Chair’s Report 2019

LHP Chairperson Cybele Locke and others at the Labour History Project’s AGM, Wellington Museum, 2019. 

I want to begin by acknowledging the incredible work of the Labour History Project Committee – Dan Bartlett, Russell Campbell, Peter Clayworth, Jared Davidson, Ciaran Doolan, Richard Hill, Emma Kelly, Claire-Louise McCurdy, Therese O’Connell, Matariki Roche, Marie Russell, Ross Teppett, Sue Shone and Ross Webb. Thank you all for your talents, enthusiasm and storytelling. Dan left the Committee for Christchurch, but has continued to offer his copy editing and reviewing skills from the South. It is with great sadness we farewell Richard Hill, Emma Kelly and Marie Russell from the Committee. Richard, your historical knowledge of our organisation is beyond compare and we will miss your wisdom. Emma, thank you for your editorial talents, your sparkle and archival advice, and Marie for your calm logic and strategic questions.

Labour History Project work continues to centre on the Labour History Project Bulletin. Paul Maunder became the Bulletin editor in early 2018 and has brought together a diverse array of insightful labour history work. One of Paul’s excellent initiatives has been including interviews with retiring trade unionists – Maxine Gay and Robert Reid in Issue 73, and Bill Bradford in Issue 75. With Ross Webb’s leadership, the News and Reviews sections of the Bulletin have become substantial, containing many excellent suggestions for all you avid labour history readers. Ross Webb, Emma Kelly and I edited the 2018 Special-themed Bulletin – Pay Equity and Equal Employment Opportunity. Given it was 125 years since New Zealand women were enfranchised, it was an appropriate moment to explore such a theme – how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. I want to thank all our contributors to the Bulletin – article, news and reviews writers, copyeditors, and of course, the continuing fantastic design work of Jared Davidson.

This year we decided our Special Theme would be – Winning Ways. We are interested in the methods unions and community organisations have utilised in their successful struggles to improve the lives of working people. For example, the weekend, the abolition of child labour, the eight-hour day, pay equity, health and safety regulations, accident compensation, guaranteed meal breaks, sick pay, paid holidays, nuclear free New Zealand, and so forth. Some are rights we take for granted; others have been thoroughly eroded; all were won in struggles where trade unions and community allies played a leading role.

Judging the 2018 Bert Roth Award for labour history has kept Claire-Louise, Ross Webb, Jared Davidson and me very busy. It is a fantastic opportunity to review the wealth of talent out there.

Jared Davidson did a superb job of redesigning the LHP website, which not only looks beautiful but is well-structured so it is easy to find the information you are looking for. Jared also continues to keep the LHP lively on Facebook, sharing many varied and fascinating labour history images, news and views items, and has taken up the task of doing so on Twitter as well.

Last year we mentioned our new project as a Committee was the creation of a graphic history that tells our labour history from an array of image-led perspectives. Ex-LHP Committee member Michael Brown, who with Mat Tait produced graphic tales in The Heading Dog Who Split in Half: Legends and Tall Tales from New Zealand, shared his expertise on the art of producing a graphic work. Our Committee held a workshop to brainstorm story-board ideas and we are next inviting artists to collaborate with us on graphic ideas. This exciting project is on its way.

I want to warmly thank Claire-Louise for her administrative work and Russell Campbell for keeping track of our funds and members. I also want to acknowledge Russell’s work of overseeing the funds that enable Rebecca Macfie to write a biography of Helen Kelly. Thank you both; I couldn’t do the Chair work without you.

And finally, I want to thank you – our members – who sustain and inspire the work we do. Voluntary work in the after-hours of our day is not always easy, and on behalf of the LHP Committee, I want to acknowledge all of you who have sent supportive emails, ideas, questions, labour history work and comradery. It keeps us connected in the work we do.

Kia kaha Labour History Project.

Cybèle Locke