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2022 – the year that was

2022 – the year that was

2022 Delegates Conference, at the Quest Wangaratta satellite hub. Photo: John Russell

As 2022 began, many members may have felt they were stuck in a Groundhog Day situation, with the COVID-19 crisis not improving but actively deteriorating. There are no words that can adequately describe the exhaustion and the pressure on our professions as they navigated the third year of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic – the third year

Nurses, midwives and carers began 2022 not only depleted from two years of COVID-19 conditions in Victoria but facing a Code Brown declaration. With rising COVID-19 hospitalisations and 5000 nurses and midwives furloughed from the public health system either because they had COVID-19 or were a close contact, the Andrews Government declared the emergency alert on 18 January.

ANMF (Vic Branch) called for the Code Brown response to acknowledge the crisis facing our members and the whole healthcare system. In addition to sending a message to the public about the extreme pressure the system was under, the Code Brown also triggered the ability for state-wide co-ordination of the provision and rationing of health services and patient allocations.

Throughout January, the Branch held hospital-wide and health service-wide virtual members’ meetings across Victoria, which helped us further understand broader issues and patterns – such as lack of additional break areas for those returning early from furlough – that we could address at employer-, department- and government-level.

While the Code Brown officially ended in mid-February, the use of surge workforce models continued in many wards and hospitals. In recognition, the Andrews Government extended the hospital surge support allowance for its employees, which was due to end on 10 February, until the end of March.

ANMF negotiated the per-shift allowance for the public sector in late 2021 with the aim of providing financial compensation for nurses and midwives working in patient-facing roles in the acute clinical areas caring for the surge of COVID patients over the summer. The allowance was also designed as an incentive for nurses and midwives to return from the vaccination hubs and testing sites, or to work additional shifts in health services. Victoria was the only state to implement such a per-shift allowance for nurses, midwives and other public sector health care workers.

Private hospital nurses caring for public COVID-19 patients at a number of facilities also received the payment. Despite the Branch’s strong advocacy, other private acute hospital employers and the then-Morrison Federal Government, which was responsible for the private aged care sector, refused to pay the allowance to their employees.

By winter, facing yet another surge in cases, the Andrews Government implemented a winter retention and surge payment for its employees in the public sector in recognition of the ongoing challenges for health services and staff. All FTE staff employed in public health services were eligible for the payment of up to $3000 between August and September.

State and federal elections bring hope

The election of the Albanese Federal Government in May heralded the most significant reforms of private aged care in 25 years.

The new Aged Care Minister, Anika Wells, was sworn in on 1 June with her colleagues Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler and Health and Aged Care Assistant Minister Ged Kearney – who also happens to be a former ANMF (Vic Branch) president and a former ANMF federal secretary.

On a mission to fix private aged care: Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells and Health and Aged Care Assistant Minister Ged Kearney. AAP images by Lukas Coch, Jason O’Brien and Ellen Smith .

On a mission to fix private aged care: Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells and Health and Aged Care Assistant Minister Ged Kearney. AAP images by Lukas Coch, Jason O’Brien and Ellen Smith .

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s election commitments aligned with the national ANMF’s four key campaign asks designed to put nurses back into nursing homes by ensuring:

  • A registered nurse onsite 24 hours per day
  • greater transparency – funding tied to care
  • minimum mandated care hours and the right skills mix (guaranteed ratios)
  • improved wages and conditions.

The Albanese Federal Government’s two aged care amendment bills –the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 and the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 – were introduced in parliament in July, and became law in August and November respectively.

November also saw the Fair Work Commission handing down its preliminary decision in in the aged care work value matter, which saw it recommend an increase to the Nurses Award, Aged Care Award and Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Award rates by an interim 15 per cent. An interim increase leaves open the possibility for further increases, which ANMF welcomes. Our application to the Commission asked for a 25 per cent increase.

Meanwhile, the re-election of a majority Andrews Victorian Government at the end of November ensures that legislated nursing and midwifery ratios in public hospitals will continue to improve, and that the state government will continue to work productively with the union and its members for the benefit of healthcare workers and their patients.

Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas and Premier Daniel Andrew, 28 August 2022. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas and Premier Daniel Andrew, 28 August 2022. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Mental health

After a drawn-out bargaining process, the Victorian Public Sector Mental Health Enterprise Agreement 2020–24 was finally passed, and became enforceable on 24 June. Among other things, members secured a 10.5 per cent wage increase over four years; a ‘once-off nurse alignment payment’ to maintain parity with public sector nurse colleagues; and the most significant increase of additional EFT positions in the history of mental health enterprise bargaining history.

