The 1920s – working lives
The building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge began in 1924. This was a time of rapid growth and change in Australian society. People wanted to put the dark, difficult days of World War I behind them and they looked with confidence to a brighter, prosperous future.
Government and industry began to build that future with major development in the manufacture of cars, electrical goods, and heavy machinery. Major building projects such as irrigation works, dams, roads and railways – and the Sydney Harbour Bridge – were also begun in this period. The government borrowed large sums of money, especially from Great Britain, to finance these works.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge was a symbol of the upbeat mood of national confidence and energy captured in the phrase ‘men, money and markets’, coined by the then Prime Minister of the day, Stanley Melbourne Bruce.
‘men, money and markets’
men: a reference to the need for increased migration to populate Australia and provide workers for economic development
money: the funds needed to finance our development – mostly loans from overseas
markets: countries that would agree to buy our exports, especially wool and wheat in the 1920s
The government introduced migration schemes to attract workers, especially from Great Britain, and many new arrivals were employed on the building of the Harbour Bridge. During the boom times of the 1920s, the Bridge workers enjoyed job security and generally good relations with their employer, Dorman, Long & Co. Ltd., the British firm that was responsible for the construction of the Bridge.