewers of TUTA’s new training centre at the corner of Adelaide Terrace and Plain Street in East Perth.

On another the Trades and Labor Council in an attempt to shed a difficult self-confessed Trotskyite staff member with a wild and undisciplined disposition, decided that he would be shunted into union training.  Michael refused to employ him and, after a difficult and divisive battle the council backed him.  It was an unfortunate practice of some unions to see the new union training body, later to become TUTA, as a repository for difficult union officials or for those challenging the incumbent leadership. They also used and still try to use the Labor Party and parliamentary positions, particularly in upper houses as a similar repository.

While this is not to say that all union appointments to government agencies or into political positions have been incompetent (in fact there have been many star performers from the union movement in politics, the industrial commissions and in union training), it remains true that the capacities of some have been questionable and that these appointments have damaged the gene pool of the institutions upon which they have been foist.

Indian Pacific Odyssey

In order to take his car to Melbourne Michael arranged with the Department to trade his airfares (first class in those days) for a twinette cabin on the Indian Pacific. They loaded the car on in Perth and off-loaded it at Port Augusta in South Australia, driving from there to Melbourne. The trip, which Michael did a couple of times later, while not as spectacular as some of the other classic train trips, is a very relaxed way to travel between east and west coasts if time is not a consideration. One also gains a clear insight into the size and nature of this vast and dry land in the time it takes to cross the sparse, flat and tree less expanse of the Nullarbor Plain.  Unfortunately, Australian governments have never been prepared to invest enough to make this a truly classic experience.

On the drive from Port Augusta to Melbourne they had to plough their way through a locust plague which that year had destroyed thousands of square kilometres of crops in Victoria and South Australia. The car (a Peugeot 504) was so splattered with them that they had to stop twice to clear the radiator to prevent the engine overheating. It took Michael the best part of a day on arrival in Melbourne to clean it.

Butchers Paper; Revolutionary Medium

Michael claims to have introduced Laurie Carmichael (then a living legend of the union movement and senior figure both in the AMWSU and the ACTU) to butcher’s paper to record the ongoing commentary of training groups.  Participating as a tutor at one of TUTA WA’s training courses, Laurie was enthusiastic about the use of butcher’s paper, referring to it as a new ‘revolutionary medium’.  Michael concedes that others lay claim to the same influence on this great union thinker, but he sticks to his claim.



by Phil Drew

One external person who assisted on the International program was Ian Howie, an Australian, first full-time secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress, former ILO officer then working in the Department of Industrial Relations in Canberra. On one course he arrived at the end of the first week. He was a very organised person. The first thing he did was to reorganise the butcher’s paper on the walls of the corridor to Siberia (the training room furthest from the admin area), familiarising himself with the participants and the results of various group sessions. He then sat at the back of the training room for the next couple of sessions checking the handouts, punching holes in them and then filing them in the course folder. The crunching annoyed Mike and Phil but he kept on.

The impact of the international program was demonstrated by the continued desire of unions and individuals in the region to attend future courses and by the number of participants who went on to major roles in their unions, national councils and international trade secretariats. When Phil was working in the region as a consultant and while Education Officer and then Director of the Bangkok based, Danish Government funded, Asian Workers Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Institute (OHSEI) he constantly met former participants of the international program at regional meetings. 

While conducting one of the residential courses at the OHSEI training centre one morning he found a photograph of Cathy Galvin, Alban Gillezeau and himself on his desk. OHSEI’s translator/course assistant, Chalida Srisahaburi, had been a participant on the College international course with Cathy, Alban and himself. Phil assumed it was her photo. But it wasn’t. One of the participants on the course being conducted had visited another union colleague and saw the photo on the bookshelf. Having recognised Phil’s face he learnt that his colleague had been on the same course as Chalida. 

At the time of the 1974 double dissolution election and the Interim Committee Phil had to pick up a car from the Adelaide office of the Department of Labour on the Friday, election eve. As he left the building a group of officers responsible for the local Interim Committee’s affairs were returning from lunch. They were, what Phil describes as Groupers, but certainly staff who had been many years in the Department. One of them turned to Phil and said: “We won’t have to bother with you from Monday!” Of course Labor was returned and they did.

