Diana Asmar

Secretary of the Health Workers Union

Diana Updated Cropped Portrait

Like you, Health Workers Union Secretary Diana Asmar is a health worker, in pathology.

Diana commenced her working life as a volunteer at the Red Cross Blood Bank in 1992 as a laboratory assistant, while also undertaking an Associate Diploma of Applied Science at RMIT. 

Diana then worked as a phlebotomist, clerical worker and courier at Panch Hospital (Preston and Northcote Community Hospital), before the hospital was sold and transferred to what is now the Northern Hospital, conducting home visits collecting blood from the elderly and people with disabilities. She’s also worked in pathology at Royal Melbourne Hospital, as a night-shift laboratory assistant at Sunshine Hospital (Western Health), and at the Melbourne Rehabilitation Centre in Parkville.  Diana understands the unique pressures shift-workers face.

It was during her time at Northern Hospital, however, that Diana Asmar first became an active unionist, regularly standing up to her direct employer, Dorevitch Pathology, a company regarded then and now as notoriously anti-worker.

Diana Asmar has been a member of Health Workers Union since 1998. Between 2000 and 2004 Diana served as HSU delegate, Health and Safety Rep and Chair of the HSU Delegates Committee at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. It was in this role, helping her work colleagues stand up against bad managers, that she understood the importance of collective strength. Workers that stick together win!

Diana also undertook Union training through the ACTU and completed the Anna Stewart Memorial Internship at Victorian Trades Hall Council.  In 2004, Diana became a HSU Industrial Organiser, helping empower workers to know their rights and entitlements, and to join the union. She fought hard in tribunals to negotiate better pay in enterprise agreements.

Diana also has extensive community involvement, both in local government and fund-raising for the Diana Asmar MS Research Fund at Monash University.  She was recognised for her work in the community with the Centenary of Federation Medal in 2001, as a baton relay runner during the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and received the Australian Fundraising Institute Volunteer of the Year Award (Victoria/Tasmania Chapter 1) in 2007.

She also gained further experience working as the first female industrial organiser at the Transport Workers Union. She decided to leave the TWU to focus on rescuing the HWU from its then leadership which had left the Union in chaos and scandal.

Working with grassroots HWU members, Diana was elected to the position of Health Workers Union Secretary in December 2012, and was re-elected to the same position in 2014 with over 93% of the vote, having restored decency, industrial smarts and financial stability to your Union. Diana is a mother of two.

David Eden

Assistant Secretary of the Health Workers Union

David Eden Cropped When he was a boy David Eden knew that when he grew up he wanted to work in a job where he could help others.  Social justice, fairness, treating all people with respect, and standing up for those that can’t stand up for themselves, are values he was infused with early on by his father.  His grandmother worked 30 years in the Ballarat Children’s Home as a house parent and he grew up watching her treat everyone with respect, dignity and care - regardless of their circumstances.  He and his brother were also junior Judo champions, and often found themselves using their skills to defend their classmates against bullies. 

The career David chose was nursing.  It was a choice that proved to be a very good fit for his character.  Looking after others came naturally to David, and he was good at it.

David commenced work as an Enrolled Nurse in March 1988 at the Queen Elizabeth Centre (Aged Care) in Ballarat.  He joined the union the same year.  The union he joined was a forerunner to the HWU, the Hospital Employees Federation.  David recounts that very early in his career, as part of his induction in fact, he attended an information session given by a union delegate, and he was hooked. 

Shortly after joining the union David became a delegate himself and shortly after that, an organiser.  He was an organiser with what was then called the HSUA VIC 1 Branch for five and a half years.  David worked a regional Victorian “patch” that was vast and challenging.  It would be easier to list the regions David did not cover in those years.  He serviced the needs of members from Ballarat, Bendigo, the Mallee, the Wimmera, the south west and the far north of the State. 

David knew what mattered to country people and to the union’s regionally based members.  His years as a nurse in the system meant that he also understood very clearly the issues and challenges workers in the sector were, and still are, facing.  David made a point of getting to know people in all facets and in all jobs in the health system.

“I worked as a nurse, so I already knew all the nursing staff.  I made it my business to get to know the people in other parts of the system – cleaners, pathology workers, admin staff – I knew all of them, and was given respect as a union delegate as a result”.

David quickly began to see that there was a great mismatch in terms of the career prospects and pathways of some professionals in the sector – in particular nurses – and the opportunities for personal and career development open to other staff.  Workers become, as David calls it, “stuck” in roles with little or no pathway or opportunity for advancement. 

One of the key drivers for David then and still today is to improve the career structures and training opportunities for staff across the board. 

“We can do things like rotate rosters to ensure workers are exposed to a variety of roles, and we can embed training in our conditions so that all workers get access to opportunity.  Nurses have a very clear career progression pathway.  In other areas there might be a Cert III or IV level course available, but that’s it.   We need to unplug that opportunity for everyone.  It’s also about recruitment and retention.  We need more people entering the sector and to stop people leaving it, and better training and career pathways are key to being able to achieve that”.

After nearly six years on the road as a regional organiser, in the early-2000s, David took a break from full time unionism and returned to work in his chosen profession at St John of God Healthcare, working in both acute and community care.  He remained close to the union and successfully put himself forward as HWU President in 2012.  He made a full time return to union life shortly after that when was elected Assistant Secretary in 2014 with a majority support of 97%. 

David, whose blended family includes five children, says the challenge for the HWU, and all unions, going forward is to engage young people in the value of collectivism:

“We need to focus on getting the next generation of members to get on board with us.  We need to make them see that without collective strength, workers are basically sitting ducks for employers.  And, the best way to do that is by getting them involved at the start of their careers, through training and opportunity.  We need to put the structures in place that enable young people to choose health care as a career and have choices, and a career pathway to follow.  We are making a difference here, but there is still much more to do”.  

Rhonda Barclay
PresidentRhonda Barclay
Lee Atkinson
Senior Vice PresidentLee Atkinson
Sherida Jacks
Junior Vice PresidentSherida Jacks
Nick Katsis
Branch Committee of ManagementNick Katsis
Velda Mitchell
Branch Committee of ManagementVelda Mitchell
Susan Stone
Branch TrusteeSusan Stone
Andrew Hargreaves
Branch TrusteeAndrew Hargreaves
Lance Smith
Branch Committee of ManagementLance Smith
Lisa Fisher
Branch Committee of ManagementLisa Fisher
Koula Vasiliadis
Branch Committee of ManagementKoula Vasiliadis
Diane Stratton
Branch Committee of ManagementDiane Stratton
Evan Lambrou
Branch Committee of ManagementEvan Lambrou