History of the ACTU

The ACTU is the peak union body representing 46 affiliated unions and the interests of almost 2 million workers across Australia.

When union delegates gathered in the Victorian Trades Hall in 1927 to establish the Australian Council of Trade Unions they had a clear vision - to lift the living standards and quality of working life of working people.

And their strategy to achieve this was also clear – to build union organisation of the workforce on a national basis.

More than 80 years on the ACTU, its affiliated unions and their members celebrate a proud record of achievement on behalf of working Australians and the community.

The industrial gains are many: decades of wage increases through the award system and campaigns in the field, safer workplaces, equality for women, improvements in working hours, entitlements to paid holidays and better employment conditions, and the establishment of a universal superannuation system.

The ACTU has played a role in all of these achievements, but has contributed to fairness and justice in the community as well – contributing to Australia’s post-war development and immigration program, the social security system, Medicare and education - to name just a few areas of policy.

The ACTU has also represented Australian unionism in the international arena, opposing discrimination and oppression and supporting human rights. The ACTU aid agency, APHEDA – Union Aid Abroad, contributes to humanitarian projects in many countries.

The enduring commitment of working Australians to a fairer society is reflected in the continuing fight to protect the fundamental principles of unionism.

The right to organise and the right to collectively bargain sit at the heart of the 21st century struggle for a just Australia, just as it did throughout the previous century.

We will best keep the faith with those who have worked and sacrificed to build the ACTU over the past eight decades  by keeping the union cause bright and vibrant into the future.

More information
ACTU 75th anniversary commemorative booklet (2002)
About Executive, and list of affiliated unions


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