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Closing Day at BHP's Newcastle Steelworks

Video clip synopsis – Two thousand steelworkers collect their final paychecks and walk out of Newcastle's BHP steelworks for the last time. Men break down and cry. Many have laboured here all their working lives.
Year of production - 2000
Duration - 2min 9sec
Tags - communities, mateship, resources, retrenchment, see all tags


Closing Day at BHP's Newcastle Steelworks

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About the Video Clip


Closing Day at BHP’s Newcastle Steelworks is taken from the film Steel City (55 mins), produced in 2000.

Steel City: The employees of the BHP steelworks in Newcastle are bracing themselves for Australia’s largest industrial shutdown. Many have spent their entire working lives at the plant. With one month to go, they’re struggling to come to terms with an uncertain future. Peter is angry – he’s lost his marriage as well as his job. Jack is on an emotional rollercoaster as he faces the challenge of setting up his own business. And workshop manager Aubrey, once a militant unionist, is worried about what will happen to the men he calls “his boys”. Meanwhile, the company’s spindoctor is selling the closure as a “feel good” story. This is the end of an era. Life in Steel City will never be the same.

Steel City is a Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Background Information


BHP (Broken Hill Propriety) began mining silver, lead and zinc at Broken Hill NSW in 1885. It was described as one of the most lucrative deposits in the world at that time. In 1899 BHP leased an iron ore mine at Iron Knob in South Australia. In 1915 BHP ventured into steel making and commissioned a steelworks to be opened at Newcastle. It made huge profits during World War 1 making steel for ships, ammunition and guns. Since that time, it has employed generations of steelworkers who have remained working for the company all their working lives. It was predominantly men’s work. Many workers speak of their fear and revulsion when first confronted by the heat and dirt of the steelworks and the real dangers faced with working there. This was only balanced by their relief at having a job. But by 1987 the old steel rolling mills were losing money and could no longer be world competitive. As one worker said, for the past five years he had been 'putting patches on patches’.

In 1999 the Newcastle Steelworks closed down, with the *retrenchment of 2000 workers and 1000 contractors.
A significant employer, and a part of the local community, was suddenly gone.

*retrenchment: the act of reducing, cutting down or cutting off

Classroom Activities

  1. It is the final day at the steelworks. Workers are being given their final pay cheques. View the video clip.
    1. List five different individuals and describe their reactions.
    2. Write a 100-word summary of the video clip and include the message, intended audience and the best audience.
  2. Research and then write an analysis of the reasons why the steelworks closed in 1999 and what impact this had on the community in Newcastle.
  3. Focus on three different individuals from the video clip and imagine it is three years later. Create 300-word monologues for each individual, each with a different point of view, in which he or she reflects on the event, its meaning, and its consequences for him or her, and the community.

Further Resources


Catherine Marciniak (director), Steel City, Film Australia & ABC, 2000