National women’s committee member, Krista Grace, is also a participant in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project. As part of the project Krista spent a week shadowing the officials in the Victorian Branch.
A great deal has happened in thirty years and significant changes have occurred within the maritime industry since Anna Stewart filled rooms with her commitment to women’s rights and conditions in the workplace. It is true to say that female seafarers and stevedores still have a distance to travel before Anna Stewart’s vision of equality and opportunity, irrespective of gender, is achieved.
Anna Stewart initially worked as a journalist and became an active union official from 1974 to 1983. Over time, she readjusted the exposure of workplace inequity which women were subjected.
Tragically, Anna died in 1983, aged 35.
The Anna Stewart Memorial Project is an affirmative action strategy aiming to assist rank-and-file women to become more active in the labour movement and to encourage them to seek positions within it by placing participants within unions full-time for two weeks, to encourage and develop their awareness of the ways in which unions can work. As a participant of the ASMP, I choose to spend my time with the MUA Victorian branch shadowing some of our officials as they moved through the day-to-day challenges, events and successes.
This I found to be enlightening, as our officials seem to be on call from the moment they turn on their computers and phones to answer all questions from underpaid superannuation to work place bulling and harassment.
Through the ASMP I have discovered that women form a critical voice and influence the culture of a workplace. Within unions and at the workplace, women have the immediate capacity to identify workplace aspects and assist in accommodating changing demands through consultation and inclusion.
The maritime industry needs women who are motivated. We need to support other women and continue to nurture voice, opportunity and change. Hopefully within the next few years we may even see an elected female official in one of our branches.