Australia's national workplace relations tribunal was first established as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration with the passage of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904.
Since that time the institution has evolved in line with substantial legislative, social and economic changes. The most recent development is the passage of the Fair Work Act 2009 and the establishment of Fair Work Australia, renamed the Fair Work Commission by the Fair Work Amendment Act 2012.
In 2002, the Fair Work Commission's predecessor, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, launched the Sir Richard Kirby Archives website as a means of preserving historical materials and promoting a greater public understanding of the role and contribution of the national tribunal.
Based at the Commission's Melbourne office, 11 Exhibition Street, the Archives contains a range of material including documents, photographs and oral history interviews.
Waltzing Matilda and the Sunshine Harvester Factory is a history resource for the general reader and for secondary and tertiary students, published by Fair Work Australia (now the Fair Work Commission) in 2011. It discusses the early history of the Arbitration Court, the Australian minimum wage, working hours and paid leave, including:
The book is supported by a dedicated website providing access to a range of educational materials and resources for teachers and students, including a special section for teachers to enable the book to be taught.
The documentary film Waltzing Matilda and the Sunshine Harvester Factory was launched in August 2012 by the Honourable Bill Shorten, MP, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.
The film deals with the material covered in the book of the same name. The documentary is available for free download from our educational resource website. DVD versions of the documentary can be purchased from Commission offices.