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Trades Hall and Literary Institute

Architect: Joseph Reed 1873, Lovell Chen 2019

The Trades Hall and Literary Institute, affectionately known as ‘the people’s palace’, has been the home of organised labour in Melbourne for over 160 years. The present complex was constructed over ten stages, between 1874 and 1963, replacing the first temporary Trades Hall building, which had opened on the same site in 1859. It is thought to be the oldest continuously active union building in the world.

The architect, Joseph Reed, was a giant of colonial architecture and was responsible for a number of Melbourne’s other grand buildings – the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne Town Hall and the Royal Exhibition Building.  It was reasoned that the parliament of the workers should be at least as grand as Parliament House in Spring Street.

 

Photos 1–2: Kate Shuttleworth,  3: Eve Wilson

VIRTUAL TOUR

Explore the entire Trades Hall from your armchair, and keep your eye out for the ‘easter eggs’ scattered throughout. Click them to watch videos and read more about this significant building.

The recently restored halls and council chambers at Trades Hall are steeped in history. If only walls could talk! They’ve seen important political events, such as founding of the Australian Labour Party, countless election celebrations (and commiserations) and political meetings.  It has been the centre of important social campaigns including the recognition of women’s right to unionise and fight for equality.  It led the campaign against apartheid, fought in the anti-conscription movement and most recently argued for the right to marry who you love.

Aside from political activities, Trades Hall once housed an art school and contributed to the establishment of RMIT, originally known as the Working Man’s College.  Its involvement with the arts and educational pursuits has continued to this day, as the home of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and as a host venue for the Comedy Festival.

Trades Hall is one of the most historically significant buildings in Melbourne, built on the back of the struggle for the eight-hour day and workers’ rights. The magnificent building is home to the Trade Union movement and is still the heartbeat of the fight for a better life for the working people of Victoria. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

CATCH UP

LOVELL CHEN PRESENTATION
RECORDED LIVE: SATURDAY 25 JULY 2020

 

LOVELL CHEN PRESENTATION
RECORDED LIVE: SUNDAY 26 JULY 2020

 

TRADES HALL SOCIAL HISTORY PRESENTATION
RECORDED LIVE: SUNDAY 26 JULY 2020

PHOTOGRAPHY

– Archival & Recent

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Photos: courtesy Trades Hall

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Photos: Kate Shuttleworth

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