ACTU Women's Conference 2014

The MUA sent a delegation of rank-and-file women to attend a two-day ACTU Women’s Conference in Melbourne in August. This report was compiled by attendees Fremantle tug worker Karen Wheatland and seafarer Sarah Maguire

The ACTU Women’s Conference was a marathon forum of ideas, campaign planning and
networking, which gave the representatives of our national union movement and affiliates food-for-thought and rekindled the fire in their belly.
In the words of Emily’s List: “When women support women, women win”.
And that was precisely what occurred in Melbourne. A cloud of inspiration that formed from this congregation erupted into an articulation of ideas that were explored and developed throughout the conference and culminated in concrete plans of action by the conference end.

ACTU President Ged Kearney inspired us all to take charge and to continue to fight for our rights - taking the struggle to the next stage of effecting change at leadership level.
She emphasised the importance of women coming together to support each other, and the need for us to mainstream women’s issues into a world that is still so male-dominated.
Federal Parliamentarian Tania Plibersek spoke of how “union women need to work together” and emphasised “women’s rights at work, are human rights worth fighting for.” In regards to Tony Abbott, she stressed that “everything that he sets out to do is making things worse for women.”

The need for our women to become active leaders, speakers and catalysts of change is paramount. We need to enlist the support of our male counterparts in order to assist us to facilitate this change.
We need strong and positive allies in our brothers, who will support us in our agenda, and not use women in powerful positions to pursue their own political interests.


Some facts from the conference:

-          Women make almost 50% of the workforce and 50% of union membership

-          Women make up only; 12.3% of board of directors, 12 CEO’s from the top 500 companies and 6 Chairs of top 200 Countries

-          Women are underrepresented in senior political positions

-          Women are the majority of union activists and delegates.




What do we need to do?

-          Campaign for REAL government support for working women – PPL, childcare, equal wages and conditions, adequate social support services and respect.

-          Laws that keep employers accountable for women’s equal opportunity in the workforce.

-          Equal labor rights for casuals/insecure/home based workers

-          Enhanced the safety net; family friendly work, carers leave, paid domestic violence leave, the right to convert from casual to permanent work

-          Protect social compacts

-          Develop our vision with members and the community

-          Defend and improve our rights at work

-          Work with parliament

-          Be active in elections

-          Don’t stop, get deep in the community.



The Maritime Union of Australia was represented exceptionally well by six women from four states. Erica Seipel NT, Christine Von Wootten NT, Mary Prout WA, Natalie Mackenzie NSW, Sarah Maguire QLD and Karen Wheatland WA. We have come away with a firm understanding that we are united, strong and ready for the next stage, with a clear future vision and our strategies in place. We have the knowledge and the networks to continue the fight for our rights from the community level up and from the leadership down.

Nothing will stop us… We are strong… We are invincible… We are woman…

“Doesn’t matter what you are calling yourself, as long as you are calling out for change.”