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Event report: the 2023 ANMF (Vic Branch) Delegates Conference

Event report: the 2023 ANMF (Vic Branch) Delegates Conference

Delegates voting on motions. Photo: Christopher Hopkins

For the first time since 2019, the annual ANMF (Vic Branch) Delegates Conference was held 100 per cent in person. Almost 700 delegates – Job Reps and HSRs from around the state – converged on the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for two days of debating and voting on motions that will help guide the direction of the Branch over the coming months and years.

Now in its 30th year (inclusive of COVID-19 lockdown interruptions), the Delegates Conference is a key vehicle through which members can help to drive change within their workplaces, and within the wider Victorian healthcare industry.

Previous conferences have contributed to Branch positions on ratio improvements, improved workplace entitlements, marriage equality, voluntary assisted dying, environmentally sustainable practices in healthcare and even our name change from ANF to ANMF.

Following a keynote address from lawyer and land rights activist Noel Pearson on the upcoming referendum on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition, delegates began debating motions.

The 62 motions debated and voted on across the two days covered industrial, OH&S, and professional issues of particular concern to members, as well as more general topics. Fewer than 10 motions were not supported. While voting results for a handful of motions were very close, the rest were easily supported or opposed. Several motions were carried unanimously. Among these were requests for the Branch to:

  • include in the 2024–2028 public sector log of claims the introduction of special paid leave (of up to five days per calendar year) to enable staff to volunteer for not-for-profit health aid organisations
  • pursue multi-employer bargaining (as provided for in the Albanese Government IR reform legislation) in the local government sector to achieve consistency in terms and conditions of employment, and wage parity, for maternal and child health nurses and immunisation nurses across the local government sector
  • encourage healthcare/medical suppliers to provide information about recyclability pathways for their products if not offering a take-back scheme, and to encourage employers to include recycling training in their onboarding process for staff
  • lobby the government to develop essential worker accommodation to encourage and support the movement of nurses and midwives to take up employment options in regional and rural healthcare facilities as well as assisting students on clinical placement.

In a similar vein to the last motion above, one of the many successful motions asked the Branch to lobby federal and state governments to support our future workforce by providing payment to students for clinical placements undertaken as part of their course/s. The resolution (when a motion is successfully carried it becomes a resolution) will now be sent to the National ANMF Conference, being held in Sydney in October.

Several motions sparked spirited debate and close votes, among them a request that the Branch lobby state government to pursue a drug-legalisation agenda in order to reduce the harms inflicted by drug criminalisation. While some parts were ultimately unsuccessful, the healthy debate on the topic sets the stage for further discussion in coming years. A comparison can be made with Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying laws, which likewise encountered controversy when the topic was first raised.

Other business: COVID book launch, awards and the EBA log of claims

Day one of the conference closed with the announcement of the Job Rep and HSR of the Year award winners, and the launch of Head on: how Victorian nurses and midwives confronted COVID. It was a great honour to have the recently named Victorian of the Year Professor Brett Sutton join us to launch the book and its companion website, along with more than half of the members who contributed their stories.

A significant portion of day two of the conference was dedicated to going through the 2024 public sector EBA log of claims, with Branch Assistant Secretaries Paul Gilbert and Madeleine Harradence outlining the claims we will be making when negotiations begin later this year.

Meanwhile, maternal and child health and immunisation nurse delegates attended two breakout sessions to discuss important issues impacting the MCH service with principal MCH nurse advisor Marcia Armstrong and Branch staff, as well as the MCH local government log of claims, with ANMF Professional Officer Belinda Clark and ANMF Industrial Officer Barry Megennis.

In between debating motions, delegates also enjoyed presentations by lawyer Peter Gordon and author Dr Amy Thunig. Peter Gordon is a senior partner with Gordon Legal, the Branch’s legal partners, and has an unrivalled record of fighting for justice for working people. He has conducted many history-making class action cases – including the successful $1.9 billion robodebt class action. Peter and his colleagues’ expertise is invaluable when ANMF (Vic Branch) members need legal representation and advice.

Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi academic, author, parent and partner Dr Amy Thunig’s speech on our right to rest resonated with many in the crowd, and was a powerful way to end two days of member-led endeavour to make change and build stronger, more equitable workplaces.