Pig Iron Bob. You've heard the nickname. Now know the story. Tickets are on sale now here.
On November 15th 1938, 180 men on the Port Kembla wharves stopped loading scrap iron on one ship, the Dalfram. They believed the pig iron being loaded was destined for Japan to be used in the invasion of China where hundreds of thousands of innocent people were being killed. They also held an unshakeable belief that soon the pig iron would return as bullets against Australians in Japan’s advance south.
What followed was a long list of unexpected events, turns and extreme pressure on the Wharfies and their families as for the first time, working class had influenced international foreign policy. Urgent telegrams to the Prime Minister Joe Lyons by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce demanded whatever necessary be done to get the men back to work... but this was not an industrial strike. It was a moral issue, a loud warning against the rise of fascism internationally and the community continued to back the pig iron wharf labourer’s dispute despite a shortage of food and money in the local area.
Organisations and individuals from around Australia sent in funds and Australia was divided. Menzies was put under significant pressure. Joe Lyons was ill and he could be the next Prime Minister. He was in a Catch 22 – how long to feed the nation with profits from sale of pig iron to Japan whilst Japan was on the march south and Australia was in its sights?
What came of the dispute was a nickname, that lasted an eternity - Pig Iron Bob.
Wollongong Town Hall
Wollongong, NSW 2500
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