Cindy O'Connor

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 Cindy O’Connor

Meet Cindy. Cindy O’Connor is a Melbourne based union organiser, educator and community campaigner who is currently working in the OHS team with the AMWU Victorian branch. Cindy joined her first APHEDA study tour to Timor Leste in 2009 and returned to visit APHEDA Country Manager Elisabeth de Araujo in January 2019. Cindy joined APHEDA back in 2004 whilst doing ship inspections with the MUA and ITF. An official from MUA pushed a form into Cindy’s hand and she has been an active member ever since! Cindy says it is the best decision she has ever made! 

What does it mean to be union to you?

Union people share enthusiasm and passion for changing the world. We connect wherever we met up in the world. I can be having a chat in Timor Leste with local delegate Julio about a union approach to health and safety one week and then be having a similar chat with Debbie from Maryborough in country Victoria. We are all organising for decent work and dignity.

What does it mean to be APHEDA to you?

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA Timor Leste Country Manager Elisabeth Araujo and all the comrades in Timor are my community and epitomise what being APHEDA means to me. We all meet at the intersection of solidarity, feminism, decolonisation and development with dignity. Being a member (Global Justice Partner) is a constant source of motivation. We are all egging each other on to make a real difference.

Why do you think it’s important for APHEDA to grow its membership base?

If you are a union member and not yet a member of APHEDA then you are just camping out in one corner of global solidarity. Do yourself a favour and join the movement. There are thousands of mates waiting to meet you…c’mon!

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

Organising and activism! The best fun we had was signing up members at an ACTU Conference in Sydney. Jill Biddington – now APHEDA’s Pacific Organiser – was the first union trainer I met and that was back in 2000. Years later at this conference we competed with each other to have the most 1:1 conversations and we kept a mini whiteboard with recruitment numbers. We even recruited people to recruit. I always learn about building mega capacity when I track down a mentor like Jill. We converted over 100 new members.

What are some ways you can actively get involved in Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA?

  • Study Tours: Having been involved in past Study Tours and seeing firsthand the work that APHEDA and their partners are doing on the ground, Study Tours are hands down a fantastic way to get involved in APHEDA. They are a huge project for a small organisation like APHEDA to undertake, yet they are llife-changing More unions need to sponsor Organisers to go on them!
  • The Annual Raffle! I’ve been known to get super excited about the annual APHEDA raffle. In fact, back in 2017, I became APHEDA-famous as my Top Five Raffle Tips were distributed widely as the ‘go-to’ guide for getting involved in the raffle and selling tickets. With an $8,000 travel voucher as first prize and all funds raised going towards APHEDA’s projects, why wouldn’t you get behind it?!?!
  • Join your local Activist Group! I am actively involved in the Victorian Activist Group. We meet regularly to coordinate events and other initiatives to support APHEDA’s work and campaigns. There are Activist Groups all over Australia – WA, QLD, SA, and ACT.

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?!

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA was started in 1984 by one woman called Helen McCue (APHEDA’s Co-Founder). You don’t have to start the whole organisation… just contribute. APHEDA isn’t charity…it’s solidarity. The bosses organise collectively to exploit us. Don’t you think we ought to organise collectively to push back?




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