20 years ago The Anna Stewart Memorial Project was set up by Queensland Council of Unions to help women become more active in the labour movement.
The project, which is run annually, was designed not only to ensure women became more involved in their union but also to recognise the achievements of one of the most influential female unionists, Anna Stewart.
Anna Stewart was a journalist and active Victorian union official from 1974 until her tragic death in 1983, pioneering the rights of working women particularly working mothers.
At a time when female workers were largely ignored, she fought hard to make sure they were involved in their union’s decision making process.
She knew that strategies needed to be developed to address the issues confronting working women and to highlight the important contribution that women make to the trade union movement.
Anna successfully led the first blue-collar union campaign for maternity leave award provisions, she fought for childcare facilities in car plants and led campaigns that saw sexual harassment recognised as an industrial issue.
She was a foundation member of the ACTU Women’s Committee and worked tirelessly on programs for the Working Women’s Charter.
As Senior Federal Industrial Officer with the Municipal Officers Association, Anna initiated women’s committees in most state branches of the union and developed strong policies in relation to women workers.
Although Anna Stewart’s life ended when she was just 35, she did more for women workers in her ten years as a union official than most could achieve in a lifetime.
Most female workers have gained strength from the fact that she combined motherhood with a demanding career, often breast feeding her son during commission hearings or seeking adjournments to do so, demonstrating to the Commission the demands of being a working mother.
The Anna Stewart Project does more than just recognise the outstanding contribution of its name sake but also encourages women to seek positions within the union movement.
Unions can also take part by nominating a female member and either training her in their own office or in a 'hosting' union office for a week.
Nominations are now open for this year’s project and further information can be found by talking to your organiser, or contacting United Voice on (07) 3291-4600