The Anna Stewart Memorial Project 2017
The Anna Stewart Memorial Project is an annual training program for women in Unions to learn the history of Unions and forge a new future for female leadership in the movement.
The project is a memorial to Anna Stewart, a Victorian union official who passed away in 1983. Her involvement with unions began at a time when female workers were poorly paid, lacked job security and skills recognition.
We sat down with three CPSU/CSA members who joined “The Anna’s” for a week of training and networking.
Ness works in the newly formed Justice Department.
"I wanted to come and learn more about women in the union movement.
“My area in justice is very female heavy, so I just wanted to learn about issues that affect us.
“Things like; Domestic violence leave and IR laws, especially maternity leave and returning to work, it seems to be a policy but not reality for many women.
“I think over the last few years, especially in Corrective Services, we been through so many reviews and changes.
“I want to bring positivity back to my workplace. That there is hope and that everything isn’t as bad as it looks.”
Madeline works in Education and says she joined the program because of her teenage children.
“I’m driven to tell the story of the union, not just to the predominately female group that I’m part of being in Education – but also to my teenage children, who are entering a very precarious workforce.
“They don’t necessarily know when to say, “That’s not ok”, and they need to know their rights, and develop a language to stand up for themselves.
“It’s very easy when you are suffering from workload issues to not have the energy to stand up at work.
“But taking this week out has given me the brain space to think creatively, to take on board this new information and go back with the energy to spread the word.
Janet works at TAFE and was asked by her Industrial Officer to join this year’s program.
“I thought it would be a really good opportunity to talk with other female delegates, and see if there were challenges issues across all our unions and sectors, that affect all women.
“It’s so negative in the workplace at the moment. We’ve gone through restructures, the TAFE reform project, and now we’re looking at Machinery of Government changes in 2018.
“My colleagues are really overworked, but since being here I’ve heard it’s across the sector - because people are being offered positions that are unsuitable, to accommodate the ‘Voluntary Redundancy Policy’.
“Voluntary redundancy isn’t as voluntary as the word implies. There’s pressure.
“I was very ignorant of the politics too, and what happens behind the scenes, but being in the Anna Stewart program means I’ve learnt much more.
“So now, when my members ask, “Why is this relevant?” or “Why is our union doing this?”
I’ve got a better understanding to say, “This is why!”
All three agree that if you’re thinking of joining the project, do it.
“It’s a real opportunity to network, and I think we’ll all stay in touch – we got support, we can email each other now. We bonded, and it’s a fabulous learning opportunity.
“And we’re really proud that we are Anna’s now too.”
The Anna Stewart Project teaches women about workplace issues, feminism, discrimination, agreements, superannuation, politics and workplace laws that affect women in both blue and white collar occupations. If you want to be involved in the 2018 program, details will be here in the new year.