Only once in all Phil’s years of training did a presenter get a standing ovation. The course, at the College, was on occupational health and safety. For the final session Phil had invited a Brisbane-based sports injury medico. He had been invited because in an article the previous weekend he had stated that RSI existed. This was at the time when there was a great deal of argument as to whether RSI did exist. The presenter indicated that he saw RSI every Monday morning as sports persons came to him to be treated for what he stated quite clearly was injury due to overuse. He went on to argue that the biggest difficulty was diagnosing the problem properly. The problem could be in the muscles, in the tissues, in the bones. To treat a wrist problem as a carpal tunnel issue when there was a bone issue would not effect a cure. At first a groan at more RSI but a hugely satisfying standing ovation at the conclusion.

Two Chrises,

It has been noted in earlier posts that the residential component of the College included 50 single rooms and 13 doubles. The choice of the doubles was a reflection of Clyde Cameron’s belief, at least in the planning period, that there would be long courses for union organisers and that it would be beneficial if their spouses could attend. However, when the College was full, which occurred more often from the mid ‘80s some participants had to share. It was never popular. One Sunday as Phil met incoming participants directing them to their rooms and explaining the College process a participant named Chris came and asked did he have to share. Phil briefly explained the situation and Chris went off. An hour or so later Chris and a female unionist came to Phil again. He realised immediately what was happening the female had also been registered as Chris. Alternative arrangements were made.

Chalking on the UTLC meeting hall wall

There were regular addresses of the UTLC weekly meeting. At the time of the Hayden budget Phil was asked about the changes to the tax regime. The fourteen steps were reduced to five and a rebate of $500 per taxpayer was introduced. Phil was asked to explain. Having a piece of chalk in his pocket (pre-white board days) he began to use the bricks as a means of demonstrating the rising tax brackets to gasps from the audience. He promised to return the next day to remove the offending chalk marks. In subsequent years TUTA offered an evening review of the various Fraser budgets. Information was provided by person(s) who had been in the State lockup. The State program included sessions on economics and industrial psychology, on drug and alcohol programs and a host of other topics.

A Fraser Budget night

On one Fraser Budget night Laurie Carmichael was in town. One of the AMWU organisers was in the report back from Prof. Bruce McFarlane, accompanied by Laurie. Laurie was seated well away from the presentation. At some point it became apparent that the message wasn’t getting across. Phil grabbed the flip chart board and began asking questions of Bruce noting the responses on the butchers’ paper. After a few minutes Laurie started paying attention. He liked the way ideas could be organised using the flip chart. Michael Beahan may have introduced Laurie to butchers’ paper but this was another example of its versatility.

Changing Laurie

Laurie Carmichael first came to South Australia for a vehicle industry course in the Interim Committee days, organised by Bill Kelty when he spent several months with the precursor to TUTA. Laurie was given a brief about the session and where it fitted into the course. He was also asked to speak for about 45 minutes and then questions for 45 minutes. He would always take about an hour and 25 minutes and ask for questions. Usually there were none! Exposure to butchers’ paper and the blackboard Laurie began to use the latter but the result was as dense as his presentations neatly organised and filling in the whole board. On one occasion  Laurie said at the start he would not make a presentation, only take questions.  His response to the first question took about 29 minutes. There were very few more.

The dismissal

On 11 November 1975 the SA Training Centre was still a gutted section of a former electrical sales company now owned for the PSA of SA. Phil and Jan Wilkie squatted there for some months while the formal arrangements for leasing were made and the fit out completed. The Department had wished for the centre to lease space in the Motor Traders building!  Just before 12 noon an organiser from the PSA rushed into the cavernous space saying “Gough’s been sacked”. Confirming this on the car radio Phil was to drive to the Woodhouse Activity Centre in the Adelaide Hills.(the Boy Scout’s centre) to address an AMWU national organisers course conducted by Laurie Carmichael. Within minutes everyone had climbed into cars and headed in to Adelaide to join the throngs chanting “We want Gough”, “Down with Kerr and Fraser.”


Establishing TUTA in South Australia

by Phil Drew, South Australian Centre 1974-9

In South Australia Colin McDonald was appointed by the WEA of South Australia to be Trade Union Education officer in early 1973. (The United Trades and Labor Council was happy to cede responsibility to the WEA when the South Australian Labor Government offered funding). In August of 1973 Colin became Acting WEA director and Phil Drew was appointed to the temporary position of Trade Union Education Officer to carry on the program.

