Anna Stewart Memorial Project
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 5, 30 July 2021, page no.21
The 2021 QTU participants in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project (ASMP) were Ali Coverdale and Kate Kermode, both special education teachers.
The project, which was developed to honour the legacy of Victorian Union Official Anna Stewart, encourages female union activists to gain knowledge and experience within their own union and provides the opportunity to work shadow in an alternate union.
Ali is a SEP teacher at Robertson State School in the Metro South region. She is a member of the Women Teachers and Girls Education Committee, Professional Issues Committee and the Appointments Committee. Kate teaches at Lee Street State Special School in the Moreton Bay region. She is a member of the Special Education Committee and the Working Conditions Committee. Both are graduates of the QTU’s New Educators Network and remain dedicated activists.
The experience started at the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU), where all ASMP participants participated in the Stop Sexual Harassment training course.
Across the two weeks, Kate and Ali also participated in various QTU events and training sessions, including a leave entitlements seminar, meetings with Officers and Organisers, the ASMP dinner, a QTU Executive meeting and tours of both the QTU library and records section. A highlight was participating in a meeting with the five QTU Senior Officers, the Director-General of Education, Deputy Director-General and Assistant Director-Generals. This discussion was both robust and informative. It provided great insight into the continuous work that the QTU Officers undertake to ensure state school teachers are represented in negotiations and part of proactive problem solving, before initiatives are implemented.
Ali’s host union was the Finance Sector Union (FSU). Working from their West End Office, Ali met with their National Communications and Marketing Manager, attended member training for Cbus employees and participated in a return to work meeting with the Industrial Advocate. In shadowing their Senior Organiser, it became apparent that low membership density combined with the lack of workplace access rights for unions are challenging when recruiting and mobilising employees. This experience highlighted the importance of the FSU's industrial advocacy for members, and the professional way in which their Organisers and Advocates communicate correct and timely information to the workers in branches and superannuation funds.
Kate’s host union was the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union (QNMU). She participated in various workplace visits, member meetings, local consultative forums at hospitals, and a COVID-19 briefing between all health affiliated unions and Queensland Health. She shadowed the Industrial Advocate in a member-related matter and experienced the collegial engagement that the QNMU has with the Queensland Government. Kate experienced the power that the workload reporting form initiative has given their union and organisation – perhaps something the QTU could consider to support teacher workload and wellbeing, and demonstrate the current challenges to the Department of Education? Kate was privileged to experience the strength of another union with high-density membership and the level of support that the QNMU provides its members.