Sally McManus - Changemaker

Sally McManus is Secretary of the powerful Australian Council of Trade Unions, and a committed ‘movement builder’. She’s also something of an enigma. Not only because she is the first woman to head the ACTU, or because this diminutive, former pizza delivery driver and cleaner (with a degree in philosophy!) has a passion for bird watching and is a Black belt in Kung-fu, but because Sally really doesn’t care a jot what people think of her. In her first week as ACTU Secretary she was branded ‘a lunatic’ by a Cabinet Minister and sideswiped as too ‘conflict’ driven by big business.

That was five years ago. Sally is still standing and thriving. What’s more, she’s still smiling. 

In this fascinating conversation about fairness, justice and gender equality in one of the most ‘blokey’ sectors in Australia – trade unions, Sally sets the record straight. The union movement, she says, boasts some of the strongest feminists in the nation. She also shares some of the best Changemaker advice we’ve heard: when you find yourself in the middle of a storm, stand still. Listen in… and I’ll let Sally explain why!

Sally’s story is part of our ‘Changemaker’ series, in which we highlight the extraordinary efforts of some stunning, audacious and gutsy Australian women. As guest curator of a new exhibition, ‘Australian Women Changemakers’, which opened at the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) in June 2022, BroadTalk host Virginia Haussegger has spent hundreds of hours pouring over feminist activism and advocacy, chasing that holy grail of insight about ‘what makes a changemaker?’ In this series we explore the courage, motivations and importantly the cost of being a changemaker.

BroadTalk is produced by Martyn Pearce for BroadTalk Media.

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