Thursday 15 August 2019

WOMEN OF STEEL - A new Australian documentary made by a director returning after forty plus years

Editor's Note: industry stalwart, producer, director and photographer Martha Ansara writes about Robynne Murphy's return to film-making after a career as a steelworker. 

Robynne Murphy at work at the BHP hot strip mill
In 1973, Robynne Murphy was one of only two women chosen for the first Interim Program of the Australian Film & Television School (AFTRS). The other was Gillian Armstrong. Gillian pursued her brilliant career as an Australian filmmaker; Robynne found herself in Wollongong and in 1980 became a career steelworker at BHP.  Now, nearly forty years later, she is returning to film with a landmark documentary about a landmark win for women’s rights — WOMEN OF STEEL an inside, personal story about the 1980-1994 Jobs for Women Campaign.

The Jobs for Women Campaign confronted seemingly impossible odds in its fourteen-year long bid to win jobs for women in the steelworks of Australia’s largest and most powerful company, BHP. The campaign mobilised hundreds of migrant and working class women, attracted broad support from the community and unions and mounted unrelenting direct action at the BHP factory gates. Making use of Labor government reforms of the 1970s and a great team of lawyers, the women went all the way to the High Court of Australia and set important precedents in equality as they won jobs, financial compensation and changes in workplace regulations. 

The story of the success of these women makes for an exciting, emotional and sometimes humorous tale. Without being simplistic or didactic, WOMEN OF STEEL aims to be an inspiration for others who face seemingly insurmountable challenges today. 

Initially Robynne Murphy raised over $100K from trade unions and other supporters to get the film to rough cut stage. She has now been joined by veteran filmmaker Martha Ansara (Life Member of the Australian Directors Guild/Hall of Fame of the Australian Cinematographers Society) to find the final $60,000 completion finance. This money will be primarily for the costly archival footage and for the recording of a music score by celebrated film composer Jan Preston, whose work includes the music for Bastard Boys, the ABC series on the MUA waterfront dispute. 

The pair are now seeking the support of anyone who wants to see a crackerjack of a tale about indomitable women!

WOMEN OF STEEL patrons are ACTU Secretary Sally McManus, former Illawarra MP Jennie George and distinguished historian, Professor Emerita Ann Curthoys. Donations to the film are tax-deductible and all donors will be publicly acknowledged and invited to screenings and previews.

WOMEN OF STEEL invites your support — 

You can see the trailer  if you click here

For more information and to make a tax-deductible donation, click on this link to the Documentary Australia Foundation.

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