University of Tasmania
whole_DowlingKarinAnne2009_thesis.pdf (6 MB)

Tasmanian trade unions and women's issues 1960-2000 : experiences of women in senior positions

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posted on 2023-05-26, 21:24 authored by Dowling, KA
In the 1990s, Australian trade unions faced an unprecedented battle for survival. Traditional union heartlands were rapidly diminishing and potential union members were now located among previously marginalised, and underrepresented, groups of workers. A key challenge confronting unions was to maintain relevance and increase membership in the new Australian industrial landscape. In the 1990s, the labour movement at large acknowledged that, in order to appeal to traditionally non-unionised groups of workers such as women, formal union structures must be more representative at senior levels. This was especially the case with women who, as workers and as union members, would require unions' commitment to major structural and cultural change. However, trade unions were traditionally male-oriented, paternalistic hierarchies that have long consigned women and women's issues to the margins of union activity. Firmly entrenched gender relations presented a significant strategic barrier to effective structural and cultural change. Unions were therefore confronted with a dual challenge: firstly, to effect a major transformation in union attitudes towards women and women's issues, and secondly, to reform traditional, hierarchical union structures as female-friendly organisations that would appeal to women activists. In Tasmania, a historically socially and politically conservative state, there have been a number of significant 'breakthroughs' by women into positions of influence in the union movement. A review of the literature identifies a gap in the historical record of female union activism in Tasmania in the late 20th Century. This thesis records and analyses the experiences of three Tasmanian women who played significant roles in unions in this period. It adds valuable personal narratives to Tasmania's recorded labour history and makes an original contribution to the literature on women in unions. Analysis and interpretation of the lived experiences of three pioneering Tasmanian union women enables this thesis to offer a historically specific perspective on the Australian trade union movement's campaign to promote women as leaders within the movement.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2009 the author Thesis (MCom)--University of Tasmania, 2009. Includes bibliographical references Author is now known as Karin Mathison.

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  • Open

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