Let’s get women of steel into schools

Women of Steel is a fascinating, feisty, funny and inspiring story of extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people facing down discrimination and changing the world through their determination and solidarity, writes Will Brodie.

Having premiered on ABC TV Plus in March this year, Women of Steel is an award-winning documentary about the historic 14-year battle fought by women to gain the right to work at the Wollongong steelworks.

It is a story which has the power to inspire and influence younger generations of women and future unionists.

No jobs for women

After being told “there’s no jobs for women” at the local steelworks in 1980, a group of Australian and migrant women began a campaign against Australia’s most powerful company, AIS/BHP.

There was high unemployment in Wollongong during this period and the city’s major employer, AIS/BHP, employed more than 20,000 men but refused to give jobs to women.

With the backing of local unions, the women took them from the factory gate to the highest court in Australia, setting legal precedents for the industrial rights for women – and men.

The women’s political and legal battle for the right to work changed the rules for all Australians forever.

“We started to realise that discrimination wasn’t just a personal thing, it was a systemic thing,” one of the ‘Gong pioneers said.

Another says a slogan of the time was, “A woman’s place is everywhere”.

Fight for equality

These were revolutionary concepts at a time when a woman still couldn’t get a loan or enter some parts of a pub without a man.

The documentary sets out how ideas that emerged from the women’s liberation movement and anti-discrimination legislation informed the stalwarts who fought for equality in the male-dominated industry.

Award-winning film

Completed in November 2020, the film has been awarded several history awards. It was a finalist in the ATOM (Australia Teachers of Media) Best Documentary Social Political and Best Documentary History category; winner of the History Council of NSW Macquarie PHA Applied History Award and is shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Digital History Award.

The film’s makers are keen for you to watch Women of Steel, but they also want to get the documentary into schools and on to curricula.

“We have made an Education Study Guide to accompany the film and are keen for you to both watch Women of Steel and to get it to other teachers, schools and into the curriculum as soon as possible,” they said.

Some suggestions:

  • include information about the film on your noticeboards and websites and in your newsletters
  • seek to have the film used as part of your professional development
  • put the film forward as a component of your school’s curriculum.

How do I watch Women of Steel?

For schools: following the broadcast school libraries can access the film using their Screenrights license through services such as Click-view,

TV4Education and infoRMIT. You can also purchase a DVD at https://womenofsteel.bigcartel.com

The Study Guide is available at the Education Shop: https://theeducationshop.com.au/downloads/women-of-steel-atom-study-guide/

For further information, visit the Women of Steel website: www.womenofsteelfilm.com