Woman Hopgood, Susan (1952 - )
Cohuna, Victoria, Australia
- Teacher and Trade unionist
Written by Rosemary Francis, The University of Melbourne
Susan Hopgood, one of seven children, was born in Cohuna, Victoria in 1952. Her parents were dairy farmers in the area. She completed her primary and secondary education at Cohuna, moving to Melbourne to pursue her Bachelor Arts and Diploma of Education at Monash University where she was radicalized around the issues of apartheid and conscription.
Hopgood commenced her career as a mathematics teacher in 1974 at Preston East High School, and joined the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association (VSTA) in the same year. A branch representative at Koonung High School from 1979, she was elected to the VSTA Council in 1984. In 1985 she was appointed the VSTA's Women's Officer to assist with the implementation of the union's affirmative action policy. She was elected general secretary of the VSTA before the amalgamation in 1995 of the VSTA and the Teachers Federation of Victoria (TFV) to become the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU). After the amalgamation, Hopgood made the move to fill the vacant position of Women's Officer at federal level. She held that position from 1995 to 1996 when she was elected deputy federal secretary of the AEU. This role included responsibility for the union's international work. In 2005 she was elected federal secretary, the first woman to hold this position. In 2013 she continued to hold that position as well as being president of Education International.
Hopgood identified as a feminist. She regarded her mother as a role model as she was active in her local community and participated as an equal with her father in the family. She described Mary Bluett, who became president of the VSTA, as a mentor. In 1984 Bluett actively encouraged Hopgood to stand for election to the Council. Hopgood valued the idea of collective action and believed in the importance of women supporting each other. She was a member of the Open Sub-Committee on Women, a female caucus within the union which supported women members attempts to broaden the union's agenda to include issues which affected them.
Hopgood expected to pursue a career as well as rear a family, but acknowledged the supportive role of her partner in this endeavor. She conceded that she spent less time with her children as a result of her union involvement, but her children saw her as a person who was making a positive contribution to the community. In terms of leadership Hopgood considered that women were more likely to see themselves as part of a leadership group, whereas men tended to see others around them as support staff. She strongly believed that the leadership of an organization should reflect the organization they served. As a leader she saw it as her role to convince members of the importance of fighting for issues which would improve the lives of both teachers and students.
National Library of Australia Oral History Collection
- Francis, Rosemary, 'In Pursuit of Union Leadership: Mary Bluett and Susan Hopgood and the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association, 1973-95', Labour History, vol. 104, May 2013, pp. 131-148. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5263/labourhistory.104.0131. Details
- Susan Hopgood interviewed by Rosemary Francis in the Women and leadership in a century of Australian democracy oral history project
- 13 September 2011 - 22 September 2011
- National Library of Australia
- National Library of Australia Oral History Collection