Sunshine Harvester Works

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HV McKay Sunshine Harvester Works

The Sunshine Harvester works, was an Australia factory operated by industrialist H. V. McKay. Having established an agricultural implement works in Ballarat he moved his factory and many of his employees to Braybrook Junction, in 1906,where he had earlier (1904) purchased the Braybrook Implement Works. He named the new enterprise the Sunshine Harvester Works, after his Sunshine Harvester which was one of his major products. Through a revolutionary piece of marketing, this had gained a reputation as the first successful combine harvester in Australia. McKay rapidly expanded the factory to become the largest manufacturing plant in Australia which, at its peak, employed nearly 3,000 workers.

McKay also acquired large tracts of land in the area to establish housing to encourage his workers to settle. His Sunshine Estate (later known simply as Sunshine) is considered a pioneering development of a company town on the town planning principles of the Garden city movement.[1][2] In 1907, following a residents' petition, the locality was officially renamed Sunshine in honour of the factory.[3] Housing for the Sunshine Harvester Works' employees swelled the local population and the town of Sunshine was touted as the "Birmingham of Australia".[4]

The Sunshine Harvester Works was also the site of a protracted industrial dispute in 1907, between McKay and the unions representing the Sunshine workers. While this was based on claims for wages and conditions, McKay also argued that he should continue to receive import protection. The case was heard before H. B. Higgins at the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in Melbourne between 7 October 1907 and 8 November 1907. Higgins heard evidence from employees and their wives regarding conditions at the factory and costs for supporting their families. In the Harvester Judgement, he obliged McKay to pay his employees a wage that guaranteed them a standard of living which was reasonable for "a human being in a civilised community", regardless of his capacity to pay. McKay successfully appealed this judgement, but it became the benchmark industrial decision which led to the creation of a minimum basic wage for Australian workers that dominated Australian industrial relations for the next 60 to 80 years.[5]

By the 1920s the H.V. McKay Company was running the largest implement factory in the southern hemisphere, covering 30.4 hectares (75 acres), and was leading the international agricultural industry through the development of the world's first self-propelled harvester in 1924. In 1930 the H.V. McKay Company was granted exclusive Australian distribution of Massey-Harris machinery as part of a merger with Massey Harris. The company was then renamed H.V. McKay Massey Harris Pty Ltd. Throughout World War II H.V. McKay Massey Harris exported over 20,000 Sunshine drills, disc harrows and binders to England to facilitate the increase in food production.

In the 1950s the McKay family sold out to the newly formed agricultural implement conglomerate Massey Ferguson which was a combination of the Canadian and American interests of Massey Harris, and the British tractor firm of Harry Ferguson. However from the 1970s, when many Australian-based manufacturing industries were having financial difficulties, the business progressively contracted and in 1992 most of the factory was demolished to make way for the development of the Sunshine Marketplace.[6]

The former bulk store, factory gates and clock tower,[7] the pedestrian footbridge, factory gardens[8] and head office complex[9] are all listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

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Coordinates: 37°46′52″S 144°49′55″E / 37.781°S 144.832°E / -37.781; 144.832