The South Australian program established some of the principles for union training. Initially it focussed on development style courses (for example 10 Friday afternoon and evening programs with participants having dinner together), then began shop steward 1, 2 and 3 programs conducted over three days (1: organising your self; 2: organising the workplace, 3: building on a range of topics such as OHS, Conciliation and Arbitration, Workers’ Compensation, economics, meeting procedure, researching a company, industrial democracy, courses for young workers, women and migrants, there were also courses for public sector workers). 

Courses were mostly conducted in the Trade Hall until the Gilbert St fit-out was completed in 1976 with facilities for conducting two courses simultaneously, but were also taken to Mt Gambier (in the south in winter!), Port Pirie and Port Augusta (in the summer!). It conducted an annual one-week residential course in the Woodhouse Activity Centre in the Adelaide Hills. 

Phil was joined at the WEA by Bill Kelty in mid 1974. Bill had been an industrial officer in the National Union of Workers and left in late 1974 to join the ACTU also as a research officer. He encouraged the expansion of the program.

Participants were drawn from a wide range of unions and industries with many from the AEU, Vehicle Builders, Railway workshops, nursing federation, and others. Paid trade union training leave had been granted to State public sector workers and on an ad hoc basis by many employers. A case to include paid union training leave in State awards was conducted in the SA Industrial Commission before Commissioner Greg Stevens in XXX

With the passage of the legislation establishing TUTA Colin McDonald indicated that he did not wish to leave the WEA to establish the South Australian Centre of TUTA. Directors were appointed nationally and in each State from early 1975. Phil Drew was appointed in April 1975 to that role and he and a secretary (Jan Wilkie from the WEA TUE office) soon squatted in the gutted ground floor of the PSA building in Gilbert Street for some months while the formal arrangements for leasing were made and the fit out completed.

By December 1974 at the national Interim Committee meeting drawn from State Councils the South Australian program had conducted some thirty-odd two- and three-day courses with a total attendance of 509.

The first training staff appointed were, first, Frances Baldwin (now Meredith) and, later,  Ken McLean both of them had been educated at the University of NSW studying Industrial Relations under Bill Ford. That program involved emphasis upon improved workplace relations through greater involvement of workers. A second administrative position was created and filled by Christine Doyle, also from the WEA’s staff. In February 1979 Phil Drew was appointed to the Clyde Cameron College as Assistant Director of Studies. His replacement was David Ruff formerly of James Cook University.


Establishing TUTA

by Phil Drew,  Clyde Cameron College 1979-91

For some years prior to the establishment of the Australian trade union training authority (TUTA) in 1975 a number of trade unions in Australia had begun to offer training to key cadres. Most of this training had been done by left wing unions and was mostly concerned with building up a network of committed activists often with socialist or communist political leanings. Max Ogden noted that the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU, later the Amalgamated Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU)) “found it necessary to develop two levels of schools – one for the new or inexperienced shop steward and one for those wanting to go past job problems”.[1]

By the early seventies a new approach to training for unionists began to be developed. This involved support from governments as well as from trade unions. From 1972/3 State Labor Governments offered funding. In Western Australia and Tasmania State Government funding for what was initially called trade union education was conducted through the Labour Councils, while in South Australia it was funded through the Workers Education Association. Funding was sufficient to support a trainer, course costs and office space.

At that time there were three peak trade union bodies: the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations (ASCPA) and the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations (CCPSO, later Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations (CAGEO)). ACSPA and CCPSO began conducting national (and later some State level) residential summer schools dealing with economics, conciliation and arbitration, etc. Peter Matthews, ACTU Eduction Officer worked to coordinate these courses.[2] These national courses were conducted in Canberra on the Australia Day long weekend in University facilities and Halls of Residence. The schools received sponsorship from organisations such as the Commonwealth Bank. South Australia and Western Australia also began conducting residential schools once or twice a year.

A further new approach was less lecturing and more interactive sessions with group work role play and reports back.

