Union Songs

Australian Made

A poem by John Dengate©John Dengate 2009

My father worked in a factory
And the sheet–steel came from B.H.P.,
From a rolling mill near the Hunter's mouth
Or a Kembla furnace further south.
The steel was all of the finest grade –
And every inch was Australian made.

Copper and bronze he shaped and wrought.
The skills he possessed could not be bought.
To his trade and his union he was true…
That was the life my father knew.
When his faults, in Heaven, the angels weighed,
They found they were all Australian made.
Oh, the old stone G.P.O. still stands
Displaying the craft of my father's hands.
I gaze with pride and my heart responds
When I see those fittings shaped in bronze:
My father's work, to the world displayed –
And every ounce was Australian made.

Though depression and war, he remained unbowed;
He was kind but, oh, he was fiercely proud.
Cant and privilege he despised…
He was not a man to be patronised!
He was not religious … he never prayed …
His ethics were all Australian made!
His speech had the twang of the 'gum tree vowel'.
He watched T.V. with a brooding scowl.
When the name of a town was mispronounced,
He expressed disdain … like a lion he pounced.
His indignation was so keen,
He threw his shoe at the T.V. screen.

If we beat the Poms in a cricket test,
Joy would reign and our home was blessed.
But if we lost, at the wall he’d stare
And we all felt touched by his dark despair –
In his youth, he had wielded the willow blade
And the runs he scored were Australian made.
The only time my father cried
Was the night when old Ben Chifley died.
When they buried Ben and the dead march played,
My father's grief was Australian made.

My father's dead … as are his mates,
With their hopes and fears, their loves and hates,,
Different values now prevail –
W hat was sacrosanct now is up for sale,
For the 'global market' requires 'free trade'…
But not me, mate, I’m Australian made!


Many thanks to John Dengate for permission to add this poem to the Union Songs collection.

See more of John Dengate's work in this collection.

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