Stories of activists who have made a difference in South Australia

The idea to record the stories of older activists emerged during a discussion in 2004 between three key union leaders – Janet Giles, Mark Butler and Anne McEwen.

SA Unions successfully applied for a grant to produce a book of 55 short biographical stories, accompanied by a portrait photograph of each activist. We were then fortunate to obtain the services of Jim Douglas who with much enthusiasm and humour tirelessly worked to pull this successful project together, which is now an important record of labour history.

In choosing the activists to be featured in the collection SA Unions looked for older activists who had made a significant contribution fighting for workers’ rights and social justice, representing a range of industries and professions. We also sought people from diverse cultural backgrounds, including both men and women.

The words and images of the activists reveal wonderful stories and the dedication and commitment they have given over decades to achieve benefits for working people and their communities. It is easy to forget the hardships and struggles of the past endured by these people to achieve decent living wages, superannuation, reduced working hours, safety on the job and the broader issues of peace, social justice and equity.


Doug Morton- …”I believe that helping others is in the Morton’s blood” Born in 1940, Doug has been a union member since his days as a junior surveyor and underground miner, and remains a tireless worker in his Port Augusta Community.

Muriel Goss – ….”I was sent to Sunline Industries to help get their membership organised. After several visits I had persuaded all the workers to become unionists and had convinced them that they would get a better deal if it was a closed shop. Then I told management what the workers wanted. The manager was flabbergasted to be presented with this case by a woman. He offered me a cup of tea but I turned it down! Then he agreed to all the conditions that the workers asked for.”

These stories are told at a critical time in Australian history when workers are experiencing constant attacks on their hard-fought award conditions and pensioners and unemployed people are suffering great hardship under an ultra conservative Liberal Government.

Thanks go to the numerous people who were engaged in the telling, writing, recording, producing, editing and design involved in producing a piece of labour history.

Special thanks to Fernando Goncalves for the photography and design.

And, special thank you to Jim Douglas, Project Coordinator.