Anna Stewart was an active union official and long-time campaigner for women’s rights. When Anna entered the industrial arena, women made up one third of the paid workforce, usually in unskilled or semi-skilled positions. They were poorly paid, lacked job security and satisfaction and rarely had access to promotional opportunities.
She worked tirelessly to devise ways to involve women directly in deciding the principles and priorities to put to unions and government that would help them achieve real equality of status and opportunity. Working in the union movement for less than a decade, Anna developed a radical re-evaluation of the rights of female labour. This led to a fundamental reappraisal of women’s issues throughout the union movement.
Anna worked as both a research and industrial officer for a number of unions from 1974, until she died tragically in 1983 at the age of 35. She campaigned during the 1970s to ensure that both the union movement and employers began to recognise the needs of working women. She focused on areas such as maternity leave and childcare facilities and headed up a campaign to draw attention to sexual harassment as a form of exploitation of women.
After Anna’s death, a number of her trade union friends and colleagues met to determine the most appropriate means by which her work and life could be remembered. This was felt to be particularly appropriate in light of statistics that showed that, despite the large numbers of women joining trade unions, women were still under-represented in decision-making structures.
In 1986, the Anna Stewart Program was conceived and established as an annual on-the-job training program for women unionists, to provide a unique level of awareness of the way unions can work in our society. The program usually lasts two weeks. The exact dates vary from state to state.
The AEU Branches and Associated Bodies all take part in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project. Find out how to be involved in your state or territory here:
South Australia - http://www.saunions.org.au/ASMP/as-main.html
Victoria - http://www.vthc.org.au/ASMP
Western Australia - http://www.unionswa.com.au/anna_stewart_project