Thirza White is the General Secretary of the CPSU Tasmania. She has been a member of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA for 11 years.
1. What does it mean to you to be union?
I migrated to Australia when I was quite young. Not long afterward I saw my Dad struggle with unemployment after resigning from a job where he was being asked to cook the books. The experience cast a long shadow over my family, but in that time, I learnt just how important work is to people’s lives. Not just for the individual but for their family and community. Being union is how we make sure work works for workers. And who could not love the fact that union membership is literally a protection against inequality and the misuse of power by political and capital leaders.
2. What does it mean to you to be APHEDA?
Being APHEDA to me, is being union. I am a member of my union to improve public sector workplaces and the services they deliver. Part of my union membership is contributed to UnionsTas and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to improve the working lives of Tasmanians and all Australians. But the struggle doesn’t stop at Australia’s borders, being a member of APHEDA is my contribution to the workers across this globe who are also locked in a fight for a better world, often under the threat of violence and at great personal cost. When you see Korean union leaders willing to die for the protection and advancement of workers’ rights, signing up as a member of APHEDA seems like the very least we can do.
3. Why is building internationalism in Australia important?
Australia has the oldest continuing culture on this planet, and we are a country of migrants. Many of our families’ stories are about making difficult decisions and sacrifices for the chance of a better life. To me, it’s important we don’t forget this, that we continue to connect with workers across the globe and use our relative privilege and wealth to improve the lives of all workers. I’ve stood on picket lines and been in disputes and have witnessed the power of international solidarity to give a group of workers the strength to go one more day.
4. What part of APHEDA’s work are you most connected to or proud of and why?
The fact that APHEDA’s work is about more than providing emergency relief or help following a crisis. It’s about supporting the unionists, activists and community leaders that are already working in every country, region, town, community, and workplace to build a fairer, more just society. It’s not charity, it’s solidarity. Charity to me is an indication that we are failing as a society, solidarity is an indication that we won’t accept that. The projects I donate to are mainly focussed on supporting women, as women’s equality has for too long been seen as a social issue when it is an economic one. The fastest path to improving our communities is through women, invest in our skills, provide us with access to health care and control over our bodies and support the education of our children. Then watch magic happen.