MUA Women at CFMEU National Conference

Published: 28 Nov 2016

Bonnie Crow, Tasmania Branch and Karen Sewell, South Australia Branch were nominated by the national women's committee to attend the CFMEU National Conference

I was fortunate to be selected to attend the 7th annual national women’s conference for the CFMEU. This ran in conjunction with the National CFMEU conference up on the Gold Coast.

The evening before the conference we had a casual dinner which was a great ice breaker for the rest of the week. I met women from the forestry and furnishing division and from the construction and mining divisions of the CFMEU. I found meeting these women from other male dominated industries so interesting as I got to learn about their work places and different things they have had to overcome at work.

The morning of the women’s conference started with a rally. A great way to get everyone pumped up!! We marched to Steven Ciobo's office, he is the local liberal member on the Gold Coast. He is the minister for trade tourism and investment. So, he was the perfect person to let know we are not happy about the free trade agreements.


The rest of the day we heard from some great guest speakers. One stood out to me. Shaan Ross Smith. Shaan runs a program for the Griffith University called MATE. MATE is a leadership program focused on preventing all form of violence. She taught us how to be an effective bystander in violent situations and then how we can confront, interrupt or prevent violence. Shaan also works in prisons to educate perpetrators to prevent further problems. She was a strong inspirational woman.


Michele O'Neil from the TCFUA also attended the conference along with a delegation of women from her union. Michele addressed us too. I love hearing from Michele as she is another awesome strong woman, who we will get to see a lot more of if our amalgamation goes though.


We also did some working group activities where I learned that it doesn't matter which industry we come from we share very similar struggles as women in a male dominated industry. I was also very inspired hearing the stories from ladies when they had had a win for women in their work place.

The day finished with a snippet from a short film called The Women Who Were Never There. This film was filmed in NSW it was set in 1973 and it was about the first attempt to get employment for women in the steel works. It is well worth having a look at.


The rest of the week was the National CFMEU conference. The CFMEU national conference was very different to a MUA national conference as their conference was mostly made up of branch officials and national officials, very few rank and file and a few international guests. They did make mention that going forward they would like to run their conference more like the MUA do.


The CFMEU share very similar struggles to the MUA, their main campaigns were for jobs and job security for Australian workers. The CFMEU are also constantly battling with the government too.

The CFMEU hold the MUA in very high regard and look forward to our amalgamation.


The week was great and we were made very welcome as their guests. I met some inspiring strong people and I am very happy to say I met some Tassie CFMEU women that I am looking forward to getting together with for upcoming events and campaigns.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to attend.   

Bonnie Crow

Tasmania Branch


Monday 21st

Dinner with the CFMEU Women’s Committee at the Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club


We were made so welcome at this casual dinner. The women are from a huge variety of industries. I sat with women who worked in the timber mill industry in Tasmania.  We all agreed that regardless of the industry we came from we had many similar issues.


Tuesday 22nd

Women’s Conference

Nothing like starting a Womens Conference with a rally.  So about 60 of us with flags in hand we took along the streets in Surfers Paradise to visit the local MP to let them know what we think about the Free Trade Agreements.

Jane Calvert President FFPD, Michele O’Neil TCFUA National Secretary and

Mich-Elle Myers National Officer MUA all took to the microphone and revved us all up.  We even had the Police arrive however too late as we were on our way back anyway. 

What a great way to start a conference.  There is no way those Police were going to do say or doing anything to a group of Union Women. 

We were loud and we were Proud.

The Women’s Conference speakers discussed Feminist Perspective to the CFMEU work, Culture shifting, Violence against Women and gender inequality. Mich-Elle Myers and Michele O’Neil both spoke about where we stand now and where we are heading. Lorraine Usher spoke about where we have come from and looking forward.  The day ended with Resolutions and National Reports.


Amazing day


Wednesday 23rd

The Conference opened and National Officers Reports, Future Directions and Political campaigning on the right people. 


Thursday 24th

The Conference continued with the big Campaign Drivers, Jobs and Inequality, The National Plan.

A session understanding public perceptions and attitude towards the CFMEU and the responding strategies moving forward. 


Friday 25th

Closing the Conference with Resolutions and National Secretary Closing Address


Overall – We are going to be a strong one Union and the feeling is arms wide open.


Thank you for the opportunity to attend.


Karen Sewell

SA Branch




Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney