The presence of a collective voice for health workers can be dated back to the early 20th century when hospital employees first stood together to represent the needs of wardsmaids, porters, washers, wardsmen, cooks, chambermaids, gardeners and many other health workers in the hospital system.

The HSU in NSW was first registered as an industrial union under the Industrial Arbitration Act of New South Wales, on the 12th October 1911. the union was known as the Hospital and Asylum Employees’ Union of New South Wales.

In Victoria the union also officially began in 1911, when it was first registered as the Hospital and Asylum Attendants and Employees Union of Australia.

In 1914, the first Victorian name change occurred with the union becoming the Hospital Dispensary and Asylum Employees’ Union of Australia.

The NSW Union has, over the years, variously been called the Hospital Employees ’ Association of Australia, Hospitals Asylum and Laboratories Association of Australia and, in 1947, the name was changed to the Hospital Employees’ Association of New South Wales. the Union was known under this name until 1965 when the name was again changed to the Health and Research Employees’ Association of Australia. On the 1st October 2003 it became the Health Services Union.

From 1911 to 1932 the NSW Union had constitutional coverage of all staff employed in hospitals, universities and the Ambulance Service. the earliest agreement between this Union and individual hospitals was registered in 1913 and the Union has constantly held industrial coverage of employees in public hospitals since that date. the first agreement was an Industrial Agreement with the Royal

Prince Alfred Hospital

Afer many years of representing health workers, on May 26 1922 another health union, the Hospital Employees Association (HEA) also registered to look after health workers in Victoria. In 1930 after lengthy negotiations and debate between the two unions, the two Victorian bodies amalgamated following a ballot of HEA members and became the Hospital, Dispensary and Asylum Employees’ and Allied Government Officers’ Federation of Australia. the union in Victoria operated as independent branches representing different classifications within the health care system.

In NSW there was an attempt by a group to break away from the union in 1929 when the entire Crown Section separated from the parent body as a result of a dispute. this breakaway group sought industrial registration under the name of Crown Employees Hospitals and Homes Association of NSW, the Industrial Registrar granted the application.

Also in the 1930’s another Victorian Branch (No.5), the Hospital Administrative Officers Association (HAOA) was formed comprising of senior administrative staffin the public and private hospital and health sector. this branch also operated independent of other Victorian branches until the 1980’s which saw significant restructuring of the trade union movement.

In 1932 the NSW Nurses’ Association was registered as an industrial union of employees and at the same time the Crown Section of this Union was still attempting to gain registration. In 1936 the Trained Mental Nurses’ Association of NSW made an application for registration as an industrial union. the dispute between the Union and a breakaway group was resolved in early 1936 but the Trained Mental Nurses proceeded to registration as a separate industrial union in 1936. On the 20th November 1945, the Trained Mental Nurses’ Association of NSW amalgamated with the NSW Nurses Association thus giving that body its present day coverage of nurses.

In 1933 the NSW Industrial Arbitration Act was amended to provide for the establishment of Conciliation Committees to cater for particular groups of employees in place of the Wages Board system that had existed up to this time. the result of this amendment to the Industrial Act was the creation of the first Conciliation Committees to cater for the interests of the hospitals employees, universities, ambulance, etc.

In 1959, the Hospital, Dispensary and Asylum Employees’ and Allied Government Officers’ Federation of Australia saw another official name change to the Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australia (HEF) and in 1986 at the annual conference a Victorian branch (No.3) was established to represent health professionals such as scientists, therapists and pharmacists.

There was plenty of movement for Victorian trade unions in the 1980’s, with the HAOA changing its name to Health and Community Services Staff Association (HACSSA), a number of smaller unions representing other health workers such as the Salaried Systems Officers (IT) Victorian Ambulance Superintendents Association (VASA) amalgamated with HACSSA. During this period HACSSA also became federally registered as the Health Services Union Victoria No. 5 Branch.

