Deakin Branch President, Piper Rodd, leads the tributes to long-standing and popular NTEU Deakin Branch member, Katrina Fleming, who passed away unexpectedly last month.
On 31 October Audrey Statham and I attended the funeral of long-time comrade and friend of our Branch and our Union, Katrina Fleming, at Tuckers Funeral Chapel, Moolap, Geelong. Katrina was a very proud unionist and fierce and loyal advocate for workers across Deakin for many years. Her death, following her retirement last year during the restructure, was sudden and unexpected. She is remembered with great love by her husband, Ron and her children, Caitlin and Tom. Former Vice-President Professional Staff at Deakin Branch, Steve Davis, and former Branch Organiser, Garry Ryan, were also in attendance. Katrina’s friend and NTEU comrade at Deakin, John Lamp, gave a moving tribute to Katrina’s funeral which we invite you to read below.
Dr Piper Rodd
NTEU Deakin Branch President
“Thanks very much for the opportunity to talk about Katrina and her time at the NTEU. Katrina and I first met in 1998 when I came to work at Deakin, Geelong campus. And when I met Katrina, it was the second time I’d been to Geelong, the first time was for the job interview. So when I came I was very happy to find a welcoming face and that’s something that you definitely got from Katrina. We became friends and she was a really good friend. About a couple of months after I arrived, my son had a bust-up at school and I’d come to work on my motorbike which made it a bit difficult to work out how I was going to get him home, and Katrina didn’t even hesitate she said, 'Look, here’s the car keys, go.' And at that stage she didn’t really know what my driving skills were like, fortunately.
"So there’s a couple of different ways that we can look at Katrina and her involvement in the Union. She was on the Deakin Branch committee from 2009 to 2021. She was Vice President of Professional Staff for 8 years. She was a National Council member for 6 years. And she had two years on Victorian Division Executive. When Katrina stood down in 2021, she said 'I have met some passionate, brilliant, funny members along the way. What I will miss is the comradeship we have shared, fighting the good fight, and protecting our members.'
"Comradeship, and being a comrade, is a very interesting concept when you think about it. It’s about working together towards a common aim and being steadfast in working that way. Kerrie Saville, NTEU Deakin Branch president from 2010 to 2021, told me this story about Katrina: 'One of my most memorable memories of Katrina, was in the lead up to the last round of bargaining we did together for the 2017 Enterprise Agreement. Everyone from the Deakin Branch involved in bargaining had travelled in to the NTEU offices in South Melbourne for training with Ken McAlpine. Of course, Ken wanted us to do a role play, with Linda Gale also watching to provide us all with ‘constructive’ feedback. Of course, role plays require two sides and Katrina found herself on the management bargaining team in the role of the HR Director. I was on the NTEU bargaining team. Anyway, Katrina being Katrina took to her part with gusto, channelling the condescending cold and bitchiness of all the HR directors we, over our time in the union, had had to deal with. She was stunningly brilliant in the role. So much so, that she managed to turn the training role play into a complete debacle, with those of us on the NTEU side of the negotiation table all too busy laughing to the point of having tears rolling down our faces, to take the role play seriously!'
Katrina’s desk was a notable part of the Faculty of Business and Law. It always had the latest NTEU information, and she was always ready for a talk. She was always at the rallies, always with a smile, but always with determination. Another story from Kerrie Saville gives you a sense of Katrina’s commitment to the union and other unionists:
'When it comes to Katrina’s loyalty to the NTEU and her comrades from the Deakin Branch past and present, I can also say I was honestly taken aback by her and Ron’s generosity at the fundraiser for the NTEU election campaign launch several years ago, of the Colin Long, Sarah Roberts and Kerrie Saville ticket. Not only did they travel from Ocean Grove to attend the campaign launch event in the city, but they donated a case of wine to be used to raise funds for the campaign. Loyal and supportive as always.'
"When talking about Katrina, NTEU members and non-members alike use words like commitment, loyalty, care, empathy, support and determination. Non-members were also quietly but firmly recommended to join the NTEU. She was a stalwart of the NTEU, one of its most committed members at Deakin and a delegate who worked hard. Katrina was a true comrade and friend. It was an absolute privilege to fight the good fight with her.”
John Lamp, 31 October 2022.