Our History

In 1983, a young Australian nurse named Helen McCue, a committed member of the Australian Nursing Federation, was working as a nurse educator with the World Health Organisation in the Middle East. Returning to Australia later that year, she took a proposal inspired by her experience in the refugee camps to the then ACTU President Cliff Dolan.

Helen’s proposal was for the establishment of an international solidarity organisation in Australia. She had been inspired while working in the Palestinian refugee camps alongside nurses from Norwegian People’s Aid, the overseas aid arm of the Norwegian trade union movement. Impressed by their focus on skills training, Helen felt that the Australian union movement could also make a difference in the lives of workers and marginalised peoples around the world.

With Cliff’s support, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA was established in 1984. Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA’s international program has developed from a rights based approach, with a focus on solidarity, not charity. Our work aims to build self-reliance through support to educational and training projects for workers and their organisations.

Today, as the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA works to support stronger union and social movements in thirteen locations in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, and Southern Africa. We do that by working in partnership with thirty-nine local trade unions and community organisations through thirty projects and campaigns. Financial support for these projects comes from individuals throughout Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Australian unions and workplaces, international grants as well as from the Australian government’s overseas aid agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

I was a thirty-three year old nurse, and I continued to stay in the camp and work with the Palestinian nurses. I was dealing with many shattered people, as well as nurses. It was very obvious that the health workers needed help to re-establish their working lives.

Helen McCue

Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA Founder, Australian Nursing Federation

Statement of Purpose

Australian unions working globally in partnership for the achievement of dignity at work, social justice, economic equality and the realisation of human rights.

We work to achieve this through strong unions and social movements, sustainable development programs, global solidarity and support in times of crisis.

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