It’s a long weekend here in Australia. We are celebrating Labour Day, Eight Hour Day or May Day, depending which state you are in. Actually one state celebrates today as the Queens Birthday.
Where I am it’s Labour Day.
In 1856 the stone masons in Melbourne striked for better working conditions and members of the public service were eventually given an 8 hour working day. This started something that continued around the state and eventually internationally.
Eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation and eight hours of sleep is still considered the optimal working conditions. We didn’t get the five day week until 1948.
International Labour Day is traced back to 1886 to the Haymarket affair in Chicago. So our stonemasons got in much earlier.
Australia’s first western stone masons were inevitably convicts. The last photograph and this one show their handy work at Port Arthur Penal Settlement in Tasmania.
Indigenous Australians did a fair bit of stone work prior to invasion with their permanent buildings, and construction of stone fish traps.
History is often only remembered by the stories that get told. So many are changed to suit current politics and people’s personal needs.
Convict made bricks in one of the prisons at Port Arthur. Tasmania. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2019