New Research Centre Established to Honour Union Leader Laurie Carmichael


A new research centre dedicated to the legacy of one of Australia’s greatest union leaders will be established in 2021 at the Australia Institute.

The newly formed Carmichael Centre will be established at the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, in the name of legendary manufacturing unionist Laurie Carmichael, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 93.

Laurie Carmichael played a pivotal role in Australia’s union movement over several decades. He campaigned to protect the right to strike, negotiated shorter working hours, developed innovative workers’ education and training programs, helped to negotiate the Prices and Incomes Accords in the 1980s, served on several federal government boards and commissions under the Hawke and Keating governments, and opposed Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. He served in numerous leadership capacities during his career, including with the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

The Carmichael Centre is being established with the support of Carmichael’s family, and with funding from two of the organisations which Carmichael led: the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU, formed in 1995 through a merger that included successors to Carmichael’s former unions) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (for which Carmichael served as Assistant Secretary from 1987 through 1993).

Among other activities, the new Carmichael Centre will:

  • Host a Distinguished Research Fellow position, who will conduct and publish research on themes related to Carmichael’s legacy, including: industrial relations, social policy, manufacturing and industry policy, vocational education, international labour solidarity and peace, and the impact of unions on social well-being.
  • Organise an annual lecture by a prominent labour speaker on Carmichael’s legacy.
  • Develop and publish an annotated on-line bibliography of Carmichael’s writings and other contributions.

The formation of the Carmichael Centre follows two years of discussions among unions and colleagues to plan an appropriate recognition of Carmichael’s influence and legacy. The Centre for Future Work is launching a public search for the first Distinguished Research Fellow, who will be appointed early in 2021.

“The Carmichael Centre will carry on Laurie Carmichael’s mission, based on his conviction that strong, innovative unions can help build a better society for all,” said Andrew Dettmer, National President of the AMWU

“Laurie Carmichael was a principled, innovative, progressive union leader who understood that workers need collective power to make economic, social and democratic progress. We are so glad his ideas will receive the continued attention and study they deserve, through the work of the Carmichael Centre,” said Sally McManus, National Secretary of the ACTU.

Carmichael is survived by his son, Laurie Carmichael Jr. “The values Dad fought for all his life are more important than ever: fairness, equality, democracy, and peace. I am deeply proud that his legacy lives on, including through the work of the Carmichael Centre,” Carmichael Jr. said.

“The Distinguished Research Fellow will make a very important contribution to progressive labour research in Australia. We are deeply honoured to host the Carmichael Centre, and to advance Laurie’s vision of a better, fairer world of work,” said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of the Australia Institute.