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Today in Labour History

21 April 1856
8 Hours Day Banner, Melbourne 1856
Source: Wikimedia Commons

First Eight-hour Day in 1856

Sydney and Melbourne building workers were the first in the world to gain an eight-hour day. The Australian gold rushes in the 1850s ushered in an economic boom with large-scale immigration from Britain. Many workers who had been active in the Chartist movement now continued agitation for better working conditions in Australia. Due to the rapid population growth many public works  and dwellings had to be constructed and the demand for skilled labour was high. Stonemasons in Melbourne marched to Parliament House on 21 April 1856. The government granted an eight-hour day for workers employed on public works.

Read more? Raymond Markey, 'The Development of Collective Labour Law in Australia, 1788-1914' in The Rise and Development of Collective Labour Law (Bern 2000)

More info: Rise and Development of Collective Labour Law (IISH Publication)