Hi, Shepperson !
Here are some online sources to get you started on your project.
Workers Online have a website which includes historical features at:
One such article, "Wherever the Necessity Exists", by Dr Rae Cooper,
who teaches industrial relations in Work and Organisational Studies at
the University of Sydney,can be found at:
While describing the rise of unionism in the period after the turn of
the century, Rae describes the various occupations that became
unionised, and the gradually involvement of women workers.
"Often when the Committee organised a group of workers, its actions
were motivated by reports of 'sweating' in a workplace involving long
working hours, low wages and poor workplace safety. Indeed the
Anti-Sweating Committee of the Labor Council which was established in
the middle of the decade, was almost indistinguishable in its
membership from the Organising Committee. Organising a workplace was
seen as a remedy to the exploitation of workers across a number of
industries in rural and urban New South Wales including among
assurance agents, canvassers and collectors, and workers in the timber
and tanning industries. Invariably when organising was undertaken
among women workers it was amidst claims of exploitation and ill
While working conditions were hard, the Union movement was very active
throughout this period, encouraging workers to organise and negotiate
to improve conditions.
There are other historical articles on this site.
The Jarrahdale site has a timeline which gives a good picture of
living and working conditions in the area a the period (scroll down to
find 1900). You will find it at:
For example, the summary of the decade 1900-1910 reads:
· "5 mills operating around Jarrahdale.
· Population of 1200 people; 800 more housed in surrounding bush
landings and remote sites.
· 54 hour working weeks
· Whims now in common use for hauling logs.
· Cottages consisted of rough boards, corrugated iron, fairly
primitive, water from huge wooden overhead tanks filled from river
Hardship developed because of over production of timber in mills. "
The decade is then broken down year by year.
Other historic townships will have similar information - try Ballarat
and Hill End, for example.
For pictures of the period go to Picture Australia at:
Type in - for example - 1910 in the search box and hit Go to find a
range of photographs and other material of the period held in the
various state libraries and university collections. Refine your search
by using - say - "Family 1910" or "Sydney 1910" and a visual picture
of the era begins to build up. Click on thumbnail images to enlarge
them and find out more information. You may be transferred to the
library which holds the image.
Here for example, from the Lake Macquarie City Library, is the first
police officer to be stationed in Killingworth, with his family on the
verandah of their home, giving a very good idea of the clothing of the
Try looking for factories, transport, homes for more pictures.
The Institute of Surveyor's site deals briefly with the history of
"During the great infrastructure development of the mid to late 1900's
they provided surveys for hydroelectric schemes, roads, irrigation
areas, dams and bridges.
In doing so they faced many challenges. Initially there was the
harshness of a new, unknown and unforgiving land. Then there were the
technical challenges. It was difficult to make accurate measurements
using the technology of the day (chains and steel bands). Computations
were also difficult requiring logarithmic tables and slide rules or
mechanical calculating machines."
An article by David Hayward - "The Reluctant Landlord; a History of
Public housing in Australia" deals in part with this period at:
"At the beginning of the twentieth century, Australia had just begun
to shake off the effects of the savage depression that had enveloped
the nation during the 1890s. The virtual absence of a welfare state
expanded considerably the ranks of the large minority of the
population already living in very austere conditions (cf Fitzgerald,
1987). There was no public housing, so the only tenure options
available were private renting - which accounted for 45% of households
in 1911 - and home ownership - which accommodated 50% of households."
He goes on to describe the outbreaks of disease which resulted from
urban overcrowding, among other issues.
There are several pages to this article - click on "next" at the
bottom of the page to progress.
Finally, The National Library of Australia (which provides a direct
link to Picture Australia) also has online access to its catalogue,
which includes oral history and a wealth of other resources. They can
be found at:
Go to the catalogue and use their search facility (menu on left) and
try the "other subject keywords" mode for most flexibility to see what
they've got - but they'd be of most use to you if you were in
Australia 1900-1910 working conditions
living conditions Australia 1900
Australian National Library