Local stalwart and workers’ rights devotee honoured with Queen’s Birthday award

Brendan Rees

A North Melbourne resident who has worked tirelessly representing the rights of blue and white-collar unions has been awarded a Queen’s Birthday honour.

Mark Perica, the senior legal officer at the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), said he was honoured to be awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM), which recognised his significant service to industrial relations, and to law.

 “It›s amazing in two ways – a) I’m not in the class of people who usually get these and b) it’s humbling to think that someone would care enough about the work I had done to nominate me. It’s very humbling,” he told North West City News.

“I owe this award to our members and the elected officials of the CPSU.”

Mr Perica appears and acts for 80,000 members who work in various state public services including appearing in the Fair Work Commission, state industrial commissions, and in the Federal Circuit Court.

Mr Perica’s contribution to industrial relations is extensive and driven by a desire for an equal, fair, and safe working environment for all workers.

His list of accomplishments is impressive including holding directorships in industry super funds and community organisations as well as being a representative in the industrial relations reform working group at the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

At a local level, he was on the committee of North Melbourne Legal Service (now called Inner Melbourne Legal) for about 10 years, which provides free legal services to people in the North Melbourne area.

A career highlight has been representing Australian workers in international forums, such as the International Labour Organisation, which he described as “the peak and a real privilege”.

“Representing any worker, at any time, is a privilege but to represent Australian workers at an international forum is amazing,” he said.

“I have made interventions in cases involving slavery in Thailand, physical harassment of trade unionists in Cambodia and Belarus, and child sex trafficking in Afghanistan.”

He also assisted the Fijian Trade Union Congress in Fiji during their struggles when the parliament was dissolved in a coup in 2006.

“It’s great to collaborate with all these amazing people in different countries on international matters.”

As a North Melbourne resident of more than 30 years, Mr Perica loves his community and is particularly passionate about the Kensington Flemington Junior Sports Club Inc. where he has been awarded Life Membership.  

He started out as a goal umpire before working his way up to the footy president, a position he held for 10 years and an opportunity he is grateful for.

To this day, he maintains, “you definitely get back more than what you put in”.

While not involved in planning law, Mr Perica said he was also right behind the community in saving the 150-year-old John Curtin Hotel in Carlton which is under threat by developers after it was sold to an offshore buyer in April.

“John Curtin himself is an absolute icon of the labour movement, it’s a sacred site … it would be sad if that history and connection ends,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr Perica said the Queen’s Birthday award was still sinking in.

“When they rang to say would you accept it, I just about dropped the phone. I couldn’t believe it, it’s not something I expected. I still don’t know who nominated me.” •

 

Caption: Mark Perica has been awarded the Member of the Order of Australia.

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