At a meeting in Sydney this week the Maritime Union of Australia formed its first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) National Committee.
The committee is formed of rank and file members who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, representing branches of the Maritime Union throughout Australia.
Despite the MUA's proud history of being involved in, and supporting, Indigenous activism, this is the first time such a National Committee has existed.
"I am delighted to have witnessed the formation of this historic committee," said Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray.
"I am pleased to announce that rank and file activist Paddy Neliman, a wharfie from Townsville, has been elected unopposed as the ATSI committee chair.
"Paddy has already been involved in ATSI activism in the union movement and currently represents the MUA in the ACTU's indigenous committee.
"Even more pleasing, this committee is not just a 'talk-fest'. The committee has already made significant plans for activism in both indigenous rights and workplace issues."
The union has been engaged in indigenous rights issues throughout its history, and this work will now be formally directed through the rank and file committee.
"I welcome the union's decision to formally set up a structured committee," said ATSI committee chair Paddy Neliman.
"We will be actively taking up the struggle for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights both industrially and in the wider community.
"I am excited to be working with colleagues from around Australia who have a great depth of passion, experience and professionalism in the work that they do.
"All the members of the committee are already active in their workplaces and communities, and this committee will allow us to better direct our work on the national stage.
"I look forward to working with the committee into the future."