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Meet your Branch Councillors: Catherine Williams

Meet your Branch Councillors: Catherine Williams

‘Before I joined ANMF, and later Branch Council, I never really knew a lot about it.’ Catherine Williams’ blunt admission no doubt reflects that of many members, but in her case active unionism was perhaps always on the cards: her great grandfather was the president of Victorian Trades Hall Council back in the 1940s, and helped to write Victoria’s Workers Compensation Act 1958.

‘My great grandfather, grandmother and mum and dad were all unionists so I guess I was meant to follow in their footsteps,’ she says. And having thrown herself in – not just to active unionism, but to union leadership via Branch Council – she loves it.

But it almost didn’t happen. Catherine, who became both a Job Rep and a Branch Councillor in the same year, admits that if it hadn’t been for a bit of persuasion from a friend, she might never have done either.

Becoming a unionist

‘I became a Job Rep [in 2019] because one of my best friends encouraged me into the role. And once I was in it, I really loved it: I loved meeting other reps, and going to the delegates conference, and learning more about the union and how to help myself and my colleagues,’ she says. Following that step by standing for Branch Council ‘was one of those things where I was just going with the flow: my friend talked me into becoming a Job Rep, and I loved it; so I figured I might likewise enjoy Council.’

And she has.

‘I’ve learned so much about what the union does, and how it works,’ she says. ‘Sometimes I feel kind of insignificant sitting there in Council meetings but when I have a question, I always ask it. It’s funny,’ she adds, ‘because I’ve always thought I was quite an introvert, shy and quiet. But being on Council has brought out another side of me and given me confidence.’

She’s referring to the confidence to speak on camera in front of the media – and by extension, almost the entire state: not long after becoming a Councillor, Catherine found herself being interviewed by media several times, encouraging Victorians to stay home, and to get vaccinated. ‘But I guess it’s not me up there,’ Catherine explains of how she found the nerves. ‘It’s the nurse version of me. It’s work me.’

A calling, not a decision

Like unionist Catherine, work Catherine was perhaps always destined. Nursing is something that she’s always wanted to do, she explains. ‘I remember as a little girl, about four years old, my Nana was in hospital and me thinking to myself: yep, this is what I want to do,’ she explains. ‘I’ve actually got a photo of me when I’m five at my school dress up and I’m dressed as a nurse.’

Unlike unionism, however, nursing and healthcare weren’t in the family. ‘It’s something that I’ve always known I was going to do,’ she adds. ‘It wasn’t a decision. It’s a calling: this is what I was always going to be doing.’

Catherine has been a registered nurse now for 26 years. She went straight to university to study nursing out of high school, then did her grad year in paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital – where she’s remained ever since. ‘I just love it,’ she says. ‘It’s very rewarding and lots of fun.’

Obviously it can be very challenging too, she says. But the rewards of helping children to feel better outweigh any negatives. ‘That’s the side of it that I love more than anything: being there, reassuring parents, helping to make the kids better: if you’ve had a traumatic day with the kids, doing lots of procedures, when you get those smiles from them – those are my highlights.’

A professional and personal passion

As passionate as she has always been about paediatrics, Catherine is now equally as passionate about union work – especially with regards to protecting and expanding ratios. ‘I wasn’t as involved in the union when that fight was initially going on,’ she says, ‘but I think we have a duty to protect and respect all the work that others have done before us, to make sure we don’t go backwards. And we need to keep up that education,’ she adds, ‘to make sure the newer nurses and midwives coming through know what happened to get ratios and to protect them again, and again.’

For Catherine, of course, it’s not just professional; it’s personal: ‘with my great grandfather and my grandmother being involved in the union movement, this is their legacy. I hope to do them proud.’