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40th anniversary of Anna Stewart Memorial Project

Anna Stewart was former journalist and active Victorian union official from 1974 to 1983, who died tragically in 1983, aged 35. Her involvement with the union movement began at a time when women workers comprised one third of the paid workforce. The few industries in which women were employed offered jobs that were poorly paid, lacked job security, flexibility, skills recognition and unpaid maternity leave. A prime motivation for Anna was the need to develop strategies to address the issues confronting working women and to facilitate the important contribution that women can make to the trade union movement. 


While pregnant with her third child Anna spearheaded the first blue collar union campaign for maternity leave award provisions, and while at the Victorian Vehicle Builders Federation in 1975, Anna fought for childcare facilities in car plants, researched and argued work value cases, initiated campaigns against sexual harassment as an industrial issue, and assisted with the ACTU Maternity Leave Test Case and campaign. 

6 women sitting in chairs

Left to right: Jan Armstrong - HEF#1, Joyce Robinson - HEF#1, Debbie Marks - FPU, Theresa Grima - ACOA, Jill Brookes - ARU, Jennie Bremner - MOA & a project organiser. 

Photography by Ponch Hawkes, 1984. ACTU Working Women’s Centre, Swanston St.

Inaugural Anna Stewart Memorial Project 1984.

The influence of Anna’s work is difficult to measure but she continues to inspire union women today through the Anna Stewart Memorial Project - set up following her death. The Project honours her legacy while encouraging more women to be active in their unions through a two-week leadership training and development program. The first Anna Stewart Memorial Project was held 40 years ago in 1984 and since then well over 1000 women unionists have completed the Project in Victoria alone. 

To mark this huge 40 year milestone, Victorian Trades Hall Council is hosting an event this March to celebrate the success of the Anna Stewart Memorial Project, it's alumni, mentors and all union officials and members who have been involved over the project's long history. It's an opportunity to reunite, share stories, reflect on how far we have come and get excited for the activism and actions of the future. 

Get involved in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project here