Why Documentaries seeks to question, find and share stories of importance that hope to make a positive impact in the world which often means showing complex stories from both sides, questioning the motives and understanding the facts to present them sensitively. The aim is to make things better between subgroups of people, not to increase division. We work with all people from all cultural backgrounds to tell stories to move and inspire us.

Our key specialist interest areas include Multicultural Marketing and History.

This film was a finalist at the Premier's History Awards - A Big Honour!

JUDGES' comments

This film covers an episode in Australian history overlooked for far too long: the efforts by striking waterfront workers in Wollongong to stop the shipping of pig iron to imperialist Japan in the late 1930s. Framing the story with the figures of Trade Union leader Ted Roach and then Attorney General Robert Menzies, the film brings to life not only the clash of ideas between their two worldviews, but provides a window onto the fraught politics of late 1930s Australia. Drawing on a wide range of views from historians and commentators, as well as the daughters of Roach and Menzies, the film is a well-balanced and finely crafted account of this dramatic episode in Australian political culture.

Perhaps the film’s greatest success is the connection made between the local and the international. Against the backdrop of the rise of Japanese militarism and Tokyo’s invasion of Manchuria, the film shows the energising effect of these events on the consciences of the Waterfront workers at Port Kembla. It shows, too, their desire to not only have their voice heard but to shape the foreign policy of the nation on the cusp of the Second World War.


This was a story which began organically and was requested by the local community of Wollongong.
In August 2010, Why Documentaries launched the documentary Beneath Black Skies. We were approached on that night to consider the story Pig Iron Bob. We didn’t know too much about the history and began researching.

WE WERE AMAZED at the history.
It took us four years to get to the finish line with a lot of help by so many people.

We approached ABC and SBS for assistance on a number of occasions but they refused to assist in the production of the story. We weren’t going to give up and so we raised the funds in a number of different ways, from personal donations, to crowdfunding, a special dinner initiative, through to sponsorship.

We also raised the funds to go to China and we filmed Nanjing Massacre survivors who told of their ordeal, but more importantly – how they forgave the Japanese people, a big turning point for us.

On the 15th November 2013 we had 100 people show up for filming of the scenes in full costume. This was an inspiring day, full of emotion. We learned what the men and families were fighting for. It was selfless and some of our feelings took us by surprise – with one man feinting during the shoot! It was during this day I realized how important the film was for the Wollongong community. Ted Roach’s daughter was also in the audience and was moved by the filming, as were descendants of the men and families who stopped the loading of the ship.

One lady told us how her father asked her that upon his funeral, that his ashes be spread at Number 4 Berth, where the strike happened. It was that important to him, and it was a time he believed in what he was doing. Very touching!

The music was a collaboration between Judy Stubbs Composer and traditional musicians from Nanjing, China. The music is beautiful, evocative and really helps to emphasise the moods throughout the film.


We are indebted to Dr Judy Stubbs, her choir, and the musicians from Nanjing.
On 21st March, the musicians came to Wollongong to showcase their music at the premiere of the film. It was a touching addition to the night.

Overall, we learned a lot about our history, about what it means to live in Wollongong, to understand ourselves and we pay respect to the men and families who did believe they were doing the right thing during a very fraught time in Australia.

We believe peace begins at home.

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