Pig Iron Bob

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Ben and I went to the launch of the documentary by Sandra Pires about the Dalfram Dispute of 1938, which is called Pig Iron Bob after the resident Minister for Trade & Attorney General in the Liberal government, Bob Menzies. He had signed a contract with Japan to supply them with pig iron for making bullets for use in the Second World War. The ship carrying the pig iron was called the Dalfram.

Suzanne Roach

Suzanne Roach, daughter of Ted Roach with Michael Cormick who plays her father in the film.
Photo: Courtesy Illawarra Mercury, Jan 22 2014

In Port Kembla, BHP, the producers of the pig iron, was being challenged by Union Leader Ted Roach because of the system of hiring only the strongest men and working them to death. Ted Roach started a roster system where every man had a chance of work; he joined the Communist Party because he believed in equity. Ted Roach discovered that Japan was aggressively taking over China and realised that Australia was directly assisting this by supplying Japan with the iron to make the bullets which were killing thousands of Chinese people. He persuaded the Port Kembla wharfies not to load the Dalfram. This led to a long standoff between Menzies and Roach, which has been dramatically described in the film which was over four years in the making.

Sandra managed to raise funds from the Australia China Economics, Trade & Culture Association to travel to China to interview survivors of the infamous Nanjing Massacre and access footage which she uses to great effect in the film. 300,000 Chinese people were killed in the Nanjing Massacre. These stories have never been told in Australia and offer another way of seeing this war. Sandra also includes testimonies from historians and Suzanne Roach, the daughter of Ted Roach and Bob Menzies’ daughter Heather as well as Japanese prisoner of war and MP Tom Uren, and Maritime Union Official, David Kemp.

Sandra Pires

Sandra Pires

The launch event was supported by a packed Wollongong Town Hall and the audience included many Chinese officials and Australian Members of Parliament. The music from the film was composed by Judy Stubbs and included two Chinese musicians, who played a very beautiful piece from the film onstage for us before the film started. Sandra had special acknowledgements after the film to the Chinese delegation and also to Heather and Suzanne, which was a moving event. Sandra’s daughter gave a lovely tribute to her parents and hoped that now the film was over she could have her parents back! Sandra is the Director of Why Documentaries which produced the films for our Barnardo exhibition With the Best of Intentions.

It was an unforgettable experience and we were pleased to represent the Heritage Centre at this occasion and have returned with a limited edition of the DVD which will be shown at a later date.

Doreen & Ben

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