Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA People: Meet Carolina

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, activist and participant here in Australia and all around the world contributes to the work it takes to tackle inequality and injustice.

Meet Carolina.

Carolina Leiva is a nurse from south-west Sydney. She works an organiser for the NSW Nurses & Midwives Association, and in November 2016 she travelled to Jakarta as part of the Australian union delegation to the South East Asia Ban Asbestos Network Conference. Since then she’s been forming a new Asbestos. Not Here. Not Anywhere. campaign group, and we caught up with her for this month’s APHEDA People.

What does it mean to be union to you?

CL: To me being union means standing in unity with like-minded people on issues that affect society. It is standing up and fighting in solidarity for our rights, the rights of workers and of society in general.

What does it mean to be APHEDA to you?

CL: It means being part of an organisation whose focus is to help improve conditions for marginalised people. As an APHEDA member I help the Australian union movement give hope to the less fortunate on a global scale.

Why do you think it’s important for APHEDA to grow its membership base, those contributing monthly to the work, to 20,000 by 2025?

CL: Strength in unity!  The more members we have the greater the power to influence decision-makers. Increased membership also increases funds needed to continue to provide crucial resources to disadvantaged groups around the world.

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

CL: The Asbestos: Not Here Not Anywhere campaign. Representing the NSWNMA at SEABAN and being part of the Australian union delegation helping people in South East Asia organise around asbestos – it was amazing experience. I’ve been personally affected by asbestos – my dad had mesothelioma – and so I have an emotional commitment to anti-asbestos advocacy. Unfortunately we’re still seeing asbestos coming into Australia from illegal importations. To stop this happening we need a global ban on asbestos. The health effects related to asbestos diseases can be not only be debilitating but fatal. We need to fight to ban asbestos world wide so that asbestos related diseases can be eradicated.

What do you see as the work (areas, issues, etc.) that is most important for Union Aid Abroad to focus on into the future?

CL: Fighting to ban asbestos worldwide – though this is just one of many important projects that APHEDA are involved in I think it is crucial to mobilise around this issue. When I attended the SEABAN conference it was heartbreaking to see that people in countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos are being exposed to asbestos with no regard for their health. APHEDA ‘s work on this campaign is providing local unions with the skills and resources to fight for their rights. APHEDA’s contribution has helped unions, civil society groups and government bodies in these countries establish research, education and awareness on asbestos related diseases and the need for a global ban.

When you have one-on-one conversations with people asking them to join Union Aid Abroad as a member how do you describe the work and ask people to join? Do they say yes?!

CL: I explain the work we do – that by joining you are helping APHEDA provide workers with the skills needed to be powerful voices in their workplaces and their communities. I explain how Australia has an asbestos ban yet and is still receiving products containing asbestos. A global ban is the only way to ensure that asbestos does not cross our borders.


Carolina Leiva

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