Kelly Marks is a primary school teacher and Research/Industrial Officer with the NSW Teachers Federation. She is also the officer attached to the Federation’s peace environment and international issues special interest group and the Federation’s climate emergency coordinator. She has been a member of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA for four years.

What does it mean to you to be union?

Firstly, for me, unionism is about family and friendships. I’ve been very fortunate to see firsthand from a very young age how unionism means safer and better-paid jobs for workers, which in turn creates a stronger, more democratic society.

I love that whatever line of work you’re in, there’s a union that will have your back. I love the traditions around unionism. You sign up, sign up your colleagues, take collective action in the workplace for the benefit of all, and from there, the possibilities are endless. It’s no understatement to say that the best professional development and training will most likely be provided by your union. Unionists are very fun to be around too, which is a bonus!

 What does it mean to you to be APHEDA? 

I love the advocacy, the fundraising efforts and the grassroots support APHEDA provides for working people all over the world, but particularly for workers in disadvantaged communities, for women and for refugees.

What impresses me most is the leadership role that APHEDA plays in the Australian trade union movement on standing up for Palestine, for climate justice and for peaceful resolutions to international conflicts. I have always strongly believed that peace is union business, particularly as a teacher. I don’t want children to live in constant fear, or poverty, and I don’t want their family’s circumstances to forever impact on what they can do and who they can be. APHEDA is committed to this work.

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

At the moment, it is the work on the Philippines. At the NSW Teachers Federation we have joined several solidarity actions over the past two years organised by APHEDA to support our colleagues in the Philippines who are fighting to defend human rights and trade union rights that are under constant attack by the Duturte regime. I was shocked and appalled to hear about the harassment and targeting of educators, particularly the leaders of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. The ACT is affiliated to Education International, to which my union the Australian Education Union is also an affiliate. The Australian government can and must do more to stop the repression of our fellow trade unionists.

Why is building internationalism in Australia important?

We are all human, but we don’t all face the same challenges. For instance, the climate emergency is already having the most severe outcomes in the most disadvantaged parts of the world. Climate change is just one of many difficulties that the whole world is facing, and Australia cannot just ignore its share of responsibility to work to address them. Everything is connected – the climate, food and water security, displacement of people, destruction of habitat and species extinction. We must face these crises together and leave no one behind – borders shouldn’t determine our response.

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