A group of people wearing hats at a protest during the Great Strike of 1917

Australia's Great Strike Remembered

Australia's Great Strike 100 years on

1917 film reconstructed by NFSA experts
 Miguel Gonzalez

Updated 15 January 2019: The NFSA is proud to announce that its reconstruction of the censored 1917 film The Great Strike has been inscribed in the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register. The UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Program honours documentary heritage of significance for Australia and the world, and advocates for its preservation.

August 1918 marks the centenary of Australia's 'Great Strike' - one of the nation’s largest industrial conflicts, which officially started on 2 August 1917. For this occasion, we've reconstructed a censored film which hasn't been seen in 100 years.

With an original running time of an hour, The Great Strike was released in October 1917 in the dying days of the strike. It was shown only once, and then it was embargoed, censored and given a new title: Recent Industrial Happenings in NSW.  It is believed that no more than one or two prints of the full film would ever have existed.

For a long time the NFSA has preserved a 12-minute fragment from the censored Recent Industrial Happenings in NSW. It was considered the only surviving footage, but in 2016, we discovered a six-minute reel containing additional scenes. Our experts scanned the two reels and edited them together, using a 'synopsis of scenes' published in the newspaper The Daily Post in 1917. This ad included a chronological listing of the film's scenes, and that information allowed us to identify which moments were missing and recreate the original film as accurately as possible.

This is the resulting film:

The Great Strike

With more than 90 per cent of Australia’s silent film heritage thought to be lost, it is likely that these censored scenes have vanished forever. But you never know, someone somewhere might have kept this film in a box in their garage or attic. If you know anything about the missing footage, please contact us at enquiries@nfsa.gov.au.