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March 2004   

Interview: Baby Bust
Labor's Wayne Swan argues that the plight of our aging workforce is only one side of our demographic dilemma.

Safety: Dust To Dust
Failure by authorities to police safety in the asbestos removal industry is threatening the lives of members of the public, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
Delegates from print shops around Sydney will publicly shame this month’s Bad Boss nominee with a rally outside his new Alexandria operation next Thursday.

National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
Noel Hester reports on a spin doctors' talkfest, workplace pain, stroppy teachers and IWD party time in the national wrap.

International: Bulk Bullies
An extraordinary five month struggle over affordable health care, by nearly 70,000 Californian supermarket workers, has just come to an end, writes Andrew Casey.

History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Green Bans saved a piece of bush before they saved much of the Sydney’s built environment, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Tim Anderson reveals Australia’s second betrayal Of East Timor is playing out before our eyes.

Review: The Art Of Work
Workers and westies are being celebrated as the cultural icons they are thanks to two Sydney exhibitions reminding us there is a world of art in the everyday, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Wondering where the next porkie is going to come from? Resident bard David Peetz knows.


The Soapbox
Iraq and Your Mortgage
How high interest rates go will be a key issue in 2004 and if you are looking for a clue, there's no better place to look than the war in Iraq, writes Michael Rafferty.

Hang Onto the Day Job
Show someone else the money, says Phil Doyle.

Westie Wing
Ian West shows why Eveleigh Street’s not so far away from Macquarie Street

Don’t Give Up the Fight
Get Up, Stand Up is the logo of choice on a popular range of subversive condoms. Ken Davis from Union Aid Abroad reports from Zimbabwe’s second city


Be Afraid
Elections are to be held both here and with our controlling shareholder this year and already we are getting the feel for how the incumbents will attempt to cling onto power: fear spiced with loathing.


 Taskforce "Disgraced" in Court

 Students Take $10,000 Trim

 Truckers Lose Way With GPS

 Jockeys Down by Width of Strait

 Treasury Loses Sight of Trees

 Athens Built on Sweat

 Signing Away Safety

 Fallen Formworker Critical

 Stop or You’ll Stay Blind

 Bracks Spin Machine Towels Nurses

 Trade Deal Fuzzy on Content

 Good Will Still Hunting on Rail

 Developer "Monsters" Safety Cop

 Day Off for May Day

 Activists What's On!

 Bring Back Bulk Billing
 Crucifying Refugees
 Saving The Planet
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The Art Of Work

Workers and westies are being celebrated as the cultural icons they are thanks to two Sydney exhibitions reminding us there is a world of art in the everyday, writes Tara de Boehmler.

From the coalface to the computer terminal, see how life on the job has changed and mutated throughout the last century with the This Working Life exhibition now showing at the State Library of NSW. Watch your ancestors work, check out the visual history of many workplaces still operating (though mostly now downsized enough to fit on a postage stamp), and trawl through revealing company records from 1824 to the 1950s.

Then travel east to the Australian Centre for Photography in Oxford Street, Paddington, to celebrate a modern take on all things Australiana. From truckies to taxi drivers, tattoos, burnt out cars, public transport, and everyday people sharing thoughts on their first sexual experiences, there is something for (and of) all who pass through the Centre's latest exhibition Suburban Edge.

Glenn Lockitch exposes the secret life of taxis in his photographic collection, telling the stories usually shared only between passenger and driver. Images of passengers breaking the rules by smoking cigarettes, boozing, and bleeding on the seats sit beside a photo of one driver dressed in his full Navy regalia. The accompanying story explains he had just quit the Navy after 30 years and this was his first week working as a taxi driver.

In another collection, Australian Services Union organiser Shabnam Hameed and friend Madeleine Heatherton have joined forces provide a series of photographs illustrating truckies' lives. Originally setting out to make a documentary about truck drivers, the pair's approach has been to steal away as often as possible over the past several years, front up to roadside diners, and hitch rides with the truck drivers who roll in for a pit stop. Their destination? "As far away as possible," they say.

Shabnam Hameed says she first got a taste for this activity when she ran away from home as a 16-year-old and relied on a string of truck drivers to give the teenager her first taste of outback Australia. Years later she met old friend Madeleine Heatherton in an art gallery where the pair got talking about their mutual love of trucks and soon after they hatched their ongoing working holiday plan. For them the exhibition represents the cumulation of a seemingly fated string of events that sees them back in galleryland to again celebrate their love of trucks but this time eager to share some broader messages.

"We want to share the stories that the truck drivers have to tell. They will talk non stop for hours and days and tell you about their trucks and their lives. They'll tell you about failed relationships, and they'll tell you about what they dream and hope for and then some of them will take you back and introduce you to their families," Hameed says.

"I think they represent something we all want to get to whether we drive trucks or not," says Heatherton. "It's about testing limits, being in the outback and having something that's powerful."

"Australians invest so much in the outback as being a point of their identity. It's kind of absurd because we're so attached to this idea of outback. We've always held up this idea of the pioneering spirit - the frontier spirit - as being absolutely Australian. We want to use this exhibition to say 'this is the changing face' and we want to look at it sympathetically."

As a "non-white", non-indigenous Australian Hameed has an additional take. Although she says the truckies largely represent a "very white Australia", this project has enabled her to "get out there and say, 'yeah, I'm a part of this country too'". This has sometimes meant confronting racism head on.

The highways of this country have been representing 'white man's dreaming', Hameed says. "There's that ribbon of walkabout. It's how white men run away and as much as it has had it's difficulties it is part of our culture - and it's not a part of our culture that I want to give up. Also, I kind of feel as a non-white migrant in Australia that I want to interact with it and be a part of it."

Heatherton says the exhibition encourages people to ask some important questions. "Have you ever wanted to escape - to just get away?," she asks.

"About 90 per cent of us live in the city so why is much of our identity focussed on the outback? This exhibition is kind of about people who say "f**k it, I want to find out".

Check out the exhibition between March 5 and April 18 and stay tuned for Hameed and Heatherton's next expedition, this time to find funding for their long dreamed of documentary following the lives of some of the truckers they meet on their travels.

Entry is free to Suburban Edge and This Working Life.


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