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HACSU Women: Elisa Dickenson, Senior Industrial Officer


Elisa Official

Hey Elisa, what do you do at HACSU? 

As Senior Industrial Officer, I lead the industrial team — responsible for everything from workplace bargaining and policy through to representing our members at the Fair Work Commission. 

How did you arrive here? 

I’m an admitted lawyer with a practicing certificate. While I was studying law, I volunteered at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, and it became my career. I used to appear in magistrates' courts all across rural Victoria representing members of our Indigenous community. I was there for almost ten years and ended my time there as a senior criminal solicitor. 

Why the move to industrial relations? 

The nerd in me finds employment law quite interesting. I think the thing with industrial law is that it impacts every person with a job. Everyone has things that happen to them in their job, and they need advice. That could be about entitlements or pay, right through to complex industrial matters. I'm interested in the industrial landscape and the legal system that surrounds it but ultimately, it's about representing members. It's always been about the person. 

What do you love about your job? 

HACSU is very fast paced, every day is different. I always knew our members worked hard but Covid made me appreciate just how important the work they do is. Acknowledging the hard, taxing, tiring work. It wears them out and they shouldn’t have to worry about the industrial stuff that comes over the top of that. 

What's at the top of your list? 

Leading our Disability members through the challenges posed by the NDIS pricing. Maintaining hard-fought terms and conditions in the new world of the NDIS. And trying to balance the regulatory requirements in Mental Health against the right for our members to be able to perform their duties in their job.

Hard yakka... 

Yes, but you know how it goes: Anger, Hope, Action. I don’t think it’s the end of the world. I think there is a way through it, it's just going to take a lot of hard work. And being part of a union is so important because we have political connections, solidarity, and knowledge. 

What does leadership mean to you? 

To me, leadership is not about the person who's leading but about those they lead. It's about giving clear instructions, empowering people to do their best, guiding them through difficult situations and tough times, and holding them accountable – so they can become the best they can be. 

So, what are the challenges? 

I guess it's just balancing it all and accepting that you can’t always be everything to everyone, nor are you supposed to be.  Every person has responsibilities and burdens they carry. You can sometimes feel like you're being pulled in 20 million directions and you want to do all of it well. At the end of the day, all we can expect from each other is our best and if you’re giving your best, that’s something you can be proud of.  

How do you tackle gender equity and women's workplace issues? 

We’re taking a lot more to the Human Rights Commission. We’re increasingly looking at it as an alternative to the Fair Work Commission. There is a discrimination jurisdiction at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission based on the protective attributes of race, sex, gender, etc. We’ve got our own sexual harassment policy, and we are looking to roll it out in workplaces as well. And we’re fighting to ensure women don’t fall behind with increases to leave entitlements like parental leave and the Portable Long Service Scheme.  

What’s that? 

Our members work in a female-dominated workforce but will leave to have children or because of caring responsibilities. They are often working several jobs within the industry. The Portable Long Service Scheme ensures that if you have a break in employment or leave before you are eligible to take long service leave that your long service leave entitlements follow you.

Employees who work in community services need to check their details to make sure they are signed up for the scheme. Check your details! If you work in Disability and you don’t think you or your employer are signed up to the scheme, you should contact HACSU so we can help you. 

Any final words? 

Never speak to the cops without a lawyer and never speak to your employer without a union rep.