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Workers in union are one step closer to saving our beloved John Curtin Hotel

In April, when the pub was sold to overseas developers, Building Industry Unions announced a Green Ban on the site – no unionist would assist in the demolition of this cultural icon. At the same time, Trades Hall partnered with the Heritage Trust in making a submission to Heritage Victoria, recommending the pub be listed on the state’s Heritage Register.  

Today – Heritage Victoria has announced that they have accepted that submission, and will recommend that the Heritage Council protect the John Curtin. 

 

When workers first began organising and meeting at a timber shed on the corner of Lygon and Victoria Street in 1859 – the first Trades Hall – a Hotel soon sprang up across the street to quench workers’ thirst after meetings.  In 1886, when women workers were organising against the notorious sweatshop clothing company Beath, Schiess and Co, not everyone could fit inside the Trades Hall so they instead met across the road in the pub. One hundred years later, the Victorian nurses would meet at The John Curtin during their famous strike of 1986.

It’s where Frank Hardy and George Seelaf came up with the idea of underground printing of the classic novel Power Without Glory. In the 1980s, Alf Bamblett from the band Stray Blacks established a regular fortnightly event at the hotel to spotlight Aboriginal bands – at a time when racist hostility in the pub scene was commonplace.  

In the 1960s, when most pubs relegated women to a “ladies lounge”, Zelda D’Aprano argued toe-to-toe with fellow unionists in the John Curtin, and soon inspired the other women workers of Trades Hall to smash the taboo of appearing at the pub unaccompanied by a man.  

It was where Norm Gallagher celebrated, where Industrial Relations journos broke stories, and where Bob Hawke’s wake was held. 

In April, when the pub was sold to overseas developers, Building Industry Unions announced a Green Ban on the site – no unionist would assist in the demolition of this cultural icon. At the same time, Trades Hall partnered with the Heritage Trust in making a submission to Heritage Victoria, recommending the pub be listed on the state’s Heritage Register.  

Watch - The History of "Green Bans"

Today – Heritage Victoria has announced that they have accepted that submission, and will recommend that the Heritage Council protect the John Curtin.  

It’s a massive victory for workers and activists who have vowed to defend the site from the threat of being torn down and turned into cheap and flimsy apartments.  

Luke Hilakari, Secretary of Victorian Trades Hall Council said “We applaud Heritage Victoria for making the recommendation to recognise the irreplaceable historic value of the John Curtin Hotel. Victorian workers have a proud and long history of protecting cultural sites like these and they came out in droves to throw their voices behind this campaign. I want to acknowledge everyone who took the time to stand up for this iconic pub.”  

“This is an important collective win and a vital step to prevent precious historical buildings from being flattened by developers who want to spin a dollar at the community’s expense.” 

Luke Hilakari addresses media at John Curtin Hotel

 

City of Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece backed in Heritage Victoria’s recommendation. “All Melburnians should raise a glass and toast this fantastic decision. We are delighted Heritage Victoria has recommended the John Curtin Hotel be placed on the Heritage Register. Too many of Melbourne’s heritage pubs have been lost over the decades – and we can’t let the John Curtin become another victim.”  

“The recognition of the cultural and social significance of the Curtin Hotel as the basis for heritage protection is hugely significant. This is the right decision and appropriately recognises a Labor institution and an iconic music venue.  

“For more than 100 years, the John Curtin has been an integral part of the Victorian trade union and labour movements – it is a treasure of Melbourne that deserves the strongest possible protection. This is a landmark decision which provides hope for Victoria’s many other at-risk heritage pubs.” 

 Felicity Watson, Executive Advocacy Manager, National Trust of Australia (Victoria) said “More than just bricks and mortar, the John Curtin Hotel is a place where alliances have formed, and decisions have been made that have shaped Victoria’s history.”  

“It is vital to protect The Curtin, not only for its historical importance but for its ongoing role as a meeting place for the labour movement, and one of Melbourne’s most important live music venues.”  

“In making their assessment, Heritage Victoria not only looked at the building itself, but analysed social media and hundreds of petition comments to understand the cultural significance of the John Curtin Hotel to the community.” 

 

 

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