Saturday, February 11, 2012

Eureka! The Labor History Symbolism of Melbourne's Tallest Building

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia! It's interesting being in a country where industrial relations is such a prominent subject. Controversies over industrial relations legislation were central to the federal election campaign in 2007, and the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations before becoming Prime Minister. Indeed, even Melbourne's tallest building has some interesting labor symbolism.

Melbourne's tallest building is the Eureka Tower. It is named after the Eureka Stockade, a structure built by gold miners when they rebelled against the government over a number of grievances during the Victorian gold rush in 1854. Some of these grievances were caused by incentive compensation plans among government inspectors run amok. Unfortunately, during the financial crisis we've seen the negative effects of other incentive plans, such as those for Wall St bankers, also run amok.

But back to the Eureka Tower...the gold crown on the building symbolizes the gold rush, and the red stripe near the top represents the bloody nature of the conflict (more than 30 people died). The miners created a blue flag with a white cross and the stars of the Southern Cross, and adopted this Eureka flag as their banner. The blue glass of the Eureka Tower captures the Eureka flag's blue background, and the building's white lines capture the white cross of the flag. The Eureka flag is still used today by the Australian labor movement.

It's nice to see this important history reflected in what otherwise appears to be a modern skyscraper. Unfortunately, most people probably just see a skyscraper, and all too easily overlook the importance of labor, past and present.

And a special hello to all my friends in Australia's "IR club"!

1 comment:

  1. gregbamber@gmail.comFebruary 17, 2012 at 5:32 PM

    Thanks John for visiting us at Monash University, Melbourne. We much appreciated your taking time to visit to advise about our research and for your excellent seminar, which we all greatly enjoyed.
    Am glad that you met Professor Ron McCallum, he is an invaluable national treasure!
    Glad also that you discovered Eureka Tower and the interesting symbolism of its namesake, the Eureka Stockade. For the benefit of other possible visitors, Eureka Tower is not hard to find since it is apparently the tallest residential building in the Southern Hemisphere! After moving to Monash University in 2008, a Eureka Tower apartment was my home for the first few months. The views are spectacular and it is a convenient location, but at first living high in Eureka Tower can be unnerving on windy days, since the Tower is designed to sway in the wind!
    Looking forward to catching up with you again before too long, l hope e.g. at the World Congress of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association, in Philadelphia in July 2012!
    Thanks again. Cheers & bon voyage.
    Professor Greg Bamber,
    Discipline Group Leader: Human Resources and Employment Relations, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
    Personal e-mail: GregBamber@Gmail.Com