New Staff: Welcoming the opportunity to make a difference

Industrial Officer Liam Crisanti

At age 18, Liam Crisanti was tying the knot for people who had been waiting to get married longer than he’d been alive.

A new Industrial Officer with the IEU, Liam started his career straight from St Aloysius’ College in Milsons Point with the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

“I probably would have done about two or three dozen weddings. It was on the advent of the same-sex marriage amendment, so that was an interesting time. I needed to help align the policies of the Registry to fit in with the new amendments,” Liam said.

“It was beautiful to see those changes allow people who already considered themselves married but hadn’t been recognised under law to become so.”

While working, Liam also studied International Relations at the University of Sydney.

“I moved to the Information and Privacy Commission. I was interacting more with the legal side of things there and that’s where I started to develop an appreciation for the law, and how it works in everyday life.

“I completed my first degree and decided I wanted to get involved with the law, so I started a Juris Doctor at Sydney University.

“About midway through that degree I started working at Turner Freeman Lawyers. My grandfather was a shipwright and unfortunately contracted asbestosis. He was going through the process of getting compensated for that and I would go along to support him.

“One day I was sitting in the office with the Managing Partner, and he said, ‘well, if you haven’t got a job, come work for us’. That’s how I started there.”

Liam’s grandfather and his parents are strong union advocates. Both his parents have worked for unions and now work for the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

Liam opted to study labour law at university, and ended up winning a university prize.

“When I started working at Turner Freeman, it was dust diseases work, then workers compensation as well. But my interest was really employment law. I started taking on more of those duties. It’s a national firm, so it gave me wide exposure to the practice area, including working with unions, unfair dismissals general protections claims and underpayment claims.”

On completing his Juris Doctor with distinction, Liam took a leading role in Turner Freeman’s employment law practice, including in a large class action in the banking sector, regaining millions of dollars in underpayments for workers.

“I gained a role with the Australian and International Pilots’ Association and that reinforced to me that that was exactly the kind of work that I wanted to do. At the same time, I was a finalist in the 2023 John Curtin Research Centre Young Writers’ Prize, having an essay on unionism published in their bi-annual magazine.

“It also gave me a broader understanding of the different work that unions do, not just on the legal side, but on the bargaining side and on the rule-making side. The role at the IEU presented itself, and I felt like I had the opportunity to make a difference with a broad cross-section of workers.

“It’s been great and very busy, which I enjoy. I like a good challenge and grappling with new things. I hope to bring some useful experience with me to benefit our members.”

Industrial Officer Emma Ford

Using her skills to have a positive impact is intrinsic motivation for new IEU Industrial Officer Emma Ford.

“My dad was a union rep for many years. My uncle was a union rep, and my family is union focused,” Emma said.

She was attracted to the law because it suits the way she thinks.“I am a linear thinker, and the law tends to lean more towards linear thinking, and improving industrial issues is problem solving,” she said.

While studying for her law degree, Emma worked for the non-profit Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, which reinforced her conviction that she wanted to work in the not-for-profit sector, supporting social justice issues.

“It’s great to talk to members and get an understanding of who they are and what they want to achieve when they contact us, and to try and keep them feeling safe and secure in their work.”

“I wanted to use my degree to do something that would have impact, with a primary focus of ‘how much can we do to help this person’? I find unions a good space for that.”

Upon graduation, Emma too landed a job at the Australian and International Pilots Association.

“I was there for 18 months, but when the opportunity to work at the IEU came up, I was interested because it offered the chance to work with a broader membership base.

“It’s about finding practical solutions. I’m happy to be helping members individually with a whole range of issues.

“It’s great to talk to members one-on-one and get an understanding of who they are, what they want to achieve when they contact us, and to try and keep them feeling safe and secure in their work.”

Organiser Angela McDonald

New IEU Organiser Angela McDonald said being part of the IEU collective was ‘emotional’ and ‘inspiring’.

Angela is excited about meeting the members she’ll be looking after in schools around the ACT. “I’m excited to get out there and to visit those schools and to chat to members and get to know them,” she said.

Angela has been a classroom teacher for over 20 years, initially in NSW, then more recently in the ACT in the Catholic systemic sector.

“Last year I had a wonderful class that I absolutely love and adore, but I felt like I had achieved what I wanted in teaching,” Angela said.

“I have such a passion for education. People have asked me ‘why go’? The profession is in such a tricky place at the moment with the teacher shortages and increasing workloads. It’s a really challenging time and I felt like this was the right time.” Angela can now contribute to progressing these issues with the IEU.

During 2022 and 2023, Angela was actively involved in the IEU’s Hear Our Voice campaign for a pay rise in Catholic systemic schools.

“I’ve been the ACT Vice President on the IEU Executive, which has been a great way to learn more about what the union does, and get the bigger picture other than my own school and my own sector.

“I spoke at both of the rallies in the ACT, and standing in front of all those people united as a group, all wanting better outcomes for teachers and support staff, was inspiring. It was such a good thing to be part of that collective.

“You know, in my heart I’m a teacher, and I don’t think that goes away. But I think that puts me in a good place to understand how schools work and the issues that impact the teaching profession and support staff, who are critical to our schools.

“I have a lot to learn and there are a lot of skilled people within the IEU. I look forward to learning from them.”