Symposium: Work, Unions and Everyday Life in the Context of Disruption
This symposium, organized by the ‘Arts, Labour & Working Life RMIT Collective,’ aims to take a multidisciplinary approach to explore work, labor and working class life through art, history, education and activism.
There has been a long-standing connection between unions, art and workers’ lives. As work and workplaces are being re-invented and ‘Uber’-isation sits often uncomfortably alongside calls for ‘decent work’, how should the arts community, unions, workers and academics respond?
For unions, art has often been a way of connecting work and workers lives in creative ways, from union banners to art collections, union and worker-made films and poetry to Scabby the Rat, the giant inflatable rat who travels to picket lines.
These issues and more will be the focus of our three panels which aim to create a debate space around ‘New Work and Everyday Life’; ‘Education, Justice and Social Change; and ‘Imagery, Performance and New Activism.’
12: 30 pm-1:15 pm: Lunch
1:15 pm-1:20 pm: Introduction by Ruth Barton, Convener of the ‘Arts, Labour & Working Life RMIT Collective’
1:20 pm-2:00 pm: Key Note Speech by Andrew Reeves
2:00 pm-2: 45 pm: Panel I - New work and everyday life
Chair: Martin Wood
Speakers: Rebecca Conroy, Marcus Westbury and Grace Mcquilten
2:45 pm-3:00 pm: Break
3:00 pm- 3:45 pm: Panel II - Education for Justice & Social Change
Chair: Antonio Castillo
Speakers: Peter Kelly, Anne Duggan and Young Workers Centre
3.45 pm-4.30 pm: Panel III - Imagery, Performance and New Activism
Chair: Geoff Hogg
Speakers: Ruth Barton, Julian Goddard, Cathy Brigden and Lorella Di Pietro
4:30 pm-4:45 pm: Contrasting the past and present by Bill Ethell
4:45 pm-5:00 pm: Closing symposium remarks by Peter Fairbrother
5:00 pm-6: 30 pm: Drinks
Dr Ruth Barton’s research interests are in trade unions, work and (almost) all things Tasmanian. She has been active in the trade union movement for more years than she cares to remember and is currently undertaking an Australian Research Council project on trade unions and industrial regeneration in North West Tasmania. She is a member of the RMIT University Centre for People, Organizations and Work (CPOW)
Associate Professor Cathy Brigden’s current research includes an exploration of women in trade unions and peak unions, in particular the Female Confectioners Union, a key women’s union. Her other research interests include union strategies and regulation, industry superannuation, and a comparative study of workers’ theatre. A labour historian and industrial relations academic, she coordinates the Women + Work research cluster in the Centre for People, Organizations and Work (CPOW).
The Young Workers Centre is a one-stop-shop for young workers who want to learn more about their rights at work or who need assistance in resolving workplace issues. Our team of lawyers, organisers, educators and researchers seek to empower young people working in Victoria with the knowledge and skills needed to end workplace exploitation and insecurity. The Young Workers Centre produces resources aimed as assisting young people to understand their rights at work, such as fact sheets, as well as running training days and social events for young people who want to get more involved in the fight for safe and secure jobs. The Centre also provides personalised advice for young people who have come across issues at work such as unfair dismissal, bullying and harassment.
Sarah Bright is a founding member of the Young Workers Centre, where she works on research and projects that advocate for young people at work. She has previously worked in trade unions, higher education and ethical clothing and footwear. Her studies include communications, economics and data analytics
Dr Antonio Castillo is a Latin American journalist and Director of the RMIT University Centre for Communication, Politics and Culture, CPC. Before becoming a journalist and influenced by the work of Paulo Freire he was a social and community educator in rural and shantytowns in Latin America. As an academic his research is on political, investigative and literary journalism. As a journalist he has covered major international events such as the Arab Spring, the Colombian civil war and the peace process in Sri Lanka.
Dr Rebecca Conroy works in an interdisciplinary manner as a director, curator, producer, researcher and writer across community, site-based events, discursive practices, and intercultural collaborations. For more than a decade she has been a vital part of the artist run scene in Sydney, co- founding and directing The Wedding Circle and Bill + George, as well as Gang Festival, a creative exchange with Indonesian artist run spaces and site specific festival (2005-2008). From 2008-2010 she was Associate Director of Performance Space and since then has worked for a range of arts organisations as dramaturge, researcher, writer and provocateur.
