APHEDA People: Dr Lachlan Clohesy

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is about people – people working together to make things better for all. As the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement, each and every APHEDA supporter, member, partner organisation, activist, and participant here in Australia and all around the world contributes to the work it takes to tackle inequality and injustice.

This month we meet Lachlan Clohesy, long-time APHEDA member and ACT Division Secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

Lachlan Clohesy is the ACT Division Secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). He has previously worked at universities in academic and professional staff roles, and has also been a union organiser. He has been an active member of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA for 5 years. In 2021, Lachlan and his partner Bel also took on another significant new role: parents to their baby boy, Conor.


What does it mean to you to be union?

To be union is to be part of the collective. We all contribute to the collective in our own way — most obviously through union dues — but also through our efforts, our time, our intellectual contributions, and more. This comes from the recognition that we are stronger together, and that a collective approach is the best way to protect ourselves and advance our collective interests.


What does it mean to you to be APHEDA?

Being part of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is the best way to extend solidarity to those who need it. In parts of the world where labour movements are underdeveloped, resource-poor, or are actively oppressed, we can seek to make a difference to those who can benefit from the solidarity of the global labour movement. Union Aid Abroad –  APHEDA is about solidarity, not charity.

Why is building internationalism in Australia important?

There is a moral, social, and ethical obligation to support other parts of the global labour movement where we can — especially as a country with relatively high living standards. As trade unionists, we know that lifting up the bottom rung of the ladder lifts the whole ladder, and that if we allow conditions of worker exploitation overseas to go unchallenged then it is a matter of time before they spread. 

Globalisation and the impetus towards “free trade” can also have the effect of allowing multinational corporations to shop around for the lowest common denominator in labour conditions. Global solidarity is the best way to push back.

What part of APHEDA’s work are you most connected to/proud of? Why?

I’m most proud of the “Asbestos. Not here. Not anywhere.” campaign. This campaign has had huge international scale and impact, and many people were previously unaware that countries such as Canada produced asbestos until relatively recently. The efforts of the asbestos industry to push chrysotile as a product are also deeply disturbing. We’re lucky to live in a country where asbestosis and mesothelioma have gained widespread awareness, and living in Canberra (with its own Mr Fluffy history) underscores the importance of this issue.


As a volunteer for APHEDA, what do you see as the work that is most important for Union Aid Abroad to focus on into the future?

The current focus for APHEDA in respect of climate change, gender equality, labour migration/refugees and trade unions/workers’ rights are all relevant and important to me.

Climate change in particular is impacting on workers and working people throughout the world.

Immediately, the impact of Covid 19 on people’s ability to have access to employment, Decent Work, food security and health facilities is a crucial area for focus.

Both of these areas are ones where APHEDA is working.

When you have one-on-one conversations about APHEDA, how do you describe the work and ask people to join?

Union Aid Abroad APHEDA is about solidarity, not charity. It’s not about “white saviour” interventions: instead, APHEDA has a deep commitment to working with local organisations to achieve outcomes advancing the interests of workers in the places APHEDA is active.

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