Zubrycki’s point: Amongst Equals, utilitarian film in the Australian labour movement

John Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


A film history project on the Australian trade union movement commissioned in the late 1980s for Australia’s bicentennial year, 1988, came to grief over differing views of the labour movement’s past and contention around the rights and ethics of the filmmaker when a work is commissioned or sponsored. In the political context of the late 1980s there had been a decade of collaboration between trade unions and artists, but in this case filmmaker Tom Zubrycki was caught in a web of intrigue and complex agendas as he sought to complete this sponsored film. Zubrycki challenged the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) for the right to finish and distribute Amongst Equals, but without success. The struggle to resolve the Amongst Equals dispute continued for years and flared into a heated public debate. This case study illustrates dilemmas facing the artist, historian or filmmaker making sponsored work. A feature-length version of the unfinished film, not seen since 1991with inter-titles identifying scenes that the ACTU wanted revised or deleted was screened by Melbourne Cinematheque in October 2018, marking 30 years since the Australian bicentennial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-126
Number of pages24
JournalStudies in Documentary Film
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


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