Member of Federation family receives national honour

Federation congratulates Life Member Sharan Burrow, this week honoured as a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Ms Burrow was included on the Queens’s Birthday 2019 Honours List “for eminent service to industrial relations at the national and international level, to social equity, and as a champion of human rights in developing countries”.

“As a trade unionist this award represents a recognition of the courage and the dedication of hundreds of thousands of working women and men who collectively stand up for democratic rights and freedoms, for social justice and the rule of law,” Ms Burrow, currently International Trade Union Confederation Secretary General, said in a statement.

“There have been many highlights. Paid parental leave, rights at work, negotiating pay rises, resolving tough industrial disputes, dismantling slavery in the Gulf states, action on climate change – these all come from the collective power of working people, not just one person. This award is recognition for the women and men who have stood up, spoken out and never given up on campaigns to change the rules.”

“It comes at a time when our world is more fractured than it has been in the past. Despite the ever increasing wealth we live in a world with increasing numbers of people living in economic desperation, under threat of conflict, persecuted in modern slavery or suffering discrimination and oppression.

“The recognition gives us all more motivation to boost our efforts to rebuild trust in democracy, with transparency and accountability. We are working to secure a new social contract with a floor of a universal labour guarantee for all workers, including platform workers, through a Declaration to be adopted at this year’s Centenary Conference of the International Labour Organisation. And we’re working too to secure Just Transition as a pathway to high ambition as leaders go to the UN Climate Summit in September.”

Ms Burrow was a Federation Country Organiser (1986-1989) and then Senior Vice President, until 1992. She then served public education teachers at a national level as Australian Education Union President.

During her time as ACTU President (2000-2010), she entered the international stage; as President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (2004-2006). She was the first President of the International Trade Union Confederation (2006-2010), before taking up her present position.

Ms Burrow features in the soon-to-be published On the Voices: 100 years of women activists for public education, where she is quoted: “The gains of union activism are enormous, not only the privilege of knowing and working with your colleagues right across the state and feeling the power of collective action around issues but also the inspiration when some of the issues became major victories for teachers and students. I think of the class-size campaigns of the campaign against the cane, for example; the fact that teachers who were responsible for discipline were prepared to stand up and say, ‘We don’t believe violence against children is appropriate in our profession’. They were hard issues for teachers, given the history of the profession and the history of parenting.”

— Kerri Carr