Maxine Sharkey is the General Secretary of the NSW Teachers Federation and has been a member of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA for 20 years.

What does it mean to you to be union?

Being union means being a part of a movement that puts workers at the centre of our society, putting workers needs at the forefront of all political decision making. Union means ensuring safe and secure work is available for all who are able to work while maintaining dignity and respect for all who, for whatever reason, are unable to participate in the workforce. I believe very much in the power of the collective, or community, and the ideology of the strong looking out for the weak for the betterment of all. I don’t see how anyone can say they have a commitment to equality and justice if they are not a member of a union.

What does it mean to you to be APHEDA?

APHEDA creates a connection with workers around the world. We might live on an island, but we do not and cannot live in isolation. What affects one part of the world affects us all, what touches one worker, touches us all, no matter where we live or work. My connection with APHEDA keeps me connected to workers’ struggles and successes.

Why is building internationalism in Australia important?

The global economy, the international supply chain, is a capitalist construct that needs to be civilised, humanised, unionised. All Australians should be aware of what is happening to working-class peoples across the world and reach out to support or assist where and as needed. Australia cannot remain a democracy if we ignore global threats to democracy, social justice and equality.

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

I love APHEDA’s grassroots work with communities – building sustainable communities and creating collectives. As a teacher I am always proud of the work APHEDA does to improve education for marginalised groups. Some of the worst employment conditions and government actions around the world are hidden. Multinationals, despot governments, do not want a light shone on their actions. I am proud of APHEDA for shining a light on these dark corners

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