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.
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.
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.
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.
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.