In 1965 an application was made for registration as an industrial union under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. this registration was granted in February, 1970 and the Union functions today as both a State Union, and following our amalgamation, with the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia to form the Health Services Union of Australia in January 1991, as a State Branch of that organisation.

In the late 1980’s the HEF and the NSW union ‘the Health and Research Employees Association (HREA)’ also recognised the benefits for members of a larger union and started to move towards amalgamation. Members had a chance to decide on the merger with a plebiscite being held on July 4 1990. Almost a year later, the federal organisation which was the Health Services Union of Australia (HSUA) officially began. the first meeting of the union’s national executive was held on February 7 and 8, 1991. In 1995, the Hospital Officers Association amalgamated with the HREA. the Hospital Officers Association was a small union covering senior clerical and administrative staff in the health system. the vote to amalgamate with HREA was overwhelming with the members clearly seeing the benefits of joining a larger organisation. Upon amalgamation, the Hospital Officers Association became a Sub- Branch of HREA with a position on Union Council.

In 1998 HREA became embroiled in a major demarcation dispute with the Public Service Association of NSW. Arising out of this dispute was a decision from the NSW Industrial Relations Commission that awarded HREA coverage of positions formerly held by the Public Service Association in the Public and Private Health Industry. this effectively made HREA the biggest and most influential union in the health industry.

The decision of the Industrial Relations Commission also resulted in HREA losing coverage of members employed in Universities, Department of Community Services and Juvenile Justice. the coverage of these members was awarded to the Public Service Association.

In the same year HREA was involved in a similar demarcation dispute with the NSW Nurses Association, which resulted in HREA losing the coverage of Nurses in residential centres. the coverage of these members was awarded to the NSW Nurses Association.

On October 1, 2003 the Unions changed their names to the Health Services Union (HSU) which is widely recognised throughout the health care system as securing the best possible wages and conditions for health workers.

On the 1st February 2008 the Health Services Union Victoria No. 5 Branch officially amalgamated with the HSU Victoria No. 1 Branch. this merger delivered superior outcomes for members through sharing of resources, knowledge and joint branch negotiations which placed the HSU in an even stronger position for members.

In 2010 the HSU Victoria No. 1 and No. 3 branch and HSU NSW Branch took the historical and important step and merged to become one branch, the HSU Branch. the HSU Branch representing over 60,000 members, is the largest health branch which represents many classifications in today’s health care system. the HSU Branch is known throughout the health system today as the best protection a health employee can get.

Who it serves

HSU is a State and federally registered organisation of employees, consisting of persons employed in Area Health Services, Hospitals, Mental Hospitals, Hospitals Dispensaries, Medical Schools, Laboratories, Colleges, Industrial and other similar Homes, Public Charitable Institutions, Ambulance Work (including First Aid Work), Reception Houses, Sanatoriums, Rest Homes, Colleges, Medical Schools, Retirement Homes and Villages, Diagnostic Services or Clinics providing Radiolog y, Patholog y, Physiotherapy, Audiolog y, or Dialysis Services, Medical Practitioners employed in Public and Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes. the Health Services Union of Australia (HSUA) is our Federally registered counterpart Union which gives members a national voice and provides representation at a federal level if necessary.

In Victoria HSU consists of persons employed in Area Health Services, Public and Private Hospital, Aged Care and Nursing Home, Mental Health, Residential and Disability, Laboratories, Public Charitable institutions, ambulance (Management), Medical Centres, Division of General Practice, Community Health, Dental, Administration, Diagnostic Services or Clinics providing Radiology , Pathology and Medical Imaging , Allied Health Professionals, Dialysis Services and Division 2 Nurses.


The Union has a membership in excess of 41,000. Members are employed in Public Hospitals, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes, Ambulance Service, Voluntary Care Establishments, Private Pathology Laboratories and Private Radiography Centres.

If you have any queries please contact HSU on 1300 478 679 and ask for Records.