'Stronger together'

International Women’s Day celebrations

IEU members turned out for International Women’s Day (IWD) at a number of events around the state.

In Bathurst, the IEU joined with the Bathurst Diocese to host an IWD dinner, with guest speaker primary school teacher Emilie Miller, a world champion Para-cyclist. Emilie was set to be a star swimmer until she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident at age 12. She quickly moved to para-cycling.

Emilie gave an inspiring speech to members, who also enjoyed a dinner at Rydges Mount Panorama. IEU organiser Jackie Groom attended with other IEU members; school students were strong supporters at this ‘Balance for Better’ IWD celebration.

In Parramatta, members gathered for an afternoon tea at the IEU’s office on 7 March, where the theme was 'More Powerful Together' which complemented the ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign. Julie Owens Federal Member for Parramatta attended. The focus was on ‘women in conversation about gender issues’ and Julie joined IEU officer Liz Finlay, IEU member Liz Scully, and Nicole Mason from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, in sharing insights on achievements and challenges.

In Wollongong, there was an IWD morning tea at the Catholic Education Office. Pam Smith and Valerie Jones were joined by guest speaker Monica McCann from Caritas Australia. Monica’s talk focused on the women and girls at risk in developing countries alongside Indigenous women and girls in Australia and the assistance Caritas Australia provides in improving living and health standards.

IEU members and officers participated in the march through Sydney on 9 March, which was well supported by union women. This year’s IWD occurred within the context of the pending NSW and federal elections and NSW Deputy ALP Leader Penny Sharpe was a participant in the march with other Labor colleagues.

Unions NSW contributed further to IWD celebrations by hosting a panel as part of its usual Thursday night meeting, focusing on campaigns being run by the union movement to end violence against women, including workplace harassment.

The IEU Canberra office advised of a range of union IWD events in the ACT and in Wollongong the CEO and Caritas hosted an IWD morning tea on 8 March in conjunction with a meeting of the Wollongong Diocese Workplace Gender Equality Committee.

Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Workplaces

Last year, the AHRC launched an independent national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace. This 12 month investigation led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins aimed to focus a much needed light on a system which is failing Australian workers, particularly women, and provide individuals and organisations from all over Australia the opportunity to speak about their experiences.

IEU has actively supported the ACTU submission to the AHRC inquiry and will continue to support national action to highlight the incidences of sexual harassment in the workforce. IEU members join with other unions, state and territory Labour Councils, and organisations across Australia to call on all levels of government to take urgent and coordinated action to implement the following solutions:

  • Dedicated prevention efforts to address the underlying gendered drivers of sexual harassment, which should be part of a holistic strategy to prevent violence against women and promote gender equality.
  • Stronger and clearer legal duties on employers to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment at work, and strong and effective regulators with the regulatory tools and resources necessary to effectively tackle sexual harassment, including as a cultural, a systemic and a WHS issue.
  • Access to fair, effective and efficient complaints processes, including a new right of action under the Fair Work Act, extended time limits, increased transparency of conciliation outcomes where appropriate, and other amendments and resources necessary for effective action.
  • Appropriate advocacy and support for workers who experience sexual harassment, including access to information, counselling and legal services that are appropriately resourced and coordinated.
  • Accessible reporting tools, including piloting an online reporting tool to assist in reporting and addressing concerns and seeking support, and which can also identify trends to aid prevention and enforcement efforts.

IEU Women and Equity events in 2019

As 2019 is a non Women’s Conference year, a range of regional events and other activities are being planned. There has already been a Women and Leadership TeachMeet (online) on 18 March, and a South Coast women’s forum at Kiama Pre School on 21 March.

Other events include:

  • 21 May Newcastle Women’s Forum/dinner
  • 31 May Mid North Coast Forum/dinner at Coffs Harbour
  • 25 July WEC Teleconference
  • TBC North West Women’s Forum in Armidale (date to be confirmed)
  • 16 October WEC teleconference
  • 23 October Western Sydney Women’s Forum at Holy Family Primary School at Emerton.

In the ACT, Women and Equity activities are convened by the IEU’s Canberra Office and 2019 events will be developed in conjunction with members. See www.ieu.asn.au for further information.