In October, following an equally lengthy bargaining process, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health Services Enterprise Agreement 2020-2024 was formally approved by the Fair Work Commission. When it became enforceable on 17 October, Forensicare nurses received a 10.5 per cent wage increase over four years, a ‘once off nurse alignment payment’ to maintain parity with public sector nurse colleagues and additional mental health nursing EFT positions at prison units and Thomas Embling Hospital.

In August, the ANMF (Vic Branch) welcomed the passage of the new Victorian Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill in parliament, inclusive of OHS amendments the Branch has sought around the right of members to be safe at work. The new Act, which must come into effect no later than Thursday 1 September 2023 and will replace the state’s eight-year-old Mental Health Act 2014, will guide the mental health sector for the next five to seven years.

Mental health support for nurses and midwives

It has again been a challenging year for our members who have been stretched beyond their limits and yet continue to care for the Victorian community. ANMF continued to support and promote the free, independent and confidential Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV), and we remind members of NMHPV nurse and CEO Glenn Taylor’s words that ‘muddling through’ these stressful times works until it doesn’t.

With the election of the Albanese federal Government in May came the announcement of a national Nurse and Midwifery Health Service, modelled on Victoria’s 16-year-old NMHPV.

Wars and natural disasters

Along with the rest of the world, members watched with horror in February as Russia invaded Ukraine. By the end of November, it was estimated that the subsequent war had killed 40 thousand people and counting, injured more than 50 thousand and left approximately 14 million displaced.

Following the targeted airstrike of a maternity hospital in Mariupol in March, ANMF (Vic Branch) joined global nursing and midwifery organisations to stand in solidarity with Ukraine, especially the nurses and midwives caring for patients under horrific circumstances. To aid international efforts, the Branch Council approved a donation of $10,000 towards the UNHCR’s emergency appeal to contribute to humanitarian relief.

Back home, 2022 has seen the nation’s worst-ever flooding disasters on record devastate the east coast. From February through to April, members watched with horror as their interstate colleagues in Queensland and NSW coped with major flooding from Brisbane to Sydney, with Lismore in particular left resembling a war zone not once but twice.

By October, it was Victoria underwater as the Campaspe, Maribyrnong, Avoca, Goulburn, Loddon and Broken rivers all flooded, devastating wide swathes of the state. ANMF (Vic Branch) Members who lost property were able to apply for ANMF flood assistance grants, while the Branch assisted flood-affected members in a variety of other ways as well – from linking them to local and government support services to waiving membership fees. We also contacted all employers in impacted areas to advocate for paid leave for affected members.

Sustainability and reconciliation

Without committed and immediate action on climate change, we can expect more frequent and severe natural disasters such as flooding and bush fires. This will continue to impact members personally, and professionally – natural disasters are also health disasters.

Led by our indefatigable Environmental Health Officer Ros Morgan, ANMF (Vic Branch) has continued to be a leader in sustainability space in 2022. In May, the Branch was highly commended in the National CitySwitch Awards, a council sustainability program designed to help office-based businesses to enhance energy efficiency, reduce waste, manage energy price increases and work towards a carbon-positive future.

ANMF’s Peter Shorten, Ros Morgan and Madeleine Harradence with the Branch’s CitySwitch Awards. Photo: Andrew Bott Photography

ANMF’s Peter Shorten, Ros Morgan and Madeleine Harradence with the Branch’s CitySwitch Awards. Photo: Andrew Bott Photography

Also in May, we welcomed more than 300 members back to the first in-person Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference in two years. They gathered at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for an energising and inspiring day learning about the latest in healthcare and sustainability initiatives.

Among the many highlights of the conference was the announcement that the Branch is now a collection point for members to drop off their medication-vial plastic flip caps for recycling. By November, we had collected at least 2 x 120-litre wheelie bins of caps to donate to artists for repurposing.

2022 also saw us begin work on a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Under the governance of Reconciliation Australia, RAPs are designed to enable organisations to sustainably and strategically take meaningful action to advance reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Delegates Conference returns

After having to cancel the 2020 Annual Delegates Conference and running the 2021 conference as a fully online event, the important two-day event – which guides the direction of ANMF for the coming 12 months – returned in 2022, albeit as a hybrid event.

