Advanced manufacturing technologies and design-led innovation have been heralded as a life-raft for Australian manufacturing. While this offers opportunities in professional fields such as industrial design and engineering, the same cannot be said for manufacturing trades – the formerly secure cornerstone of working class employment. Rather than simply framing manufacturing tradespeople as having redundant skill-sets and in need of retraining, here we ask: what are our existing strengths?

To answer this, an understanding of recent history is vital. This project endeavours to provide an historically informed understanding of Australia’s creative and productive capacity, which avoids nostalgic representations of craft skills as relics of a ‘time gone by’. It explores how so-called ‘traditional’ maker practices, craft skill and in-depth materials knowledge might be retained, recognised and reimagined in future production. For further information see About the Project.

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(Image credit: The header image for this site is the cover of a 1995 booklet by the AMWU. It is shared as a point of interest – this research is not funded by the AMWU.)

Want to know more?

Here is Invisible Hands, Episode 2 of History Lab Season 2, produced by Olivia Rosenman and the History Lab team. History Lab is a collaboration between 2SER and the Australian Centre for Public History. I was the collaborating historian for this episode.