The Wollongong women behind the "Jobs for Women" campaign didn't intend to make history or to spearhead a women's liberation movement. All they wanted was a fair go and the chance of an unglamorous but decent paying job at the steel mill.
In the early 1980s, job opportunities for women were scarce in the Illawarra.
For many it was a choice between working in sweatshop conditions in the backyard garment industry or commuting to Sydney, which meant leaving home before the kids were awake and returning after their bedtime.
At the time the BHP steelworks at Port Kembla employed around 20,000 people and offered well-paid jobs with good conditions - but not to women. Wave after wave of female job applicants were given the firm but polite rejection of, "Sorry, we have no jobs for women."
With everything to gain and nothing to lose, an unlikely alliance of newly arrived Eastern European and local working class women challenged the steel giant under the new and untested Anti-Discrimination Act of 1977.
The legal battle to unlock the gates of BHP for women took 14 years and went all the way to the High Court but the Jobs for Women campaign achieved a legal legacy which continues to protect women from workplace discrimination.
The women's battle is set to be documented in a crowd-funded feature film titled No Jobs for Women, co-written by the campaign's founder Robynne Murphy and local film producer Melanie Barnes. A crowdfunding campaign saw over 160 financial backers donate $26,948 with production set to commence soon.
According Murphy, the road to the High Court started at a humble chicken shop.
"When I couldn't get work down here, I got involved in the working women's charter - a group of women involved in trade unions," she says. "Before I got there, there had been this really awful case where a chicken shop owner had gone through over 41 female employees in the space of six months. He was taking all these young women up to his flat and demanding to give them 'medicals'.
"You often saw cases of sexual harassment down here because there was so little work for them. He could pick and choose who he wanted and women were scared to complain."
Outraged women joined with local trade unions to create Wollongong's first working women's charter to take the case to the brand new anti-discrimination board.
At the first public meeting, Murphy discovered two thirds of women were unemployed and desperate for work.
"I remember thinking 'my God, that's awful at a time when the steel mill employed tens of thousands of people but refused to take on women for no reason'."
Another forum was held but this time the focus changed to campaigning for jobs at the steelworks.
"I used to go back to the steelworks every few days and see men getting interviewed, but still they kept telling me 'no jobs'. Everyone else had the same experience, so we put our thinking caps on," Murphy says.
Trade union leaders lent their support and expertise, despite the steel industry and union being male dominated.
"The steelworks had a union presence, they had better conditions and better pay - far better - than any female industry," she says. "We felt BHP had a responsibility to employ women, so we lodged a complaint in 1980."
The Anti-Discrimination complaint made the front page of Illawarra Mercury and, the day after publication, Murphy's phone started to ring.
"Initially it was only a handful of women but after the Mercury article women - especially migrant women - wanted to get involved."
The original campaign committee had wanted to reach out to the swelling migrant community since they heard stories of the bus trip many migrant women endured to get to jobs in Sydney.
"The bus left Cringila at 5am to take women to find work in Sydney and it brought them back at 8pm but a lot of them wanted to work in the steelworks with their husbands, close to their children's schools," Murphy says
However, the committee had no way of introducing themselves to women for whom English could be a third or even fifth language, who weren't registered and who worried about causing conflict in their newly adopted country.
The crucial link came when Slobodanka Joncevska's husband showed her the front page of the Mercury.
"My husband said, 'look, the steelworks might be hiring women again'," Joncevska recalls. "I found Robynne's number in the paper and I rang her because we were sick of looking for work."
Joncevska had managed to secure work in the steel mill in 1972 but had to leave her job in the foundry in 1975 when she fell pregnant with her first child.
When she returned after giving birth she was told what was fast becoming the company's unofficial slogan: "Sorry, but no jobs for women."
Joncevska was furious.
"I told them I can speak Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Russian and I can understand everyone working in the mill, I told them I want my job back!"
Initially she didn't know how she could help Murphy or how she would get her job back in a country with unfamiliar language and laws.
"I didn't understand what Robynne was doing at first but slowly, slowly I saw they were making a change," Joncevska says.
It was hard to make other women in her community to understand, however.
"The law and politics were different in their countries. We never grew up with demonstrations or protests. It was against the law and government, we were scared. We didn't want to break the law, we were new citizens."
But Joncevska persisted and with her children in tow her she went to every door in Warrawong, Cringilla and Port Kembla.
"I was excited, I was knocking door to door like people with the bible. We explained to all different nationalities what we were doing," she says
"They were scared to put their name down, they thought it would affect their husband's work place, they were scared to come to meetings."
By the second meeting, 81 migrant women had signed up and in later meetings the campaign group had to move to a bigger meeting place to accommodate their swelling ranks.
When the case was settled in 1994, more than 700 women had filed anti-discrimination complaints.
The complaint had been filed in April and by July, a tent embassy had sprung up outside the gates of BHP.
"We set up the camp as a visible protest, we wanted them to know we weren't going away," Murphy says. "We got sick, we got windburnt but it worked because we started to gain respect."
The women were worried male steelworkers, and even their own husbands, would turn against them, annoyed they were creating trouble for the town's biggest employer. However, they found the majority sympathised with their struggle for a fair go.
Despite having to represent themselves for the first day of their hearing, without a law degree between them, the activists won their case with the Anti-Discrimination Board.
"We didn't qualify for legal aid until the second day, so we went it alone but luckily we secured lawyers by the second day," Murphy says.
Joncevska found formal court proceedings difficult to understand and forced the board to understand the disadvantages migrant women faced giving evidence.
"I told the judge I wouldn't speak to them in the room with all the people, if he wanted to talk to me we had to go outside. My lawyer wanted to kill me, we still laugh about it," she says.
BHP agreed to employ women and hundreds found jobs in the month after the board found they had discriminatory hiring policies.
It was a short lived victory, however. When a recession hit, the steel mill started to shed jobs, operating on a last on, first off policy, meaning female workers were disproportionately affected.
With the support of the union and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the campaign women lodged a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Board.
Eventually, in 1985 the board found the women had been victims of "indirect discrimination" and awarded them $1 million in damages.
The company appealed through the court system while more women made complaints and a second-class action case was launched.
In 1995, 14 years (and 14 lawyers) after their campaign started, the High Court found in favour of the Jobs for Women activists.
"We never gave up, some of us worked at BHP the whole time, we didn't care, our children grew up but we kept going," Joncevska says.
Joncevska worked in the steel mill until she was made redundant in 2005 when her department shut down. "I was never scared of doing a man's job. Every day I walked through the gates hoping to come back the next day," she said.
Murphy worked at the steelworks until her retirement in 2011 when she left to work with Wollongong's refugee community.
Between the courtrooms, protests and doorknocking the two women forged a lifelong friendship.
"Slobodanka is one of my best friends. I've seen her children grow up and I've been to their weddings," Murphy says.
Joncevska finds herself reminding her children and grandchildren what their "baba" achieved.
"We never expected for it to get this big but I never put myself down because I come from a good culture, a good country," she says.
"I fought for a man's job and I did it."