Anne Duggan has been the Coordinator of the CFMEU Education and Training Unit since 1993. In that time the Unit has grown into a large industry based Registered Training Organisation. Anne was instrumental in the development of the CFMEU High Risk Work training facility in Port Melbourne and more recently has managed the introduction of the CFMEU apprenticeship program. Anne organises and delivers the training and development programs for CFMEU shop stewards and national organisers.
Lorella Di Pietro began her activism in the community sector as Migrant Worker Officer with the VTHC in the early 90's. Lorella has continued advocating for migrant worker rights in the building industry and is currently a Diversity Officer and teacher with the CFMEU Education and Training Unit. Lorella's area of teaching expertise is in the area of occupational health and safety, power differentials, discrimination, injustice and institutional racism.
Bill Ethell was, between 1999 and 2009, the company manager of the Melbourne Workers Theatres (MWT). An important part of his work during his union years was to work with indigenous groups throughout Western Australia mainly to advocate for better employment opportunities and training in the construction and mining industries. He was a key participant in many Aboriginal campaigns notably the Swan Brewery Development and the Rottenest Island development proposals. In the early 1990s he established an independent learning centre dedicated to offering computer, literacy and numeracy courses to educationally deprived building workers and indigenous Australians
Peter Fairbrother is a Professor of International Employment Relations and Deputy Director of the Centre for People, Organisation and Work, RMIT University. He is also a core researcher at the Inter-University Research Centre on Globalisation and Work (CRIMT - Montreal). He is an established international researcher with expertise in the political economy of regional social and economic change, especially in relation to labour. Peter’s current research focuses on three inter-related projects, addressing the political economy of social and economic restructuring with implications for labour. Currently, he is leading an Australian Research Council project on industrial regeneration in North West Tasmania.
Professor Julian Goddard is the Head of the School of Arts at RMIT University. As well as a teacher and lecturer Julian is the founder and chairperson of the Australian Centre for Concrete Art – an international group that since 2001 has been making large, public minimalist wall paintings and gallery installations in Australia and Europe. He is also chairperson of The Bureau of Ideas - an international think tank that promotes public discussion of art, design, architecture and philosophy through forums in non-academic environments.
Dr Geoff Hogg is Director of the Centre for Art, Society and Transformation (CAST) within the School of Art. The Centre focuses on questions of art and social engagement. Trained as a painter, Geoff was an early contributor to the revival of contemporary Public Art. He began his work with a strong interest in public forms, including street installation, projection, integrated architecture and craft, along with banner making, processional objects and, in particular, large-scale wall painting and drawing. This work grew from a concern to re-connect with undervalued sources and traditions in contemporary cultural life.
Dr Grace McQuilten is a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow at RMIT University. She is the founder of The Social Studio, a food, fashion and art based social enterprise working with young people from humanitarian migrant backgrounds in Melbourne, and The Welcome Committee, a non-profit organization established to advocate for the humane processing of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. She has published two books: Art as Enterprise: Social and Economic Engagement in Contemporary Art and Art in Consumer Culture
Andrew Reeves Andrew Reeves was born on 10 April 1952, the son of John Herbert (Jock) Reeves who was active in the Australian Labor Party and Socialist Left affairs. Andrew followed his family’s political interests, becoming Secretary of the Labour History Society in 1969, and active in the anti-conscription movement. He graduated in arts, history and geography at University of Melbourne in 1973, and commenced a Master of Arts at La Trobe University. In the late summer of 1972 he commenced work at the University of Melbourne Archives part time, becoming a full time member of staff with a responsibility for trade union and labour records from 1976 to 1982. From 1993 to 1999, he was the Director of the Western Australian Museum.
Marcus Westbury is the inaugural CEO of the social enterprise Contemporary Arts Precincts Ltd that is leading the development of the Collingwood Arts Precinct in Melbourne. Marcus has been a writer, media maker and festival director and the founder and manager of multiple arts events, community projects and social enterprises across Australia including the multi award winning creative revitalisation projects Renew Newcastle and Renew Australia projects that have helped launch more than two hundred creative and community projects and reopened more than a hundred vacant properties across Australia. He is the author of Creating Cities (Niche Press, 2015) and has been the writer and presenter of the ABC TV series Bespoke and Not Quite Art.
Professor Martin Wood is interested in philosophical and sociological questions concerning work, culture and economy. He has continuing interests in each of these areas as well as with utilising film and video making practices to construct a minor subversion within the major literature of organisation studies. He has published in key scholarly outlets including the Academy of Management Journal, for which he jointly won the 2005 Best Paper Award. In addition, his 2009 short film Lines of Flight has received attention and won significant prizes at international film festivals. His second film, 600 Mills, premieres at RMIT in November