One of the few surviving Victorian buildings in Broken Hill prominently located (RNE, 1980).
Built 1891-1905. This is one of the few surviving Victorian buildings in Broken Hill prominently located, and has been little altered externally since it was built. Its chief internal feature is a vast painted ceiling in a geometrical pattern (RNE, 1980).
It is constructed of stone, rendered, and painted with ornamental encrustations, and has an iron mansard roof. The glass fanlight above the door features roses. There is a main hall at the rear which has a vast ceiling painted in shades of green in a geometrical pattern (17/11/1997).
The Trades Hall Collection consists of a wide variety of artefacts associated with the history of the union movement in Broken Hill and with specific events in that history. It includes collections of union badges, union banners and signs, 2 large AMA flags, documents including picket maps from the 1909 lockout abd collections of correspondence, invoices and dockets (Heritage Study).
Items in the collection are generally in sound condition although some require conservation interventions and the implementation of more appropriate storage arrangements (13/6/2008).
The Wiljakali people who occupied the area when Charles Sturt arrived in 1845 (and first referred to it as 'broken hill') faced less immediate settler agression than tribal groups who lived on the rivers, including the Darling (Spearitt, 2018, 73).
In 1883, when boundary rider Charles Rasp formed a small syndicate to mine a great ironstone outcrop in the far west of NSW, they thought they would find tin. Instead, they ended up having leases over some of the world's richest silver, lead and zinc deposits. Unlike gold, these metals were not simply there for the taking. BHP (Broken Hill Proprietory Ltd.), formed in 1885, faced technical and logistical challenges in mining and processing ore bodies (ibid, 2018, 73).
Broken Hill grew quickly. A population of 17,000 in 1889 had more than doubled to 35,000 in 1914, putting it on the map as the then third-largest city in NSW. In today's terms, it could be described as Australia's most multicultural city of the time (ibid, 2018, 73).
Trade Unions quickly formed around the mine and extraction processing industries. The Trades Hall, built between 1891 and 1905, became the first building in Australia owned by unions, who also purchased the local newspaper 'The Barrier Times' in 1908. This strong union tradition permeated all aspects of life in Broken Hill. The city's unionists won a 35-hour week in 1920, the first to do so in Australia (ibid, 2018, 74).
The city is full of surprises, including a mosque, founded by Afghan cameleers in the early 1890s, and a synagogue built in 1910. The cameleers flourished in the later decades of the 19th century, transporting wool as well as construction materials for the Overland telegraph line from Darwin to Port Augusta. The Jewish population mainly came from Eastern Europe. While the synagogue closed in 1962, the mosque is still used for worship. BHP ceased operations in Broken Hill in the late 1930s, by which time other mining companies had formed, leaving behind an open-cut mine that writer George Farwell described in 1948 as, 'forlorn as a dead planet. It has the air of a crater on the moon... Massive boulders and abandoned machinery sprawl down its flanks as though flung down the sheer sides of a mountain gorge. Upon the crest old iron lies everywhere' (ibid, 2018, 74).
The struggle of working people for equitable pay arrangements and safe working conditions is a major theme of the story of Broken Hill. During the 19th and 20th centuries Broken Hill became synonymous with industrial action, union organisation and the cause of socialism. The great industrial disputes of 1892, 1909 and 1919-20 are well remembered in Broken Hill and beyond. Workers' heroes such as Tom Mann and Percy Brookfield are memorialised in various ways all over the town and the story of Broken Hill's mining unions is closely connected with the story of mining unionism in Australia.
The history of trade unionism in Broken Hill goes back to the early days of mining on the Line of Lode. In September 1884 a public meeting was held at the Adelaide Club Hotel at Silverton to form the Barrier Miners' Association. By '1886 the headquarters of the Association had moved to Broken Hill where it was reconstituted as the Barrier Branch of the Amalgamated Miners' Association. By 1889 the Association, whose programme of reforms included and eight-hour day and compensation for injured workers, had achieved agreement for compulsory union membership. (Solomon 1988:237-238)
The economic depression of the 1890s led mining companies to consider the arbitrary imposition of contract labour rates for stoping in the mines. This brought them into direct conflict with the Amalgamated Miners' Association. The Association withdrew labour from the mines in 1892 and mining company efforts to import non-union labour were bitterly resisted. Union leaders Herman Heberle, E.J. Polkinghorne, Robert A. Hewitt, Dick Sleath, W.J. Ferguson and John Bennetts were arrested and gaoled for periods of up to two years. (Ross 1970:72-73) The industrial action was unsuccessful and by 1896 union membership had dropped from approximately 6,000 to 300 (Solomon 1988:244).
During the 1890s and early years of the 20th century the Association consolidated its position, establishing its own newspaper The Barrier Daily Truth in 1898 and the Barrier Social Democratic Club in 1903. In 1902 British Socialist and former miner Tom Mann visited Broken Hill. Under the auspices of the Burke Ward Parliamentary Labour League Mann addressed a large crowd from the rotunda of the Hillside Reserve, expounding Marxist ideology and the goals of socialism. Mann so impressed union leaders that in 1908 he was invited by the Combined Unions to return as an organiser to assist in a dispute with BHP. (Solomon 1988:244-246)
In that year BHP attempted to reduce wages on the expiration of an existing industrial agreement. In response the unions commenced a recruitment campaign and began agitation for increased wages. Following an agreement on conditions BHP closed its mins and announced that it would re-open 'after the Christmas period with rates reduced by 12.5 percent. The company eventually re-opened with non-union labour. In response the unions picketed the mine and battles with police ensued. The lockout lasted 20 weeks with many miners defecting from the union ranks. (Ross 1970:171-172)
Following World War I the unions, who had recovered from the 1909 strike and consolidated their position, campaigned fro a reduction in hours and improved safety. Extended industrial action in 1919-1920 led to the introduction of a 35 hour working week. (Solomon 1988:265-266) The Barrier unions continued to campaign aggressively throughout the 20th century for improvements in the working conditions of their members (Heritage Study: Trades Hall Collection).