Anna Stewart

Anna Stewart worked hard to change the lives of working families by helping women achieve a balance between the competing demands of work and family.

Honour Roll

She led the first campaigns in the 1970s for maternity and childcare facilities for workers in traditionally male industries such as car plants. She argued equal pay cases in industrial tribunals and raised awareness of sexual harassment as a workplace issue. Anna worked with unions from 1974 until her untimely death in 1983 at the age of 35. She led by example, showing that women could combine a career and family.

While working as a researcher in the Federated Furnishing Trades Society of Australia she spearheaded the successful Maternity Leave test case, which awarded leave to women in the private sector. At the time she was heavily pregnant with her third child. She also highlighted awareness of parenting issues when she breastfed her son in industrial relations tribunals. Anna set a precedent for many women who gained confidence from her example of combining motherhood with a career.

In 1975, she moved to the Victorian Vehicle Builders Federation and fought for childcare facilities in car plants. She was a foundation member of the ACTU Women's Committee established in 1977 and worked tirelessly on programmes to be incorporated into the Working Women's Charter. In 1980, Anna became a Senior Federal Industrial Officer with the Municipal Officers Association (MOA). Anna initiated women's committees in most state branches of the union and developed strong policies in relation to women workers, particularly in the area of sexual harassment. She also developed an affirmative action policy which the MOA adopted in 1983.

Anna was described as having a feisty personality, a jousting, acerbic wit and piercing intelligence. Anna is remembered through the Anna Stewart Memorial Project which sponsors work experience places in unions. Over 1000 women have taken advantage of this project and many now represent their colleagues as union officials while others are simply more empowered in the work environment.