Spotlight calls for Sunshine

By Luke D’Anello
THE history of Sunshine will be in the national spotlight next year as part of a new permanent gallery at Canberra’s National Museum of Australia.
The Landmarks gallery will feature a Sunshine harvester, which was built in 1911, along with an original factory whistle from the Sunshine Historical Society and a chair from the Sunshine Harvester Works boardroom.
These items will begin to be moved into the museum later this year in preparation for the official opening in mid-2011.
“The gallery looks at Australian history since European settlement and it focuses on the history of places. Sunshine is one of the places we’ve chosen to use,” curator Leah Bartsch, who is developing the exhibition, said.
“Sunshine falls under the theme of Land of Opportunity, which looks at how people have sought to make their own opportunities, sought equal opportunity and social justice.”
Sunshine has an important place in the country’s industrial relations history.
In 1907, Justice Henry Bournes Higgins, in what became known as the Harvester Judgement, set a minimum wage for Australian workers, after a dispute between Hugh Victor McKay and his staff at Sunshine Harvester Works.
“As one of the largest employers of agricultural implements workers in Australia around this time, the Harvester Works was often significantly affected by action taken by trade unions to better the working conditions and wages for their members.
“To explore this, we’re focussing on a strike that took place in 1911, when members of the Agricultural Implement Makers’ Union went on strike when agricultural implements employers, like McKay, refused to employ only union labour.”
Ms Bartsch said the exhibition would be on display for several years.
Sunshine’s harvester was also one of the first of its type to be commercially successful and, by the 1920s, the factory it was built in employed over 2500 workers.
“The Sunshine harvester itself is a very iconic feature of Australian society and it will sit alongside some other significant icons.
“I think it’s an important story to tell.”
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