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President’s Report: Term 3

Angela Burroughs  
AEU ACT President

What a fabulous night we had celebrating public education at our annual dinner in May. It was wonderful to see so many of you there. With the move to a bigger venue, we were able to have more members attend this year’s dinner than any before it – and still there was a waiting list for tickets!

To have such a huge response to events like this really drives home to me what a positive place our union is in. Every month, our membership is growing. This is in no small part due to the fantastic work of the organising team in the union office, but it’s also down to us, everyday AEU members, having conversations with our colleagues about the value and importance of being a member of their union.

And it’s not just our numbers that are growing; more and more, I’m seeing the involvement of members increase as well. Our New Educator Conference earlier this year was the biggest and best we’ve ever held. Our industrial retreat at Fitzroy Falls at the end of term one was full of new faces, excited to learn more about building the solidarity and strength of our union. They took these skills back to their workplaces to empower their sub-branches, and to keep building us up.

We’re seeing schools where whole sub-branches are showing their union pride by wearing AEU t-shirts to work every Friday. Our New Educator Network and School Assistant Network grow larger with every meeting they hold. Branch Council meetings are as robust and well-attended as I’ve ever seen them.

At times, we encounter the misconception that ‘the union’ is a few people in an office in Barton. But this trend proves to me that our members understand the truth of it: we are the union. I am; you are. We are only ever as strong as our membership is collectively.

That’s why what I’m seeing is so encouraging. As we know, our strength is never more important than at times like this while we’re bargaining new enterprise agreements, but that’s just one reason it matters. Across Australia, working people are realising that ‘union’ is not the dirty word some would like us to think it is. The Australian Unions Change the Rules campaign is helping people realise that we must stand together to make change. In April, Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus tweeted that a record number of people had contacted the ACTU wanting to join their union. The AEU is a strong part of this movement, and we should be proud of that. But the fight is never over, and we must continue to have those conversations with our colleagues to encourage them to stand with us.     

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