Lesley Osborne on “Solidarity in Action” – APHEDA People

Oct 31, 2019

As the Secretary of the Australian Western Sahara Association, Lesley Osborn has been calling on the Australian people to put their solidarity into action for the past fifteen years. Asked what drives her activism, Lesley told us:

Solidarity is unity and joining with others to make change. There is solidarity in action, but there is also the feeling of solidarity, that idea that you have some responsibility to assist and work with others for positive change.”


Through fundraising, advocacy, and campaigning, Lesley has been working to make that positive change by raising awareness in Australia of the humanitarian crisis and political impasse that is facing the Saharawi people.

She has been a long-time ally of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, which supports the Australian Western Sahara Association (AWSA) in its work to educate Australians on the issue and support Saharawi refugees.

For fifteen years, she has campaigned through AWSA for the international community to recognise the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination. This right has long been denied to the Saharawi people, who have been exiled into what is known as the “desert of deserts” for over forty years, since their homeland was invaded and annexed by the Moroccan army. Though promised a referendum on their self-determination in 1991, the Saharawi refugees have seen this long-promised referendum delayed.

Lesley has found an ally in Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA because, she says, they share the values that we have.” She says that in Australia:

“We take for granted the privileges and the rights that we have here, but if you also have a sense of solidarity and unity with other people who are less fortunate or who are oppressed, if you join with an organisation that you know shares that value of solidarity that you have with those people, thencontribute to Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.”


Lesley has been a long-time unionist, first joining the Administrative and Clerical Officers’ Association (ACOA) as a public servant. In those days of the great feminist advances in the workplace, Lesley reflects:

“It was clear that a union was essential to have some bargaining power, to ensure that there was a mechanism by which more vulnerable workers could have a voice, to ensure that decisions could be made in a more democratic way.”

Lesley says that “people have always joined together to try and improve their situation and affect some change,” whether that change is at home or abroad. For unionists who want to have an impact further afield than in their own workplace or community, there is, she says, “ample opportunity to extend the work of the union movement here in Australia to other countries, and to act in solidarity with people in other places that just don’t have the kind of privileges and rights that we have.”


Put Your Solidarity into Action

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA relies on the solidarity shown by unionists, internationalists, and activists from around Australia. Join the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement today!

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