Updated time

Last updated

24 September 2020


Welcome to the website of the Sir Richard Kirby Archives, an historic repository dedicated to preserving the history of the Fair Work Commission and its predecessor bodies.

Based at the Fair Work Commission's Melbourne headquarters, 11 Exhibition Street, the archives contains a range of material including documents, photographs and oral history interviews. It is overseen by the National Archivist, the Hon. Reg Hamilton, Deputy President, who also runs an exhibition program.

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Australia's national workplace relations tribunal was first established as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration with the passage of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904.

Since that time the institution has evolved in line with substantial legislative, social and economic changes. The most recent development is the passage of the Fair Work Act 2009 and the establishment of Fair Work Australia, renamed the Fair Work Commission by the Fair Work Amendment Act 2012.

Waltzing Matilda & the Sunshine Harvester Factory

History resource

Waltzing Matilda and the Sunshine Harvester Factory is a history resource for the general reader and for secondary and tertiary students, published by Fair Work Australia (now the Fair Work Commission) in 2011. It discusses the early history of the Arbitration Court, the Australian minimum wage, working hours and paid leave, including:

  • the reasons why the Australian Parliament established the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in 1904
  • the establishment by the Court of a minimum wage, beginning with the Harvester decision of 1907 that 7 shillings a day for an unskilled labourer was 'fair and reasonable wages'
  • the later change in the 1960s and 1970s to equal award pay for women and Aboriginal stockmen, and the development of special lower minimum wages for adolescents and apprentices, and
  • the gradual development of sick leave, annual leave, maternity and paternity leave in the 1930s–1990s.

The book is supported by a dedicated website providing access to a range of educational materials and resources for teachers and students, including a special section for teachers to enable the book to be taught.

Printed copies of the book can be purchased from any Commission office and it is also available for free download from Apple books.

Documentary film

The documentary film Waltzing Matilda and the Sunshine Harvester Factory was launched in August 2012 by the Honourable Bill Shorten, MP, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

The film deals with the material covered in the book of the same name. The documentary is available for free download from our educational resource website. DVD versions of the documentary can be purchased from Commission offices.


The Fair Work Commission Library is a dedicated workplace relations and law library based in Melbourne.

Its collection dates back to the early 1900s and includes:

  • Commonwealth Arbitration Reports
  • law reports and industrial gazettes from all Australian jurisdictions, and
  • old English law reports.

The library has copying facilities and also houses the Sir Richard Kirby Archives and its associated educational displays.

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