The Guardian 6 April, 2005
Working class idol
Adelaide wharfie Viron Papadopoulos has taken out first prize in the MUA Working Class Idol competition with his short film. The winner was selected by a panel of eminent filmmakers and historians including Tom Zubrycki, John Hughes, Norma Disher and Dr Lisa Milner. They selected the best of 10 entries from ships and ports around the nation.
While the television show Australian Idol has been attracting record crowds, the MUA was been quietly holding a talent quest of its own — not for the latest rap or rock singer, but for wharfies and seafarers who could help re-launch the union film unit first set up in the 1950s.
"Our union has a long history of supporting workers in developing their full potential in every aspect of their lives", said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "Cultural issues are inseparable from industrial and economic issues and we must record and preserve what is ours, ensuring our national identity is not lost in this age of globalisation."
Viron Papadopoulos, 30, a casual wharfie and freelance filmmaker, is an honours graduate in film studies at Flinders University and has been working on documentaries and films for the past 10 years (including the Working Lives series for ABC TV, McLeod's Daughters and the The Secret Life of Us). He has also taken out awards for short films in state festivals.
"People's work is their life", said Viron. "That goes for wharfies especially. There is a culture that goes with being a waterside worker. It's iconically Australian. That is one of the things that made me want to work on the waterfront. And it's what really made me want to be involved in the establishment of the union film unit."
Sydney wharfie Cooper Silk, 29, works full time for P&O, Darling Harbour, while also doing a bit of acting for a film-making friend.
"One of my mates was in Race Around the World on ABC and freelances for television", he said. "I've done stuff for him in front of the camera. So when I saw the union was running a film competition I thought I'd be good at it and I'd give it a go."
Actor and wharfie John Teague, is studying part time at the Actors' PlayHouse in Melbourne while working part time for Toll Stevedoring, Geelong. He took out third prize for his entry MUA News. John has appeared on Blue Heelers and stage plays as well as short films including the 2002 Dendy Awards winner, China Face. He also appears on Hard Yakka and Fox Footy.
"It's hugely important that working people have their say", said John. "A lot of people just clock on and clock off. Work can be really mundane. So I thought I'd highlight some really positive things happening around the place like the wharfies helping out Tsunami victims."
The winning entries will be mailed out to all MUA members, are available on the website and will be screened at stopwork meetings in coming weeks.