Victoria has been the manufacturing centre of Australia for most of its history, although the economic importance of the sector has varied over the decades. In this section we describe the rise and fall of manufacturing in Victoria. We consider where particular industries developed and how that changed over time. We note the dominance of Melbourne as a centre of manufacturing in the twentieth century and how the location of industry shaped the city. Our focus throughout is the rising importance of secondary industry as a source of jobs in the period to 1951, and then the devastating impact of de-industrialisation on both workers and the city itself from the 1970s. Along the way we consider other themes, including working conditions in the factories, the growth of unions and the different jobs available to men and women.

Author: Margaret Anderson

Next Topic: In the Office

Further reading

Margaret Anderson, ‘Good Strong girls: colonial women and work’, in Kay Saunders & Raymond Evans (eds) Gender Relations in Australia: Domination and Negotiation. Sydney, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1992, pp. 225-45.

Melissa Bellanta, ‘The Sentimental Bloke: Australian Romance in the First World War’, in Journal of Popular Romance Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2, (2014).

Bradley Bowden, ‘The rise and decline of Australian unionism: a history of industrial labour from the 1820s to 2010’, Labour History, 2011.

Ken Buckley & Ted Wheelwright, No Paradise for Workers: Capitalism & the Common People in Australia, 1788-1914. Oxford University Press, 1988.

Philip Butterss, An Unsentimental Bloke: The Life and Work of C J Dennis. Adelaide, Wakefield Press, 2014.

Tony Dingle, The Victorians: Settling. McMahons Point, Fairfax, Syme & Weldon, 1984

Tony Dingle & Seamus O’Hanlon, ‘From Manufacturing Zone to Lifestyle Precinct: Economic Restructuring and Social Change in Inner Melbourne, 1971-2001’, Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 49, No. 1, March 2009, pp. 52-69

Charles Fox & Marilyn Lake Australians at Work: commentaries and sources. Ringwood, McPhee Gribble, 1990.

Don Garden Victoria: A History. Melbourne, Thomas Nelson, 1984.

Seamus O’Hanlon City Life: The New Urban Australia. Sydney, New South, 2018

Julie Kimber & Peter Love (eds) The Time of Their Lives: the Eight Hour Day & Working Life. Albert Park, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 2007

John Lack A History of Footscray. North Melbourne, Hargreen Publishing, 1991.

Guy Standing The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. Bloomsbury Open Access, 2011.

Danielle Thornton. 'We Have No Redress Unless We Strike': Class, Gender and Activism in the Melbourne Tailoresses' Strike, 1882-83. Labour History, No. 96, May 2009, pp 19-38.