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Labour Day

Labour Day (or for you Yanks, Labor Day) is an Australian public holiday originally called Eight Hours Day. It celebrates the achievements of organised labour on behalf of the worker to bring about the 8-hour day in the late 1850s.

Previously workers were required to work long hours each week . . . 10 to 12 hours a day six days a week. While a change was made to the hours worked each day, the five day work week we enjoy today took almost a century longer to be adopted finally in 1948.

Australian Builders Union at the 8 Hour Day Parade in 1910
   Members of the Builders Union at the 8 Hour Day Parade in 1910

If look closely you may spot the numbers 888 on many union buildings across Australia. The numbers are in support of British socialist Robert Owen who believed that people should have 8 hours to work, 8 hours for recreation and 8 hours to sleep. This philosophy helped foster The Eight Hours Movement.

The first Labour Day parade was held in Melbourne on April 21st, 1856. Today parades across Australia remind us of the accomplishments made by the unions on behalf of the workers. Australians now enjoy better working conditions than any time in our history.

Labour Day is celebrated at different times across Australia because each state achieved the 8-hour day on different dates.

More Information

  1. History of the Union Movement
  2. Labour Day Classroom Activities and Discussion Starters

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