NSW Government Printing Office patch, courtesy of Ray Utick
NSW Government Printing Office patch, courtesy of Ray Utick

Precarious Printers: Labour, technology & material culture at the NSW Government Printing Office 1959–1989

By Daniel Huppatz

The NSW Government Printing Office (hereafter ‘the Gov’) was an organisation that witnessed dramatic technological and political transitions between 1959 and 1989. During this period, workers with expertise in ‘hot metal’ typesetting and letterpress retrained in more automated and computerised printing technologies. The combination of technological change, gender-labour tensions, and political pressures related to the rise of economic rationalism made for an unsettled institution.

On an historical level Precarious Printers is an exploration of how the Gov’s workers coped with technological, social and political change. This has brought to light many aspects of the Gov’s culture of working life, and it demonstrates workers’ coping mechanisms: they formed alliances (with people and/or technologies) and undertook clandestine creative pursuits.

The theoretical and methodological contribution of this thesis is a demonstration of how labour history can be effectively drawn together with considerations of material culture and design. Precarious Printers provides a method for analysing labour, technology and industrial history that retains the voices of the workers and adds relevant considerations of spaces, objects and embodied experience. Correspondingly, this interdisciplinary research looks to a number of disciplines: labour history, sociology, the history of technology and design history. Primary source materials include oral history, photographs and archives. A complete copy of this thesis is available below.


Jesse Adams Stein

Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building

University of Technology Sydney