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Home > News > 2019 > October > Following in Emma’s footsteps

Following in Emma’s footsteps

Topics : AwardsHistoryMember Action

IMG_1007.jpgLong-term member and activist Karyl Young has received the Emma Miller Award for her contribution to our union – presented in honour of eponymous union hero, Emma Miller. 

Since 1987, the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) has presented the Emma Miller Award to a remarkable woman activist from each affiliate union who exemplifies Emma’s union spirit.

Karyl was chosen as our union’s award recipient due to her tenacity, commitment to social justice and history of fighting for fairness in our schools and our sector more broadly.

Karyl is a current Staff Representative and member of union council, representing the Central Queensland Branch. 

She has been a member of our union for more than 30 years.

IEUA-QNT Organiser and Equity Committee member Caryl Davies said Karyl was a worthy recipient of the award who had dedicated her professional life to union activism.

“From organising buses to ensure staff participating in stop work action get to the rally point to speaking to delegates at other worksites about the importance of the campaign, Karyl can always be relied upon to be at the front of the fight,” Caryl said.

Caryl said one of Karyl’s particular strengths is establishing strong union networks, not only with her school, but across the Central Queensland Branch that she represents.

“Karyl has worked hard over many years now to build a collective voice, through direct recruitment of members, educating and supporting members on issues confronting them. 

“She works tirelessly to support her colleagues both individually and collectively with a strong sense of social justice and tenacity,” Caryl said.

Karyl received the award at a presentation ceremony held in Brisbane on 13 September and said she was honoured to be recognised.

“It was a big surprise to be nominated,” Karyl said. 

“My greatest union memories are being involved in the picket lines outside the [Catholic Education Office] and along the main highway in Rockhampton.

“I would say the biggest win, however, was getting the extra contribution for superannuation.”

Karyl is proud to work in a school with a strong union culture. 

“It’s about fighting the fight and because of our strong membership, when it comes to times like collective bargaining, our employer knows that when we say we will take action we mean it,” she said. 

“For example, if we say we won’t attend staff meetings, then our employer knows that majority the of us won’t be there. 

“It’s about having the union community and the culture of supporting one another.”  

Emma Miller (1839 – 1917) was a pioneering trade union organiser and suffragette.

StateLibQld_1_64319_Portrait_of_Mrs._Emma_Miller__suffragette_movement_in_Queensland.jpgShe is best known for her brave actions in the 1912 Brisbane General Strike where – at the age of 73 – she defended a group of women unionists under attack by police by thrusting her hat pin into the Police Commissioner’s horse.

Orations at her funeral just five years later lauded a humane woman of courage, fearless in expressing her convictions and staunch in her beliefs; a pioneer and propagandist of the emerging labour movement; a recognised leader of Queensland women’s fight for the right to vote; and a friend and organiser of women workers and active supporter of the union movement.

Emma Miller Award recipients are presented with a commemorative hat pin in honour of Emma’s fighting spirit.


Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.