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BENEATH BLACK SKIES is the powerful story of coal - Australia's first mineral export - and the men and women who lived the mining life. This remarkable history of coal-mining in the Illawarra region is told from the perspective of the miners, their wives, their unions, mining officials and historians. It's a local community history but it's also a story of national importance. The Illawarra miners had a reputation as the most militant in the industry: they were at the forefront of campaigns such as the fight against dust and the struggle for a 35 hour week. In 1887, miners at the Old Bulli Colliery went on strike to improve conditions and increase pay. During the strike, company officials tried to bring in an outside workforce to replace the strikers. It was the women who stopped the 'scab' labour getting to the pits by standing in front of a moving train and with their babies pleading for the non-union men to return home. The strike proved fruitless as the miners didn't win any gains. Yet, two months later, on 23 March 1887, the Bulli pit blew up, killing 81 men and boys and devastating the community. In July 1902, the introduction of the safety lamp was a key issue being debated by the miners and officials. On that same day, gas reached a naked light in a mine at Mt Kembla, triggering Australia's largest industrial disaster. 120 children became fatherless, when 96 men and boys were killed. Narrated by Australian actor, David Field, and enhanced by a striking musical score and dramatic re-enactments, this film is a model of delivering history on film in a way that engages and stimulates audiences of all ages.