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  • Mark Shaw

The more things change the more they stay the same.

“Women’s liberation groups demand equal pay, childcare, access to abortions, and protection from men’s violence. Lesbians demand freedom from discrimination, including discrimination from straight feminists, while gay men wanted to be safe in public spaces and from physical attacks, and to be free to live a homosexual life without fear of persecution or prosecution. Students call for greater say over university curriculum, and liberal and libertarians demand and end to censorship. Indigenous people called for self-determination and land rights, as well as funding for medical and legal services that they established in places such as Redfern and Fitzroy”.

While the above could well describe Australia society in 2023, it describes Australian society in the 1970’s as documented on page 280 of Frank Bongiorno’s book “Dreamers and Schemers”.

As I read his book, I identified many lessons we can all learn from history including:

  • While jobs disappear, new employment opportunities always evolve. Equally, the required skills for those new jobs will continually change. Who remembers the ‘typing pool’ or the switch board operator? How about the young attendant (it was always a teenage boy or man) who would fill your car with petrol, check the oil, and check the air in your tyres? Or the usher in the cinema?

  • Mining has always been and will always be an important activity in human society. Nothing we human use from the material in our homes, cars and/or smart phones could exist without with the exploration companies, miners, and manufacturers. The growing realisation that green energy requires significant minerals to operate should make us reflect on the important contribution these industries make to our daily lives. The same can be said for the agricultural and farming industries.

  • Governments do not always vote as we may think. The Labor Party in Queensland introduced the electoral gerrymander system that the then National Party’s Joh Bjelke-Petersen famously used to his political advantage. Bob Hawke’s Labor government floated the dollar and privatised Qantas. Conventional thinking suggests the opposite would have been true.

  • Some issues never go away: The Harvester decision of 1907 is considered the first wage case based on the cost of living. While it is currently an issue from many people today, it was also an issue for people in the 1950’s, 1970’s, and 1990’s

  • The tension between business owners and unions has always been with us and always will be. A short history would include:

    • The shearers strike of 1891,

    • The Victorian Police strike of 1923 over the continued use of spies by management.

    • The 1946-49 Pilbara strike by Indigenous Australian pastoral workers in the Pilbara region of Western Australia for human rights recognition, payment of fair wages, and improved working conditions.

    • The 1973 Kings Cross strippers' strike over poor wages and working conditions and the sackings of workers who protested.

    • The Queensland government decision to sack over 1000 electrical linesmen and other workers in 1985,

    • The grounding of the Qantas fleet in 2011

In conclusion Frank’s book highlights that change has and will always happen, mostly for the better and sometimes for the worst. Whether it is a change in your workplace, personal life or society more broadly, when it happens, I recommend you take a deep breath, a glass of water and a good night’s sleep, as the change has probably happened before and will certainly happen again.

Like many people, I have lost multiple jobs due to redundancies, felt unfairly overlooked for certain promotions, disagreed with management decisions, and felt the strain of cost-of-living pressures. It makes me normal.

Finally, we need to remember that while not everyone will always agree with the change, that’s OK. Whether the change is good or bad, remember we should remain civil with each other, remain friends with those we disagree with, and most importantly, learn from the experience.

Don’t be afraid of change; the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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