On New Years’ Day 2020, when we awoke to those indelible images of people huddled on the beach at Mallacoota under a blood-red sky, we should have known that this would be a year to remember, and not for the right reasons. From a devastating bushfire season to a once in a hundred-year global pandemic, to say it’s been a tough year for everyone is putting it mildly.
However, through it all, HACSU has done what it always does, and that is provide the very best support and care to our members, the industries we represent and the broader community. Whether it’s our staff members, Angela Carter and Jordan Casey donning their helmets and overalls and going off to fight the fires as CFA volunteers, or our leadership fighting with the Powers That Be to ensure that all our members had access to adequate PPE to keep them safe during the COVID crisis, HACSU will always have everyone’s back when the chips are down.
But, even in the worst times, there have still been plenty of positives for our union and our members.
In a difficult year, HACSU has defied the odds to become bigger and stronger than ever. We reached the significant milestone of over 10,000 members for the first time in our history.
This is your achievement!
It is through the massive support shown by our loyal members that we were able to make this happen. So, thanks to all of you we couldn’t do it without you.
Back at HACSU HQ, it has been a busy year full of changes.
We have welcomed several new staff into the HACSU fold. Stephanie Thuesen (Organiser), Alison Davis (HACSU Assist Co-Ordinator), Julia Montesano (Media & Communications Officer) and Rebecca Sprekos (Mental Health Officer) have all quickly become dedicated and valued members of our team; along with all our staff and leadership group they have done extraordinary work ensuring that our members continue to get the very best representation and support.
We thank them for all their hard work throughout the year.
It’s been a big year for HACSU Women too. As a female-dominated union, we are especially proud of the work we have been doing to improve Gender Equity wherever we can. At our International Women’s Day event in March, we launched our HACSU Women’s Leadership Program designed to encourage our women to become leaders within our union. We have also incorporated significant measures into our EBA log of claims which, if adopted, will have a significant impact on women, including Super being paid on the day you get paid, Super on unpaid maternity leave, and our global first Reproductive Health and Wellbeing Leave.
Even as we wrap up the year the work doesn’t stop.
The Mental Health EBA campaign has stepped up a notch with the commencement of Protected Action. We have many significant claims that are worth fighting for and we are proud to say we have never been afraid of a fight. That’s why amid all the other challenges this year has presented to us, we have fought in the courts against the other unions to maintain the specialised status of our Mental Health members. We understand that what you do requires skills and expertise that are valuable and need to be defended as such.
Furthermore, mid-November, the Australian Government has released the Productivity Commission’s final report into its Inquiry into Mental Health. The report is available for all for free download online and printed copies of the report can be ordered.
We are welcoming the report and examining it in detail over the coming days, particularly in reference to on-the-ground realities in Victoria and the impending release of the Victorian Royal Commission’s final report in February 2021.
With the Victorian Government’s recent investment announcements, this is an exciting time to be working in mental health policy, and HACSU will be looking at the Productivity Commission’s report closely as we continue to advocate for the needs of mental health services and the community.
On 30 September 2020, Deputy Premier James Merlino has been announced as Victoria’s new mental health minister. He replaces Martin Foley who took over as health minister following the abrupt resignation of Jenny Mikakos.
Daniel Andrews said the mental health role was critical and the government was committed to significant mental health reform: “Rebuilding our mental health system is one of our most important priorities,” he said. “It’s why I’ve asked Deputy Premier James Merlino to take charge of this reform and deliver on every one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.”
We are also coming to the end of an era with the transfer of disability services from DHHS to the five providers come 1 January 2021. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our Transfer Organisers, Deb Gunn, Cathy Kanizay, Lisa Chilvers and Jane Kim for the great work you have done assisting our members through the transition period of the past two years. A big thank you also to Jenni Fitt and Gerrard Byron-Loader during their time as Transfer Organisers.
We have no doubt that 2021 will present a whole lot of new challenges. One thing that we, and you as our members can count on though is that HACSU will be there to meet those challenges head on.
We have shown this year that when we all pull together, we can achieve great things. We can be proud of our union, and proud to tell people ‘I am a member of HACSU’.
Finally, we would like to say that it has been an honour to lead HACSU through our first full year as leaders of this great union. The year has not been without its significant challenges, but with the strength of our members and the commitment of our staff behind us we have been able to deliver good outcomes for our members, our industries, and our community, in keeping with the best traditions of the union movement.
For those of you who are working over this period we would like to say an extra big thank you. If we have learned anything this year it is the value of our ‘essential workers’ which is all of you.
We wish all our members, staff, and their families the very best for the End of Year and Holiday season. We hope that you all find time to spend with the special people in your life.
Yours in Union
Paul Healey Kate Marshall
Branch Secretary Assistant Branch Secretary