The Victorian Trades Hall, rising grandly from the northern edge of the Melbourne CBD, is a national treasure and a symbol of the aspirations of the Australian people. For over 140 years the Victorian Trades Hall building has given form to dreams of a better life, equality, justice and social equity. This is the birthplace of organised labour in Australia, of the Victorian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In the late nineteenth century there was a rapid growth in trade unionism in Melbourne. Branches of the unions soon spread throughout the state, forming a network of trade and labour associations. Trade unions, or 'Trade Societies' as they were then known, were represented by a central body known as the Trades Hall Council. These bodies were a focus for the union movement and also provided a meeting place where workers could spend their leisure time in educational and cultural pursuits. But above all, it was here that union members met and planned their industrial strategies. After the successful Eight Hour Day campaign of 1856, it was decided that a Trades Hall building should be built as a monument to this victory and also as a forum for all union concerns. The first Trades Hall building was constructed in 1859. It was a modest timber structure with a galvanised-iron roof, standing just north of the present Lygon Street entrance. Historians claim that this was the first building in the world to be constructed specifically for trade union business. (This original building was removed around 1917 to make way for extensions to the present one). By the early 1870s, plans for a more substantial Trades Hall and Literary Institute were beginning to take shape, designed by prominent architect Joseph Reed. The foundation stone of the present building was laid on 26 January 1874. The Trades Hall was one of Melbourne's most prestigious public buildings of the 1870s and 1880s. The Victorian Trades Hall Council or Workingman's Parliament became the headquarters for Victorian unions and was substantially extended during the 1880s as unions grew in numbers and financial strength. Women had also been actively involved in the unions' struggle for better working conditions. Following the successful Tailoresses Strike in 1882, Trades Hall leaders requested 14 acres of land in Lygon Street for the Female Operatives Hall. In those days females were not permitted entrance to the committee rooms of Trades Hall Council so it was necessary for a separate structure to be built. This building was demolished in 1960, to make way for further additions to the present Trades Hall complex. After Victorian workers won the first 8 hour working day in the world in 1856 (the origins of the Labour Day public holiday) their attention quickly turned to the creation of a "Peoples Palace" as a monument to their victory. The original Trades Hall, having been financed by worker contributions and built by their own labour, was opened in May 1859. During the 1870's the Victorian Government granted a series of allotments of crown land for the building of a Trades Hall and Literary Institute for the purpose of social, educational and union matters. The Victorian Trades Hall was built in stages over a period of 50 years, from 1874 to 1925, by the architectural firm Reed & Barnes (who also designed The Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Library, the Melbourne Town Hall Hall and Rippon Lea). A modern, multi- story extension was added in 1961. The conservative style of the Trades Hall building reflects the desire for social respectability of the early union leaders. It is an outstanding example of 19th 19th century craftsmanship and great pride was also taken in using local materials where possible. The Victorian Trades Hall is one of the most prestigious public buildings in Melbourne and the oldest continually used union centre in the world. With the growth in public awareness of our rich industrial and political heritage so has increased the interest in this and other such monuments to our past. These monuments are a reminder of people past, battles fought and stories stories that are still evolving. The heritage value of this rare surviving structure, and the associated 8 Hour Day Monument, has been recognised by their inclusion on the Register of the National Trust and the Historic Buildings Register.