At the 1971 National ALP Conference Clyde Cameron was instrumental in ensuring that Labor was committed to supporting trade union education. cite clause

With Labor’s election in December 1972 the opportunity was present for the funding of union education. Funds were provided by Cameron’s Department of Labor for women union members to attend the 1975 summer school. An Interim Committee of the National Council for Trade Union Training was established (was it in 1974?). The idea of union education had become union training. At the 1974 summer school assembled staff and lecturers heard with dismay that education had become training to keep the organisation ‘out of the hands of the Minister of Education,’ and in the hands of Clyde Cameron, Minister for Industrial Relations who was strongly in favour.

In 1974 the Interim Committee established committees in all States and began making funding available to bodies established in each State. The Committees approved programs of training and earmarked funding for a variety of purposes: venue hire, lecturers, travel costs (for participants travelling more than 50 kms), some lost wages for participants on proof that wages were not paid by the employer, materials, etc. Courses were to be multi- organisational, not for individual unions. This policy continued for many years.

Over the years more and more awards provided for paid trade union training leave until they were outlawed in the Howard years when negotiable matters were severely restricted.

Passage of the Act

The passage and declaration of the TUTA Act was a close run thing. Malcolm Fraser had been shadow Industrial Relations Minister before becoming Opposition leader.[3] He had met many trade union leaders and was courted in that position by Clyde Cameron. While the TUTA bill was in the House word came that some of the coalition’s senators would oppose the legislation. Fraser rose and supported it in the House indicating that in office his government would conduct an inquiry into TUTA and would have attached training to a tertiary institution such as RMIT. The Bill was passed to the Senate on 30 April 1975. The Act amended in the Senate, mainly technical amendments and agreed to in the House on 2 June. It was assented to on 6 June 1975.

Interim Committee

The Secretariat of Peter Matthews, Colin McDonald and Michael Beahan had been busy since late 1974. The logo: TUTA was created and style manuals for leaflets, envelopes, etc were developed. Plans were drawn up for a national residential college in the growth centre of Albury-Wodonga on 8 acres of land in Wodonga. This building won a design award for its architect, Kevin Borland and in July 2008, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects awarded its “25 Year Award for Enduring Architecture” to the former Clyde Cameron College building in Wodonga, Victoria.[4]

As crates of equipment and materials to the Clyde Cameron College Project began arriving (CCCP the former description of the Soviet Union) the College became known, locally, for a time as ‘Red Square’. A number of public activities soon changed that perception. In its final years its three suites of training rooms (each comprising a training room and six tutorial rooms), and auditorium, 50 single and 13 double rooms of accommodation, an administrative and training staff offices, a dining hall and kitchens, and recreational facilities including a billiard room, games room and a covered swimming pool conducted courses for 3,000 trade unionists each year; a quarter of the participants were full-time and four courses were for trade unionists from the Asia-Pacific region, the remaining two-thirds were workplace delegates.

Work on the College began in October 1975. The Labor Government was sacked on 11 November! The Fraser government established a Committee of Inquiry in March 1977 and reported August 1977.[5] It was conducted by Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration  Commissioner Alan Paine with John Menz, GM of Arnott, Motteram Menz Pty Ltd in South Australia and Harry Haunschild, President Trades and Labor Council of Queensland. A further requirement was a survey of trade unions to determine the size of the market.[6]

Survey, result XXX

The Fraser years

When Fraser came to office TUTA comprised about 20 staff. When he left office it had 116, the same number that it had when Keating Labor was defeated.

Initially the National Office and the Victoria training centre were co-located at 2 Drummond St, Carlton. The building had been used by the Australian Navy for some time. The motto of the unit was “Strike hard, strike fast.’ It was not regarded as appropriate in that era of strikes.

[1] Max Ogden: Which Trade Union education? Tribune Tue 27 Mar 1973 Page 8.; and Coping with union education in the AMWU Tribune Tue 16 Jul 1973 Page 6. In NSW unions including the BWIU created the Trade Union Information and Research Centre.

[2] The ACTU appointed an Education officer, Peter Matthews, when Bob Hawke became President. Gradually the three peak councils increased their involvement conducting the last Australia Day summer school in 1975.

Peter was an Oxford graduate who had worked with the TUC in Britain and joined the Treasury in Canberra before conducting the extension board work of Sydney University in Newcastle working closely with the WEA but also conducting programmes for unionists.

