One of twenty images depicting the private lives of tram workers by photographer Sarah Pears. In 1992 Sarah undertook a documentary photographic project of tram workers in their home environments. During the course of the project Sarah, who was working as a tram driver herself, captured the private lives of 41 tram workers and collected a short statement from each participant about their life and work. Sarah was driven to expose the individuals behind the tram worker's uniform after discovering into the wealth of cultural diversity, lifestyles and opinions of her workmates. The images and statements were exhibited at the NGV Access Gallery in February 1993.

As a tram worker Sarah discovered their 'role entails more than meets the public's eye...we are also information officers, tourist guides, entertainers, targets, weight lifters, counsellors, relationship with my fellow workers developed through admiration for the skills with which people negotiated this multitude of duties on a gruelling shift work timetable.'

Lucy was born in Wellington, New Zealand and immigrated to Melbourne in 1985. She began working on the tramways in 1998 as a tram driver and enjoyed the opportunity it provided to work with people of different nationalities and learn about their cultures. She returns to New Zealand annually and is actively involved in Maori culture. She loves the sound of an old W class tram going clunk-clunk-clunk down St. Kilda Road.

Bruno is Maltese and immigrated to Australia as a child. He worked as a tram conductor. Bruno and Lucy were flat mates when is photograph was taken.

Description of Content

Image of a man dressed in a red knitted turtleneck jumper and grey track pants standing against a peach coloured all on which hang three cases of pinned butterflies. On his right sits a woman dressed in a red and blue jumper, her hands rest on her knees. A vase of greenery sits on a low table between the man and woman.

Physical Description

Framed colour photograph


This collection of 30 images of tram workers by photographer Sarah Pears, taken in two groups in 1992 and 1997, documents a group of culturally diverse workers in both their domestic and work environments. These images capture time of significant change in the working lives of these people as they faced the challenges of maintaining employment in a dying industry and the serious implications the privatisation of the public transport system had not just on users but on the working lives and material existence of the staff who worked in that system and their families. They document the workplace culture of the tramways and public transport industry more generally, as well as expressing the human experiences which underlie a key Melbourne icon ‘the tram’.

These images also represent the experiences of the many migrants who found work in Melbourne’s public transport system from the end of the 1970s. Many who arrived with professional qualifications but were unable to gain work due to their qualifications not being recognised or lack of English language skills. We see the contrast between their public and private lives, the experience of creating a home in a new country, and the mixed feelings associated with this, as hope for the future and a ‘new’ chance contrasts with issues surrounding racism and acceptance in the workplace and society.

More Information