Labour History

In Pursuit of Union Leadership: Mary Bluett and Susan Hopgood and the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association, 1973-95

Labour History (2013), 104, (1), 131–148.


This article focuses on Mary Bluett’s and Susan Hopgood’s paths to leadership in the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association (VSTA) during the period 1973-95. It considers their role as activists in the transformation of a union and an occupation, which was to have far-reaching effects on the wider society through the state education system. The circumstances that propelled them into union activism are examined as well as a consideration of the importance of their family background, the commitment to social justice and their exposure to feminism from an understanding of the power structures in society. Their collective and strategic approach was developed in the women’s caucus, the Open Sub-Committee on Women (OSCW) which was established in 1974 in the face of strong opposition within the union. The development of the union’s affirmative action policy provided women such as Bluett and Hopgood with the opportunity to reach positions of leadership in the VSTA and later in the Australian Education Union (AEU) at both branch and national level.

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*The author would like to thank the two anonymous referees ofLabour Historyfor their comments and suggestions. Google Scholar

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32.Ibid. Google Scholar

34.Ibid. Google Scholar

35.Ibid. Google Scholar

36.Ibid. Google Scholar

40.Ibid. Google Scholar

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62.Mary Bluerhad teaching experience in the country before completing her Arts degree and Dip. Ed. at Monash University. She was president of the Monash Association of Students. Google Scholar

63.Mary Bluer, “Policy for Women: Mary Bluer Comments,” Secondary Teacher(September1974):7. Google Scholar

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74.Anna Stewartwas a former journalist and active Victorian union official from1974to 1983. She died tragically in 1983, aged 35. She was a foundation member of the ACTU Womens Committee, which was formed in 1977. Google Scholar

79.Ibid. Google Scholar

80.Mary Bluett, “VSTA Council Farewells Brian Henderson,” VSTA News 15, no. 28(1994): 4. Google Scholar

81.Ibid. Google Scholar

82.Anne Phillips, Engendering Democracy(:Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 20. Google Scholar

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Author details

Francis, Rosemary