Victoria’s proud union history is a history of proud union women. Their activism does not just propel us towards equality; it has helped win recognition, better conditions, and safer workplaces for all workers. HACSU is Victoria’s only specialist union for disability, mental health, and AOD workers — fields traditionally dominated by women. That's why each year, we nominate members to learn and rekindle the legacy of Anna Stewart.
Anna Stewart is a giant of Victoria’s union movement: a trailblazer who demanded that employers recognise working women’s unique skills and contributions. Anna joined the union movement as a researcher in 1974. She launched the first ever blue-collar union maternity leave campaign, fought for childcare facilities in car plants, and developed groundbreaking strong sexual harassment policies. She campaigned while pregnant and breastfed during tribunals — a woman exactly where she should be. Tragically, she died in 1983 at the age of 35.
Anna’s memory and spirit are kept alive by the Anna Stewart Memorial Project (ASMP) — an intensive two-week leadership training program run by Victoria Trades Hall and unions. Each year, HACSU nominates members to become ‘Annas’. Participants meet and share their experiences with women from different industries, and every walk of life. After starting with some union history and campaign training at Trades Hall, members spend time on-the-job with HACSU officials — putting their training into action as union activists. It's a great program: to date, over 1,000 union women have gone through the ASMP — including HACSU’s Disability Policy Officer, Angela Carter.
We couldn’t be prouder of our two Annas this year. Tulay Turcan and Brittnie Stock-Lopez are both HACSU delegates who work as mental health nurses in metropolitan Melbourne. Both loved coming together with working women from across the movement to share, celebrate, and collaborate.
Tulay is a force of nature. She's a self-described “very fast-paced, highly energetic” people-person who has worked extensively in mental health, residential youth work, child protection, and AOD. She’s a long-time HACSU member with a simple mission: if anyone is getting shafted in her workplace, she’ll “round them up and start recruiting”. The ASMP was a natural step forward for Tulay, who wants to build confidence among the younger working women around her. What surprised her most was how useful it was swapping stories with “amazing, passionate, strong women from other industries”.
Brittnie knows this first-hand. In her first few weeks in acute psychiatric nursing, she was approached by a colleague who said, “You’ve got a loud mouth and I like that. I'm going to nominate you as a delegate.” That colleague was Tulay. Brittnie signed up and hasn’t looked back. She’s drawn to challenges: it was her experience in a specialist dementia care unit that led her into mental health nursing. Brittnie soaked up specialist speakers during the ASMP: experts on gendered violence and non-disclosure agreements. Brittnie reflected, “It has ignited that fire, that union fire in my belly.”
While Tulay returns to her job with a new vigour, Brittnie liked what she saw and is staying on as HACSU’s newest organiser. She wants to make a difference in every mental health workplace and for every mental health worker.
Mental health, disability, and AOD may be women-dominated workforces, but they are not immune to the biases, prejudices, and structures that hold women back. It is our collective responsibility to break these barriers. Join your union, raise your voice in your workplace, and celebrate our strength and resilience. We're proud to elevate a new crop of HACSU Annas each year. Congratulations, Tulay and Brittnie!