Phil Thornton on “Making a Stand” – APHEDA People

Jan 30, 2020


As a veteran journalist in South East Asia, Phil Thornton has dedicated his career to giving a voice to the voiceless. In his reportage on armed conflicts, workers’ rights, and social justice, Phil has learnt that “ordinary people have to get up and make a stand, otherwise there won’t be much left to stand for.”

“It’s always the same struggle; people fighting for their rights. And it’s always an elite group or one group that exploits another group, so the same old fight is always gonna be there. The thing is to continue to struggle for our rights. It’s the same struggle, it’s not going to go away.”



Because of his reporting on forced labour, land mines, corruption, and displaced people, Phil was black-listed from working as a journalist in Myanmar for twelve years. When he was able to enter the country again in 2011, Phil worked with Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA to build a community media organisation, Karen News, to give a voice to the indigenous Karen people on the Thai-Myanmar Border.

“Alternative journalism gives diversity, it gives another voice. And that’s crucial.”

Since he began working as a journalist, Phil has also been a unionist and an internationalist. He cut his teeth in union journalism by reporting from the front-lines of the 1998 Australian Waterfront Dispute, and today he remains a proud member of his union the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.

“I’m interested in global activism because we live in a global situation. It’s a bit narrow just to be focused on your own interest. Products come overseas, and workers overseas make the products that we use: are they being made ethically? Are the workers getting a fair deal? Often they’re not. So we have a responsibility not to ignore that.”

Phil’s interest in understanding our globalised world led him to become a supporter of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA right from the beginning.

“The role for Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is to help organise workers, create awareness in workers, do campaigns, identify people who could be given training and help, and stand by them. It lets them see that they’re not alone.”

To the unionists and internationalists who are thinking of how they can make a greater impact, Phil’s message is simple:

Make a stand. Stand with your comrades overseas who are not doing so well as you are. Global solidarity means recognising that workers in other countries are doing it tough, and we can’t just be benefiting at their expense. So we’ve got to ensure that they have some justice.”

Make a Stand

The work of building global solidarity depends upon the contributions of thousands of Australian unionists like Phil Thornton. To help build the power of social movements and workers globally, become a member of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

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