Sisters are doing it for themselves
Laura Birch and Bianca Bonner are two very excited women. They are ETU members embarking on a big mission: setting up the union’s first Women’s Network and Women’s Committee.
Laura is an electrician primarily in high voltage at Downer Electrical, and Bianca is an electrician at Metro rail, doing maintenance on the trains at the Craigieburn Depot.
Laura has been an electrician for 8 years. She became interested in the idea of doing a trade at high school. It took her first day of university to realise that the trade path was the one for her.
So, she quit university, completed a pre-apprenticeship to see if she liked the industry and she said she loved it. She said, “I also got a job out of the pre-apprenticeship - so the rest is history!”
Bianca has been a sparky for almost 20 years, working in maintenance and construction before taking up a job with Metro.
Both women agree the highlight of their jobs is the diversity and variation of work. Every day is different. Laura adds that “you never stop learning with a trade.”
It’s no surprise that these standout union activists come from union families, where both were taught the importance of standing up when something wasn’t right.
Bianca said it’s simple why she’s union:
“I was brought up in a household where you fight for what is right and against what is wrong. At the moment, it feels like we are fighting just to keep the conditions our forefathers have fought for, for us to enjoy today.”
Laura and Bianca say they want the electrical trades industry to be more open to women and accepting of their skills as tradespeople.
One way of improving things and increasing support for female ETU members is establishing the union’s new Women’s Network. The network launches Sunday, 10th September at the ETU Office in North Melbourne.
Bianca said the network was about achieving equality on the job and reducing barriers to more women joining the trades. She said, “We want to get the message out there that we just want to be treated as an equal and with respect on the job.
“It’s about helping with current issues women face on the job, but also making the industry a better place for women to become electricians. Hopefully they don’t have the same struggles and issues we have had, and face at the moment.
“The Women’s Network Day is about connecting and supporting all the female electricians and linespeople working out there together, because sometimes you do feel like you are by yourself with no support. It is also a day of putting forward ideas that we have to try and make our industry a better place for females to work in now, and for the future,” said Bianca.
Laura said it’s important for as many female members to attend the launch in September as possible.
“It is a chance for their voice to be heard and constructive changes to be made to better the industry. These women will effectively be a part of history within the ETU. The day is about connecting, supporting and empowering women of all ages and experiences within the ETU. It’s a time to catch up, speak up and eat food, glorious food!”
Bianca said women can get in touch with the union if they can’t make the day, and that this is only the start. She also has some advice for the blokes in the industry for improving things for female sparkies:
“When a female walks on to the job for the first time, go up to her say ‘hello’ to her. Make her feel welcome. And if you see her having some trouble or issues go and ask her if everything is okay. The main thing is that all members just treat her as an equal and with respect. We just want to do the job like everyone else.
“We love being sparkies. We love being union.”
Women's Network Meeting
10am-2pm, Sunday 10 September
ETU Office, 200 Arden Street, North Melbourne
For more info email: firstname.lastname@example.org