The inaugural Tradeswomen Australia Conference was started by Supporting And Linking Tradeswomen (SALT) on 18th and 19th August 2016 and held in Wollongong Town Hall, Wollongong NSW with great success. When SALT began in 2009 one of its major aims is to link women across Australia working in every trade but particularly areas on non-traditional work, which is most trade occupations. To this purpose social media had been a very useful tool but this wonderful event was designed to allow tradeswomen from all trades to come together and connect in person. Building on relationships created via social media and starting new ones face to face.
During the event 130 tradeswomen (and a small number of very welcomed men) attended with 30 different trades represented. The auditorium was filled with 886 accumulated years of experience, with Tradeswomen from six States of Australia and also the President of Sisters in the Building Trades from the USA.
Companies represented, supporting and sponsoring included Clipsal, Schneider Electric, LendLease, MIRVAC, SA Power Networks plus many smaller companies. We were thrilled to have the support of Women NSW, Department of Industry, Manufacturing Skills Australia, Apprenticeship Support Australia and many others.
A major theme of the conference was to give the Tradeswomen and others a sense of their past and the conference launched in the evening of Thursday 18th August, with the opening exhibition ‘100 Years of Women in Trades’ which show cased Australian women's contributions from 1916 to 2016. Starting these 100 years was Alice Anderson’s contribution as inventor of the mechanical creeper and her garage in Melbourne through the World Wars to Tradeswomen on the Move and into the present with current Tradeswomen. There was a particular emphasis on WWII, showcasing the amazing work completed by women joining forces with men in the beginning of modern Australian manufacturing. Examples of this were the Owen Gun, the only Australian designed and produced gun of the Second World War and the extraordinary production of the Beauford Bombers when Australia commenced production with nil capacity and completed over 500 bombers.
Women who had participated in this work had been found and interviewed by Fi Shewring. Two of the women were present in person - June Cole and Clare Brandt and a number of other women where represented by their families. The women were honoured for their part in the war effort by presentation of glass memorial trophies by The Honourable Pru Goward MP who also launched the conference together with The Lord Mayor of Wollongong Gordon Bradbury.
The conference continued on Friday 19th with Narelle Hooper as an amazing Master of Ceremonies and encouraging talks from company representatives such as SA Power Networks and Lendlease. There where also inspiring talks from individual tradeswomen such as Millie Morris and Rebecca Mair. After lunch provided in reusable and very useful eskie bags, the plenary broke into workshops which ranged from career pathways beyond the tools, the rise in Women’s Sheds and diversifying companies workforces. The final incredibly motivating speech was by Brigette Muir, none of us will forget the first Australian woman’s ascent of Mount Everest and what it meant to her.
The conference ended with huge thanks to the organising Conference committee of Sonia Morgenweck, Gubs, Brooke Mepham, Di Robinson, Jacquie Forrest, Flavia Teixiera, Camille Agerbeek, Maxine Wiseman and Fi Shewring. Following SALT’s aim of inclusiveness the running of the next conference was offered to others to run with a pledge to work nationally together. To that end the next Tradeswomen Australia Conference will be held in Brisbane on 8/3/18 on International Women's Day and we hope to see everyone gathered with ongoing momentum into the future.