Anna Stewart Memorial Project â€“ an Invitation to NTEU Women
This year’s Anna Stewart Memorial Project will be conducted at Trades Hall from Monday, 30 April to Friday, 11 May. The aim of the project is to increase women’s involvement in the union movement. The project has been in existence since 1984 and so far more than 600 women have participated, including many from the NTEU.
During the two week project, women union members are placed with their own or sometimes with another union. They experience the full range of union work, including mass meetings, enterprise negotiations and Fair Work Australia hearings. In addition, all participants meet for one whole day and two half days during the project to discuss women, work and union issues.
NTEU members from workplaces with access to trade union training leave or industrial relations training leave should be able to access such leave for this project, but as it runs over two weeks, there may be some need for participants to draw on other forms of leave as well.
The NTEU Victorian Division encourages any woman member who is interested in participating to contact their local NTEU Branch office, or Linda Gale in the Victorian Division office, to discuss registration.
Anna Stewart, a former journalist and active Victorian union official from 1974 to 1983, died tragically in 1983, aged 35. Her involvement with the union movement began at a time when women workers comprised one third of the paid workforce, but the few industries in which women were employed offered jobs that were poorly paid, lacked job security and skills recognition.
Anna’s work with the Furnishing Trades Society, Vehicle Builders Federation, Municipal Officers Association and the ACTU secured many conditions for the members she represented and indirectly for all working women.
Anna also saw the need for strategies to increased involvement of women in union structures, and worked tirelessly on programs to be incorporated into ACTU Working Women’s Charter.
After Anna’s death, a number of her friends and colleagues met to determine the most appropriate means by which her work and life could be remembered. The founders of the Memorial felt that a project based around the Working Women’s Charter demand for increased involvement in trade unions was immediately relevant to Anna’s memory, and to the needs of the female workforce. This was felt particularly appropriate since statistics showed that despite large numbers of women joining trade unions, they were still poorly represented in decision-making structures.
The Anna Stewart Memorial Project was thus born and the inaugural program was co-ordinated by the Municipal Officers Association in Victoria in April 1984.
The Project was conceived as an annual two week “on the job” training program for women unionists. It was designed to give participants unique levels of access to union organisations, and develop their awareness of the ways in which unions can work to overcome the discrimination and exploitation of women workers. Unions also benefit by increased sensitivity to the needs of women workers.