From the mailroom to the AWU National Executive: my story

Tracey Sharpe worked her way up from the AWU mailroom to be elected to The Australian Workers’ Union National Executive. She also serves as the Toowoomba District Secretary.

I joined the AWU straight out of school. It was in 1987 and I was enjoying myself on Schoolies Week. The week afterwards I started the job at the AWU’s Brisbane office. My first job was in the AWU mailroom, but I soon moved on to the industrial typing area where we typed up all the court work. About twenty years ago, I went to the membership side and helped put together a new system.

I left the AWU briefly in the late 90s to work at the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission as an Advocate for Commissioner Swan, before coming back to the AWU as an Advocate.

It wasn’t until 2004 that I became an AWU organiser, when I went off to Toowoomba. When I first came to Toowoomba there was only a District Secretary, the legendary Dudley Watson. When Dudley retired, I got his job. After a few years, I convinced the former Queensland Branch Secretary, Bill Ludwig, into giving me an organiser. Two years later, I asked for another organiser.

We’ve definitely grown in the region. The two organisers travel at least an hour east, five hours west, and another six hours northwest. They just about live in their cars, travelling about 80,000 kilometres a year.

Every day we achieve something. It’s not always a major, world-beating achievement, but it’s good to be making a difference. We had a gentleman at Lockyer Valley Regional Council who was reinstated after being incorrectly terminated. He’s been back working that job without a problem for two years.

Outside of work, I’m married with three children. It was through the AWU that I met my husband. My youngest son, who’s five, has been to six Labor Day marches. I count the first one when he was still in my stomach!

I’ve just been elected to the Union’s National Executive. I’m only the fourth woman to be given the honour, and there’s just me and Marina (Williams) on the Executive at the moment. 

All women in the AWU should just go for it. I haven’t found it difficult at all, and there’s nothing we can’t do when we put our minds to it. We can talk the talk and walk the walk.