WRAW Fest 2019

Women’s rights at work

From March 1 to 
March 8, the Trade Union movement celebrated the Women’s Rights 
at Work Festival (WRAW Fest). 
Over the 8 days unions across 
the state hosted many women’s events which helped women 
connect with one another and 
discuss important issues relating 
to women’s working rights. 

From March 1 to March 8, the Trade Union movement celebrated the Women's Rights at Work Festival (WRAW Fest). Over the 8 days unions across the state hosted many women's events which helped women connect with one another and discuss important issues relating to women's working rights.

Gala Night

WRAW Fest kicked off on Friday March 1 with the Gala night, a fun night of drinks, nibblies and networking for all union women. 

Attendees enjoyed a performance by the Victorian Trade Union Choir and speed mentoring with EMILY’s List, where experienced unionists were encouraged to talk to younger women about activism and organising. 

Finally, guests were challenged to come up with a chant for the Women’s Rally on International Women’s Day. The ETU team, led by Laura Birch, won chant of the night and all received Women on Strike! tea towels.

Women’s conference

On Tuesday March 5, over 100 women from the union movement gathered at the CFMEU office for the Women Unionists Conference, this year called 'Women on Strike?'
ACTU President Michele O’Neil opened the conference and gave the keynote address about her experiences mobilising women, and about how she has witnessed women become activists when inequity reaches a tipping point and forces women to tap into their reservoir of rage, which leads to collective action. 

She spoke about the importance of engaging women wherever they are on the activism journey and respecting activism in all its forms. She summarised that the best actions 
build a movement.

Michele was followed by a panel discussion where we heard from a number of speakers that recounted their experiences around industrial action they had been involved with in their various industries. The compelling takeout was the need to mobilise support at the grass roots, start strong and maintain the momentum. 

To round out the day we had two workshops during the day where we discussed whether it is possible to have a women’s strike. The answer was a resounding yes, but that we need to build momentum with the general public to ensure the actions will cut through.

Movie Night hosted by ETU, CFMEU, RTBU and MUA

After the conference on Tuesday, the ETU women hosted the WRAW Fest movie night with women from the CFMEU, MUA and RTBU to watch the film Hidden Figures. We started the night off with some refreshments and heard from Federal Member for Brunswick, Ged Kearney who introduced director Robynne Murphy.

Robynne is currently developing a film called 'Jobs for Women', a documentary about the inspiring story of a women’s rights win and landmark industrial dispute in Australia. 
In the 1980s, 34 mostly migrant and unemployed women took on Australia’s largest corporation, BHP in a sex discrimination case and won!

It was a David and Goliath struggle which took nine years to fight, and is recognised as the most important piece of discrimination litigation that has occurred in this country. BHP mobilised huge resources to try to block and overturn the women’s case, but their perserverance and solidarity won the fight!

Rally on IWD

To round out the week of WRAW Fest events, thousands of women gathered at the State Library for the International Women’s Day Rally. Women from all backgrounds and sides of the political divide joined together to march through Melbourne for women’s rights.

Speeches before the march acknowledged important historical people and struggles which have led to the life we have today, and also discussed the ongoing struggles we deal with every day.