Wollongong's history in activism revealed

Author John Rainford says Wollongong has been at the forefront of radicalism.Picture: SYLVIA LIBER.
Author John Rainford says Wollongong has been at the forefront of radicalism.Picture: SYLVIA LIBER.

Wollongong has a radical, activist history that challenges anywhere else in the country, Woonona author John Rainford says.

A lifelong unionist, Rainford's interest in activism, protest and politics has led him through penning several books on radicalism and onto his latest project - writing and producing a film, Radical Wollongong, chronicling the recorded history of Wollongong through a lens of social activism.

"We have a very real, living history of radicalism here. It's important to tell that story," Rainford said.

Tracing Wollongong's history from indigenous rights issues around European settlement right through to modern-day coal seam gas demonstrations, Radical Wollongong sets out to explore how the city's development has been intimately tied to activism.

From miners' strikes and objections to the Vietnam War draft, to trade unions and gender equality campaigns, Rainford and co-producer Melanie Barnes said they aimed to show how some of the biggest changes in Wollongong had been due to social protest.

"It's the part of Wollongong history that is sometimes forgotten," Barnes said.

"If you or your family weren't part of it, you often don't know the stories.

"The right to have a safe job, equality for women, now the right to live in a safe clean city - it's all linked to social activism."

Interviewing indigenous community leaders, CSG campaigners, unionists, academics and environmentalists, Rainford said the idea of the film was to preserve the region's history - much of which had been scarcely recorded - before it faded away.

Barnes said Radical Wollongong was in post production, with hopes for a May premiere.

"It is fascinating how significantly people power has shaped Wollongong.

"It wouldn't be the city it is today without activism and protest," she said.


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