The Geelong Women Unionists Network (GWUN) kicked off the week of International Women’s day (IWD) celebrations at Geelong Trades Hall on March 1, with a breakfast and speak out.
About 50 women, children and men attended the breakfast. They included Geelong Trades Hall Council members, union members and officials, members of Socialist Alliance, the Labor Party and Animal Justice Party, local MPs and local law firms.
Speakers included Central Arrernte woman Belinda Foley; Julie Kun, CEO of Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE); Kirrileigh Everette of Members Equity Bank; Linda Cusworth of Combined Refugee Action Group; and Michelle Jackson, Australian Services Union (ASU) branch co-ordinator.
Many topics were discussed, including gendered poverty and inequality; the gendered pay gap; family violence; the significantly higher levels of family violence faced by our Aboriginal sisters; the fight for paid family violence leave; homelessness; the need for the women’s union movement to be about all women, including Aboriginal, refugee and asylum seeker women; and the need for government policy to change and adapt so that women are not further impacted by government and Centrelink policy.
The breakfast also celebrated the anniversary of paid family violence leave clauses being inserted into enterprise bargaining agreements. It was a GWUN activist who won a world first when she successfully campaigned to have the clause inserted into a local council EBA with the support of GWUN, the ASU and the Australian Nurses and Midwives Federation.
The event concluded with speeches, chants and a rousing rendition of I am Woman by the Geelong Trades Hall Choir. The event ended with the symbolic throwing off of the chains of oppression that seek to marginalise and discriminate against women.
[Adele Welsh and Jackie Kriz are co-convenors of GWUN, which is run by a committee of rank-and-file union women. We take a grassroots approach to union organising and agitating by raising awareness of issues that primarily impact on and empower union women and non-union supporters. We provide information, knowledge and skills for women to take back to their workplaces and communities and agitate for industrial and community change. GWUN is entirely unfunded, and run by volunteers. For more information call Geelong Trades Hall on 03 5221 1712.]