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 Ruth Ellis
Meet Ruth. Ruth Ellis is the Coordinator of the Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA WA Activist Group. Ruth’s connection to Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA stretches back decades. First as a member, then as a volunteer and now as a dedicated activist. In 2017, Ruth was awarded APHEDA’s annual Solidarity Award.
What does it mean to be union to you?
I have been a union member for 40 years now and this is because I learnt the value of unions in a union family. I believe in the strength of collective solidarity to achieve justice, fairness and equality. Yet these fundamental Australian values are constantly challenged and openly attacked not only in our workplaces but across our community. Being union means we can help fight these attacks and challenges together.
What does it mean to be APHEDA to you?
I find my greatest inspiration and optimism for change comes from my work volunteering with Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA. All people have a right to decent work and borders should not be the walls that divide us from achieving this. I want to help build sustainable, safe communities and improve living standards. APHEDA does this and I am proud to be part of it.
What part of APHEDA’s work are you most connected to/proud of? Why?
Over the years, I have visited a number of APHEDA projects. My initial visit to Vietnam was in 2009 and in 2014, I made the journey back as part of the Australian Volunteers International (AVI) program. While in Vietnam, I met the women in Bac Kan province taking control of their own enterprises, fighting poverty and tackling domestic violence. I saw the work APHEDA was doing with partner organisations on the ground first hand. I am proud that APHEDA is assisting hospitality and sex workers to unionise to demand safe workplaces in Cambodia. I admire the textile workers and domestic workers organising across Southeast Asia for better pay and conditions.
But for me, my connection to APHEDA goes beyond the projects and to the people who were involved in the early days. Dr Olfat Mahmoud (founder of Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation, one of APHEDA’s earliest partners) and Helen McCue (APHEDA’s co-founder) embody for me why APHEDA is important. Their enduring friendship and courageous commitment to justice for Palestinian refugees through skills training and community development personify international solidarity.
What do you see as the work (areas, issues, etc.) that is most important for Union Aid Abroad to focus on into the future?
While I am passionate about APHEDA’s work with women, I support workers in Indonesia in their struggle to defeat the legacy of asbestos that we in WA know so well. Being an APHEDA member means that I am part of this change. Find out more about the ‘Asbestos. Not here. Not anywhere.’ campaign and get involved!
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?!
There are many opportunities to have conversations with people about the work of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA and the benefits of being part of it all. For me, drawing on the friendships developed and my connections with APHEDA’s projects in Vietnam gives me a heightened sense of solidarity which I use to ask people to join APHEDA. When you speak from the heart, it is hard for people to say no. And if they do, they walk away knowing more about the Union movement’s global justice organisation and the great work that it does with its amazing partners overseas. If you’re not a member, join today!
Endnote: In 2016, Ruth helped advocate for and assist with the coordination of the first WA APHEDA dinner. The 2017 WA APHEDA Dinner attracted more than 100 people and raised more than $8400 for APHEDA projects and 17 new members joined the organisation. Get involved in your local Activist Group today!