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Victorian Trade Union Banners: a proud tradition - Origins

Before World War One the Eight Hour Day processions were the greatest annual celebrations in Australia. They originated with the triumphal march held on the 12 May 1856, to celebrate the gaining of the Eight Hour Day on 21 April 1856. For the march a special banner, 8 Hours Labour 8 Hours Recreation 8 Hours Rest was launched. The march went from the Carlton Gardens to the Cremorne Gardens in Richmond, 'shortly after 10 o'clock the procession, about 1,200 or 1,500 strong, preceded by the band, issued forth...supported by a Union Jack, with a golden figure of Eight on the spear end of the shaft.' The procession was followed by a dinner for 600-700, speeches, sports and other festivities including fireworks.

Processions were subsequently held annually and in 1879 the Victorian government declared the Eight Hour Day celebrations a public holiday. Workers marched with banners, floats and bands through Melbourne and country towns, watched by tens of thousands of people. The procession was traditionally led by the original 8 Hours Labour 8 Hours Recreation 8 Hours Rest banner, which survived until the 1970s.

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