Russ Collison is the State Secretary of the Australian Workers Union (AWU), a natural leader for a union that caters for such a diverse group of members, with a working life that reads like an adventure novel.
Russ began his working life on the railways, spent time in abattoirs, a stint on the Bass Strait oil rigs before returning to Sydney to find security and happiness at the Tooheys brewery. Along the way, Russ got himself qualified as a rigger and scaffolder and became a member of the Federated Ironworkers Association, which merged with the AWU in 1994.
It was at Tooheys that Russ took on his first leadership role, heading up the joint shop committee and winning the battle for a 35-hour week. After 13 years at the brewery Russ was seconded to the union office and decided to become a full-time union organiser.
Russ rose onto the FIA executive and oversaw the difficult amalgamations through the 1990s that culminated in the merger with the AWU.