Delegates gathered in small groups at 11 satellite venues across the state – from the Melbourne CBD and Geelong to Ballarat, Bendigo, Traralgon, Wangaratta and elsewhere – with each venue equipped with a large wall screen on which to view proceedings. Elected officials and speakers mostly presented from the Branch headquarters on Elizabeth Street.

Delegates at the 2022 ANMF (Vic Branch) Delegates Conference. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Delegates at the 2022 ANMF (Vic Branch) Delegates Conference. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Congratulations again to the recipients of the 2022 Job Rep and Health & Safety Rep of the Year Awards: Zeta Henderson from University Hospital Geelong is the Hannah Sellers Job Rep of the Year for 2022, while Sarah Ellson has been named Health & Safety Rep (HSR) of the Year.

Branch business

ANMF (Vic Branch) Council awarded more than $1.3 million to members in the 2021–2022 round of course fee grants. The significant figure was approved due to an unparalleled increase in applications, resulting in grants being awarded to a record 470 members undertaking postgraduate nursing or midwifery education.

In September, we launched a new ‘Safe Haven’ website to provide information and resources for nurses, midwives and personal care workers experiencing family violence, and to help their colleagues and managers navigate how to provide appropriate support. The site was a recommendation of the ‘You can’t swim if there is a weight dragging you down: report into family violence against Australian nurses, midwives and carers’. This was a joint ANMF (Vic Branch) and University of Melbourne research project.

Also launched in 2022 were two brand new member benefits. In April, the Branch’s member accommodation benefit was launched, allowing members to book holiday accommodation in Ocean grove at 50 per cent off market rates. In June, we added a second location, in Bright. Members can enjoy affordable short breaks at both locations, joined by family or friends.

In August, members gained access to a renewed Union Shopper, a dedicated shopping site that offers significant discounts on a range of goods and services such as auto, electrical, insurance, dining and leisure, and general shopping. Members have been using the benefit to save hundreds of dollars on purchases.

We added more than 100 new online CPD modules to our new Education Portal in November. The modules cover clinical practice, mental health, midwifery, maternal and child health, community and primary health care, aged care, infectious diseases, medications, oncology, alcohol and substance abuse, professionalism and the law, diversity and cultural safety, environment and sustainability and family violence.

Nurses, midwives and personal care workers can use their annual online CPD credit to buy modules. Full and part-time members receive $400, parental leave members receive $120 and student and associate members receive $80.


Health services across Australia and the world are facing serious nursing and midwifery workforce pressures. ANMF has successfully advocated for a number of short, medium and longer-term initiatives to increase our workforce and retain the precious experienced nurses and midwives we already have.

From commitments to improve ratios, financial support to retain undergraduate students, improved employment and career paths for nurse practitioners – many of these initiatives have come from resolutions passed at our annual delegates conferences. ANMF believes the ‘rostering project’, which started in late 2022, has the potential to have the single biggest impact on removing barriers to work and enabling nurses and midwives to increase their hours and better achieve the work life balance they are so desperately in need of.

Lisa Fitzpatrick (back to camera) with grad nurse Robyn Dutli, RUSOM Dioni Wilson, Victorian Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas and Natalie Suleyman, MP for St Albans

Lisa Fitzpatrick (back to camera) with grad nurse Robyn Dutli, RUSOM Dioni Wilson, Victorian Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas and Natalie Suleyman, MP for St Albans

ANMF (Vic Branch) wishes members and your families and friends a safe and peaceful 2023. We will be here to support you through these uncertain times as you care for the Victorian community.

If there is a silver lining to the horrors of the past couple of years, it would be the pandemic’s acceleration of the nursing and midwifery student employment model – an ANMF initiative. Registered Undergraduate Students of Nursing (RUSONS) and Registered Undergraduate Students of Midwifery (RUSOMs) have continued to make a significant contribution to the pandemic surge workforce – and we are thrilled that as part of the Victorian Budget for the 2022/23 financial year, the Andrews Labor Government invested $59 million to fund another 1125 RUSON positions per year for two years, and $9.8 million to fund 75 further RUSOM positions.

When we look at the achievements of this program we are so very grateful that our members won the longest industrial relations campaign in our history, which began in October 2011, and ended 10 years ago in March 2012. Ultimately, the ‘Respect our Work’ EBA campaign had stopped the Baillieu/Napthine Government from substituting nurses and midwives with unregistered health assistants. It is unimaginable to think where we would be today if we had not.