Broadmeadows Ford Workers’ Riot 1973

On 13 June 1973, 1500 strikers at the Ford factory in Broadmeadows, Melbourne, fought a six-hour battle with the police to close the plant. The police tried to disperse their picket line by riding horses into them.

The Ford Broadmeadows strike was one of the most explosive and militant disputes in the history of the Australian union movement. And at its heart were migrant workers. Around 75 per cent of the 6000 workers at Ford were migrants, most of them on the assembly line. Like generations of migrant workers since, they faced increased exploitation compared to the majority of Australian-born workers.

Such was their anger that, at one stage, the workers pushed over a 30-metre section of brick wall and used the bricks to smash the windows of the factory. They did anything they could think of to express their rage at the company.

The strikers said they would not go back to work or leave the area until the rest of the workers inside joined them outside, on strike. Their sheer militancy turned the tide. Throughout the day, the workers still inside walked out. The company was forced to close the gates and the four-week-old strike gained new strength.

Yet the police did not arrest a single striker that day.