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Vale Heather Powell

Saturday, 25th April, 2020

Heather Powell in front of the Trades Hall in 2000, and (inset) on a BIC Badge in 1991. Heather Powell in front of the Trades Hall in 2000, and (inset) on a BIC Badge in 1991.

By Michael Murphy

The Barrier Industrial Council yesterday paid tribute to union stalwart Heather Powell, who passed away last Sunday, aged 74.

Heather was the first female union Secretary in Broken Hill, serving with the Broken Hill Branch of the Federated Clerks Union for 23 years from 1977.

In 1994, Heather took on the additional position of Secretary of the Shop Assistants’ Union and, in 1998, as Organiser with the newly-formed Broken Hill branch of Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association.

Heather also represented the Unions as delegate to the Barrier Industrial Council from 1991 until December 2000.

From 1994 until her retirement, Heather held the executive position of Vice President of the BIC.

When Heather first joined the BIC, Joe Keenan was President and Fred Smith was Secretary.

“Unionism has changed a lot in that time,” Heather told the BDT when she retired in 2000.

“Industrial laws are against us and it’s made it a lot harder.

“Once we used to sit down with members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Hospital to do agreements, now we sit down with solicitors and lawyers.”

She said being the only woman in most union meetings made things “interesting”. 

“If you wanted to be part of the union movement, you had to do the work. 

“It didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman. They were hard but fair and good to work with.

“Being a woman hasn’t made much of a difference, except if anyone swore at the meetings, they would turn to me and say ‘excuse me’.”

Heather represented and advocated for workers in industrial matters such as agreement negotiations with the Broken Hill City Council, the Far West Area Health Service and the Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce.

“On behalf of the Barrier Industrial Council and the members of its affiliated Unions, I extend our sincere condolences to Heather’s family during this very difficult time,” BIC President Rosslyn Ferry said yesterday.

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