[3] Fraser spoke on the Second Reading of the Act on 23 April 1975 it is an interesting read.;db=HANSARD80;id=hansard80%2Fhansardr80%2F1975-04-23%2F0074;query=Id%3A%22hansard80%2Fhansardr80%2F1975-04-23%2F0065%22


[5] For a list of submissions see:

[6] For copy of Report see:  Australia. Committee of Inquiry into Trade Union Training at



Clyde Cameron College
by Phil Drew

The Clyde Cameron College building won a design award for its architect, Kevin Borland and in July 2008, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects awarded its “25 Year Award for Enduring Architecture” to the former Clyde Cameron College building in Wodonga, Victoria. Its suites of training room and six small group rooms made it a wonderful place in which to conduct active engaging courses. Its many glass walls meant participants did not feel walled in. Some be in surprised after a few days to realise they had not been outside.
The College program included:
Trainer training courses. Initially these were of three weeks duration covering a wide range of skills. Later, to increase the number of union trainers a one-week basic training skills course introduced trainers to basics of leading discussion and conducting interactive training. A subsequent two week course completed training for those who had gone on to conduct courses. All TUTA trainers worked through this program.
Dispute handling courses. These were mostly of one week’s duration in which union organisers and some senior shop stewards developed negotiating skills and a basic understanding of the ways in which the conciliation and arbitration system impinged on their activities. Practice in role-play exercises were a key aspect of the courses. 
Industrial officers courses. Two week courses designed to follow all of the stages of presenting cases in the Commission, including some negotiating skills. Final presentations were made to a real Commissioner who both heard the cases and made a presentation prior to the practice.
Union secretaries courses. Two-week course designed particularly for new secretaries to include discussion of their responsibilities, handling staff, basic accounting, etc. Projects in later years (post Australia Reconstructed) included how to merge two unions.
Industry union courses. In the early 90’s with union amalgamation underway courses for organisers were conducted. One course of this type was a regular twice a year program for trainers in the Metal Trades Federation of Unions dealing with the introduction of consultative committees, improved skill classifications etc as part the centralised wage-fixing system, and the Accord.
Industry development courses. When the Accord process began to develop an industry focus TUTA began to work with the Trade Development Council Secretariat run by Ted Wilshire. This involved rapidly organised courses for up to 80 or more participants (union officials but also, occasionally, managers) from various industry sectors. 
Development-style courses. Participants were mostly drawn from past participants in State centre courses. These were two-weeks in duration involving sessions on economics, current developments in IR, a variety of projects.
The Compleat Union Rep. A one-week course for those who had done shop steward’s courses in the State programs. Its focus was strengthening personal and workplace organisation to better represent the union’s workplace members and the wider union.
Specific theme courses. OHS, Industrial democracy, consultative mechanisms.
International union courses. See below
On a visit to the College in 1994, then Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Peter Reith, when told of the international program, suggested eagerly that we had only to seek their assistance as ‘they have lots of money’ rather than accepting Government money. When TUTA was closed on 30 June 1996 the building was sold for $1.25m with the caveat that the Government would meet the cost of any damage by white ants. The building first functioned as a hospice for cancer patients, then it was the Murray Valley Radiation Oncology Centre which closed in December 2016 and is now the Murray Valley Private Hospital Part of Ramsay Health Care. The building is now Heritage listed. (see below).
The first courses at the College began in 1978?? In the early days external bodies conducted courses/meetings at the College. The catering and cleaning functions were carried out by the Commonwealth body responsible for running migrant hostels. The cost of attendance at the College was set on the following basis: in keeping with the idea of free tertiary education the participating unions paid for the cost of travel to and from the College. The cost for full-time officer courses was set at a higher level so that the cost for part-time representatives was substantially lower. The fees collected each year covered the cost of travel to the College. The proportion of women attendees was always low until the last few years, in part as Phil Drew was replaced as Director by Jenny Luck, in 1991. 
Following the 1993 election this pricing policy was changed and led to a decline in attendances in TUTA’s last year or so. It was decided that there should be a charge of $5 per person per day(or week?). It was argued this was necessary to meet the possibility that TUTA would be wound up if Labor lost office. This fee was increased over time. It meant that if course fees were to differentiate between those for part-time and full-time officers the scheme required far higher charges for full-time courses thus reducing support. A basic issue here was that the College needed to operate with about 3,000 participants a year. There were only in the order of 2,000 full-time union officers. The proportion of part-time officers to full-timers needed to be at least 2-to-1. 
