The Emma Miller Award, recognising the contribution of union women

Every year, Queensland Council of Unions pays homage to one of the most influential female figures in the Queensland labour movement.

Emma Miller or ‘Mother Miller’ as she was known was a seamstress by trade and helped form the first women’s union in Brisbane in 1890, made up primarily of tailoresses.

She was also a founding member of the Worker’s Political Organisation and the president of the Women Worker's Political Organisation.

She championed equal pay and equal opportunity for women and was foundation president of the Woman's Equal Franchise Association, a role she held from 1894-1905.

Her mantra of one adult, one vote was finally recognised by the Federal Electoral Act on 9 April 1902.

She took to the road in 1905 and travelled around western Queensland speaking at large public rallies and setting up local branches of the Workers Political Organisation.

Perhaps the story, which is told most often about Emma Miller is her involvement in the ‘Black Friday’ march in 1912 for the right to organise trade unions.

Braving police batons, she lead a contingent of women to Parliament House and thrust her hatpin into the Police Commissioner's horse causing him to fall and claim permanent injury.

She campaigned for women’s rights until she died in 1917 and the flag at Brisbane Trades Hall was flown at half-mast the day of her death for the "mother of the Australian Labor Party".

In order to remember the outstanding contribution Emma Miller made to the union and labour movement in Queensland, the Emma Miller Award was established in 1987.

Since its establishment, the award has been presented annually to extraordinary women involved in the labour movement.

In 2012, our very own Big Steps campaigner Coralee O’ Rourke was recognised for her dedication, hard work and commitment, becoming the awards most recent recipient.

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