Vol. 38 (1996)

Workers' Education in Australia and Canada: A Comparative Approach to Labour's Cultural History

Gerald Friesen
University of Manitoba
Lucy Taksa
University of New South Wales

Published 1996-02-02

How to Cite

Friesen, G., & Taksa, L. (1996). Workers’ Education in Australia and Canada: A Comparative Approach to Labour’s Cultural History. Labour Le Travail, 38, 170–197. Retrieved from https://www.lltjournal.ca/index.php/llt/article/view/5051


This essay investigates the formal and informal educational pursuits of the labour movements and working-class communities of Australia and Canada. It suggests that worker education in the two countries was conducted by similar institutions, notably by branches of England's Workers Educational Association (WEA) but within very different cultural contexts. By juxtaposing these two national cases we demonstrate that labour's reliance on such community-wide institutions was mediated by the relationship between the labour movements and informal networks of working class interaction, on the one hand, and the body politic, on the other. Australia's prominent labour movement and strong tradition of public working class interaction enabled community-wide educational activities to be challenged. In Canada, by contrast, the collaborative nature of adult education and the "tools courses" taught by unions represented a different consensus about the nature of class identity and the place of unions in national politics.