Australia

Top honour for Aust ex-union boss Burrow

Former Australian union boss Sharan Burrow has been awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia. (AAP)

Once head of Australia's trade union movement, Sharan Burrow has faded from the domestic spotlight but continues to fly the flag for workers on a global stage.

Politics seems a natural progression for so many senior union figures, but that was never the goal for Sharan Burrow.

The former ACTU and teacher's union president has followed a different path, becoming head of the international union movement with more than 207 million global members.

"I knew it wasn't for me, I could never explain it," Ms Burrows told AAP of her political aspirations from the sidelines of the Social G7 meeting in Paris.

While she has incredible respect for those who dedicated their lives to serving the public, politics never appealed.

"Governments are really important, it just wasn't for me," the 65-year-old said.

Starting her working life as a teacher in country NSW spurred Ms Burrow's ambition to help others and ignited her passion for education.

As ACTU president in 2007, Ms Burrow helped fight the Howard government's controversial WorkChoices industrial relations legislation ahead of the federal election later that year, which brought a change of government.

Fast-forward more than a decade and Ms Burrow now leads the International Trade Union Confederation, helping workers tackle rising inequality across the globe.

"People want secure jobs, safe jobs, wages on which they can live and they want to be able share that prosperity and make a contribution to their community," she said.

While Ms Burrow's public profile may have faded, she's not forgotten in Australia where her work has been recognised with a Companion in the Order of Australia, awarded as part of the Queen's Birthday honours.

Former Australian Building and Construction Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss, who previously worked as a federal police assistant commissioner, was also appointed as a member to the Order for his service to the building sector and law enforcement.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch