(Lesbian Newsletter nr 20, October 1979

         The Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations (ACSPA) held its National Union
Meeting on Homosexual Workers on Thursday August 30 at the Victorian Teachers Union head office in
         This meeting was a historic one. It was the first national meeting in Australia to discuss the
oppression of lesbians and male homosexuals in the workforce to be sponsored by any individual union or
union peak council. The decision to hold the meeting arose from two motions which were successfully put at
the ACSPA National Conference held in October 1978. These motions related to: i.) The rights of
homosexual workers to protection from discrimination and ii) the need for homosexual workers to meet to
discuss their oppression.
         It was felt by the ACSPA Federal Executive that the meeting should be open to all unionists as some
homosexual unionists would not come to a meeting publicised as open to only homosexual unionists for fear
of negative consequences and heterosexual unionists would be kept from hearing at first hand the
experiences of homosexual unionists.
         About 70 unionists, representing over 25 unions from all over Australia attended the meeting. Some
were official delegates of their unions.
         The meeting was officially opened by Bill Richardson, Federal Secretary ACSPA who spoke about
the need to develop policy in unions and from where opposition could be expected in the union movement -
ie, National Civic Council (the closet right wing group behind Women Who Want to be Women and which has
been active in trade unions since the 1950s seeking to smash any progressive campaigns or policies.) The
meeting was then addressed by 4 speakers - Ann Forward (Senior Vice President ACOA) who spoke on the
way in which policy in respect of the rights of homosexual workers was developed in the ACOA. Laurie
Bebbington (Australian Social Welfare Union) spoke on behalf of Melbourne Trade Unionists Group about
discrimination against lesbians and male homosexuals in the workforce. John Witte (Australian Railways
Union. NSW Branch) spoke on behalf of NSW Gay Trade Unionists Group about working in unions. Breen
Creighton (Senior Lecturer, Law Faculty, Melbourne University) looked at anti-discrimination legislation and
sexual preference.
         This opening session was followed by the film "Union Maids" and lunch; with workshops and a final
plenary session in the afternoon. One of the many positive results of the meeting was the amount of publicity
it generated. Homosexuality and unions were put on the media map. Melbourne Gay Trade Unionists Group
had prepared a kit on discrimination by the Melbourne City Mission against a Melbourne GTUG member,
Tony Collins for distribution at this meeting and at the Fifth National Homosexual Conference. This
Melbourne City Mission case received publicity on television and radio and in the newspapers. The ACSPA
National Union Meeting on Homosexual Workers also received excellent coverage - The Age the next day,
every Melbourne radio station except 3UZ on the day itself; an extensive and in depth Broadband program a
couple of weeks later, Channel, 9,10,2.
         Many people present were impressed by the depth and the way in which many of the issues were
discussed, both in the speeches and the workshops. Consequently ACSPA is hoping to get funding from a
few unions to produce a booklet on the meeting which would include the opening speeches, excerpts from
workshops and the recommendations to ACSPA passed at the final plenary session. This booklet would
prove to be a really worthwhile project, as it would be another step in raising awareness in unions about the
nature of homosexual oppression in employment.

Jude Munro. (Convenor, Organising Committee, ACSPA National Union Meeting on Homosexual Workers.)

To top