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Women front and centre at conference

WOMEN in leadership, caring responsibilities and current legislation were a few of the topics the inaugural Unions Tasmania Women’s Conference delved into last week.

Held on Friday May 5 women from various Tasmanian unions met to discuss issues that affected their working and personal lives.

The CPSU sponsored a number of places at the conference, with Delegates from a range of workplaces attending.

Australian freelance writer and author Nina Furnell spoke about issues currently affecting young women, with the discussion around how women are often portrayed in everything from video clips to Bratz dolls and the impact this has.

ACTU President Ged Kearney spoke about issues around caring responsibilities and insecure work. You can read more about this here.

The conference heard from many other speakers from union and political circles.


CPSU DPIPWE Delegate Margaret Horton said she was happy that she attended the conference and enjoyed spending time with other women from a range of industries across the union movement.

“One of the things I took away from the conference that I want to pass on in the workplace, especially from an OH&S point of view, is how many things affect women and their wellbeing in the workplace,” she said. “So when managers are looking at requests for leave and other issues that they look at the woman and they have some understanding about her age.

“For example, if she’s a woman in her 50s or 60s, she might have older parent responsibilities as well as children. She might have fears around how to manage her retirement and look after herself financially. If she’s younger, in her late 20s and early 30s she might have very young children and all of the worries & responsibilities that comes with that, also the financial pressure of a very high mortgage and job insecurity given the new GFC economy causing government cut backs.

“So, don’t just think about what stresses people are under in their job – also look at what’s going on in their life that impacts on work and be considerate of that. I think you need to acknowledge this in the workforce otherwise I don’t think you’re going to be managing these people very well.”

Another topic that interested Margaret was the discussion about a trend these days where all the policies were right and everything looked good on paper but these were not often put into practice.

“We also talked about how quickly things could go back in terms of rights and salary conditions – I actually agree with that very strongly. I think a lot of information about rights that have been hard won has been lost, so you get a lot of younger women coming through the workforce with no idea.

The conference gave me a lot to think about and a lot of information when we have our branch meeting. I’m very glad I went.”


For Taroona High School Delegate Christine Mitchell, writer Nina Furnell’s presentation was the standout.

“I also liked Ged Kearney’s speech, I’d never heard her speak before and what she had to say was really worthwhile.

“I found it interesting to hear what the speakers on the panel had to say. I enjoyed hearing about the Hobart Women’s Centre, I’d never heard of it before. It was interesting to hear what they do there and it’s good to know it’s there if you are talking to someone down the track who may need it.

“I really enjoy meeting new people, so it was great to chat with the other women who came along and hear about their lives. You become used to speaking with others in the same work area as you, so talking to people in a wide range of work environments was great and it gives you a broader perspective.”


Nina Furnell’s talk was also a highlight for Integrity Commission Delegate Donna Johnston . “She was the best speaker of the day, and talked about stereotyping of women and how they’re supposed to behave.”

“The conference was a good opportunity to bring women in the union movement together in the one place. It reinforced that women are really up there, front and centre in unions.”

“Ged Kearney’s talk was great. She didn’t read from a speech, she just spoke to us. It was also refreshing to see a woman as the ACTU president.”

Donna said Angela Briant’s talk on superannuation was an important issue to cover.

“She got the message across that women have to take responsibility for their superannuation and a man was not a financial plan. It’s an important issue, especially as superannuation is one of the entitlements the union movement fought for and won.

“It was also great to make use of one of my five paid union leave days I get each year. Being sponsored by the CPSU meant I wasn’t out of pocket for attending.”


You can see the photos from the conference here.

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