Carolyn Dunbar is the lead of the Women’s Team at Victorian Trades Hall Council. She has been a member of Union Aid Abroad for five years.
What does it mean to you to be union?
To me union means coming together with workers of all experiences and sharing and supporting each other through struggles. Being union means always showing up, showing solidarity and working collectively together towards practical things that improve working people’s lives, whatever they might be.
What does it mean to you to be APHEDA?
Being APHEDA means being a good unionist and understanding and supporting the struggles of all workers, wherever they are. APHEDA does incredible work building workers’ capacity across its projects, and being a proud and active member means I can practically contribute to union building internationally and work with other unionists to get more people involved in the work that APHEDA does.
Why is building internationalism in Australia important?
Internationalism can make a huge difference to workers. We live in a global society and the struggles that workers face in Australia – for safety, dignity, respect and the right to organise at work – are fundamentally the same everywhere. It’s important that we educate our fellow unionists about internationalism and create union cultures where we see all workers’ struggles as ours.
I recently visited Timor Leste and learned that the Working Women’s Centre Timor Leste was started after Elisabeth De Araujo, APHEDA’s Country Manager, participated in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project – a union women’s leadership development program in Australia. Since 2011 the Working Women’s Centre has organised hundreds of domestic workers in Dili and will soon win legislation that will give domestic workers access to employment protections such as the minimum wage, sick leave and maternity leave. Huge!
By learning more about stories like the Working Women’s Timor Leste and its direct connection to the Australian union movement, we can learn the practical impacts internationalism can have and we can support workers everywhere to build more power and strong unions.
What part of APHEDA’s work are you most connected to or proud of and why?
I feel proud to have been part of the Timor Leste Study Tour 2023 to see first-hand the direct impact on workers of APHEDA’s funding and support. There were so many stories like the Working Women’s Centre Timor Leste. APHEDA has amazing in-country leaders, who find talented organisers and unionists who in turn build worker capacity and change lives. It was indeed life changing for me to see that work first-hand. There was so much I learned about organising, worker collectives and participatory democracy through meeting and hearing from Timorese workers and unionists. Seeing this work deepened my commitment to APHEDA and made me proud to be a member and to share these stories with other members and unionists.