Melissa Donnelly appointed acting Community and Public Sector Union national secretary

By Stephen Easton

October 10, 2019

The Community and Public Sector Union’s governing council has appointed industrial lawyer Melissa Donnelly as its acting national secretary until elections for all of the union’s elected offices are held at the end of 2020.

Her appointment follows the resignation of Nadine Flood for health reasons, which was announced in mid-August.

The union informs us Donnelly will be its youngest ever national secretary, as well as the third woman and the first working mother to hold the role. She paid tribute to Flood’s hard work leading the union for almost 10 years.

“She has shown incredible determination through years of a hostile government, leading our union through critical waves of bargaining and building support for our members’ jobs and the role of the public sector on the national stage,” Donnelly said.

Flood found it “an extraordinary privilege” to lead the union for so long but she could no longer continue putting the job ahead of her own health.

“While many of the years I’ve done this job have been tough ones with brutal attacks on workers, jobs, rights and wages and extraordinary attacks on our public services, it is a job I love,” she said earlier this year.

“It demands an enormous amount and I am honoured that CPSU members elected me to lead our incredible union. I’m hopeful that if I stop ignoring my doctors’ advice I can look forward to getting well and going on to do work that helps working people and keep fighting for the values I hold dear.”

At the time, assistant national secretary Michael Tull said Flood was a “phenomenal leader” who had seen six prime ministers come and go.

“Her defence of our members and the public service has always been fearless and forthright,” Tull said. “She will leave behind her a united executive and a union that is well-placed to continue the work of representing our members in their workplaces and in the community. While we are sad to see her go, it’s important she place her health first and we respect her decision, which we know has not been an easy one.”

Donnelly was admitted to practice law  in New South Wales in 2006, and has degrees in Social Science and Law from Macquarie University. She got her start in the union soon after being admitted to the NSW Bar, representing Federal Court staff and arguing for their right to participate in the Your Rights At Work campaign, which opposed the Howard government’s WorkChoices industrial relations policy.

She has led the CPSU’s national Political, Industrial, Research and Legal team, as well as its Justice, Revenue and Media team, and has represented staff in the Australian Taxation Office, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, courts and tribunals, Australia Post and Telstra (which is covered by the CPSU due to its legacy as a government owned corporation). More recently she was responsible for the union’s biggest stronghold in the Australian Public Service, the Department of Human Services.

Donnelly has been a member of the CPSU executive for about four years and a director of Telstra Super since 2018.

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