Child care was a more difficult issue as there were few full day care facilities in Albury-Wodonga. TUTA offered assistance for alternative arrangements including the extra cost for some attendees to arrange for grandparents in other cities to care for the child/children of the participant.
The international program
The Clyde Cameron College commenced three week regional trainer training courses in September 1981. The first course was arranged with the Public Services International (PSI) regional body, following an approach from Paul Munro of ACOA (Administrative & Clerical Officers Association, forerunner of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). A major supporter was the AUPE (Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, based in Singapore), whose Secretary, Kandasamy was also regional Secretary of PSI and PTTI (Postal, Telegraph and Telephone International).
In keeping with the then policy of the courses being free PSI met the cost of travel to and from the College. In a number of cases side visits to Australian unions were arranged. Participants came from Singapore, Malaysia, PNG, India, Fiji, Thailand (one of whose three participants did not speak very much English, but, by the end of the course was able to present, visually, the course program that had been the group project). The number of participants was restricted to 18.
The course was rated a huge success and the following year two courses were arranged simultaneously for PSI and PTTI. 
Over the following years other International Trade Secretariats (ITS) joined, as did the International Labor Office (ILO). From 1986 two parallel courses were conducted each January/February (from Australia Day weekend) and a second pair of courses in September. 
The program continued until 1996. Over 900 participants took part from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, PNG, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and on one occasion Tahiti. 
Two of the International Labour Organization based courses dealt with industrial relations issues: preparing a case, negotiating, representing members in a tribunal.
An issue for the College was a start date for courses at the beginning of the year. Even with the advertising of courses in the following year from October/November it was difficult to start before the Australia Day weekend. From about 1988 or 89 the policy on single union courses was eased and then there was some competition by unions to conduct their own courses at the same time as the international courses. As the College was set up to run three courses together this meant there were three one week spaces available for Australian unions. One regular was the AMP Staff Association course led by Jill Biddington. She described the experience gained by her union reps in close contact with the international participants as “the single greatest investment in union change and realignment to organising and union education.”
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) was another ITS which sponsored a college international course in 1985. The course was the first stage in a project which was to fund training officers in a number of Asia-Pacific countries (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Fiji, Vanuatu, ??). These officers would be paid $US250 per month and a further $US250 per month to conduct courses. The key support person at the ITF was Mo Hoda, the Asian region secretary. operating out of London. The College, of course had plenty of resources and dedicated training facilities. Many of the participants in the ITF program barely had offices. A review of the project was carried out four years later at the International ITF conference in Tokyo. Participants were asked, in addition to reporting on their project, to indicate what simple training methods they had used/developed. In Pakistan courses were conducted in various offices, in the open with a sheet draped over a tree branch and the visuals were: velcro backed cards. One of the Indian participants was wedded to lectures finding group work a bit unusual. However, he explained that in his courses he lectured in the morning but broke the course into groups giving them a task. He said the transformation was ‘amazing. When they came back they were agog with ideas.”
International course trainers were drawn from the College, State centres, former international participants, persons with a background in education, International Labour Organization, etc. Some of the trainers who assisted on the International program were 
from TUTA:
Jerry Voll, Jim Millar, Chris Horton, Tony McCaffrey, Michael Kinnane, Cathy Galvin, Mike Newman, Jenny Luck.
Ian Howie, Alban Gillezeau, Raymond Harbridge, Claire Aitchison, Joan Wilkinson, Greg Donnelly,

SPOCTU (South Pacific and Oceanic of Trade Unions)
The College became involved in some of the activities of SPOCTU once it established an office in Brisbane operated by Raghwan, 
an active Fijian trade unionist, who became Education Officer of SPOCTU and later joined the International Labour Organization (ILO).

APHEDA (Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad)
APHEDA is the overseas aid agency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, established in 1985. The College took up support for
APHEDA. Claire Aitchison, on its staff, assisted on several international courses and it was routine for participants to learn of APHEDA
and to raise funds which rose to more the $10,000. Participants often raised funds in their workplaces and unions later.