What is ATUA?


Australian Trade Union Archives (ATUA) is an online gateway for researchers and scholars of labour history. It has been designed to link together historical detail, the location of archival resources available in public archives and libraries, published material, and current information about Australian industrial organisations, particularly trade unions, from the late nineteenth century to today.

Much of ATUA has been based on the pioneering publication Parties to the Award: A Guide to the Pedigrees and Archival Resources of Federally Registered Trade Unions, Employer Associations and their Peak Councils in Australia 1904-1994, published by the Noel Butlin Archives Centre at the Australian National University in 1994.

Including an alphabetical list of federally registered trade unions and employer associations, along with organisation charts of industrial bodies representing over forty sectors, Parties to the Award was created to deconstruct the complex administrative and structural changes undergone by unions in the 1980s and early 1990s and to facilitate research into this area by directing people to the location of trade union records.

ATUA allows greater access to a significant aspect of Australian society and history by expanding and building on the work begun in Parties to the Award, adding additional information about extant records and published material.

Importance of ATUA

Prior to ATUA, there was no single access point from which scholars of Australian labour history could discover which trade unions existed in Australia since the advent of organised labour in the nineteenth century. In short, there was no comprehensive listing by union name.

Additionally, there was no matching historical context about the emergence, existence and industry focus of individual unions. Over time, unions have amalgamated, expanded, changed names or even ceased to exist as the industrial, legislative, political, technological and economic environments in which they operated changed. These changes are reflected in ATUA.

Lastly, there has been no central, accessible point from which scholars could view existing knowledge regarding trade union and industrial bodies. There was no one resource detailing the location, quantity, contents and access conditions of archives created by unions since their formation over one hundred years ago.