Tasmanian unionists turn out in force for Solidarity Week

Sep 28, 2021

In mid-August, trade unionists and APHEDA supporters came together for a lively series of events celebrating women leaders within the union movement and showcasing our global solidarity projects in Timor Leste, Myanmar, and on the Thai-Burma border.

Solidarity Week kicked off on Sunday August 15 with Solidarity Sunday for Myanmar, jointly hosted with Unions Tasmania at Fern Tree Tavern. Local Hobart APHEDA Activists spoke of the work of APHEDA and encouraged guests to donate to the Myanmar Appeal. Together with a rousing performance from the Tasmanian Grassroots Union Choir, attendees were treated to a 2-hour long set by folk legends Peter Hicks and Hamish Stevenson. The cosy event was a great success, and raised over $300 for APHEDA partners in Myanmar and on the Thai-Burma Border.

Each year, the Mae Tao Clinic provides maternal and child health, chronic and infectious disease management and trauma care for many thousands of refugees and migrant workers who live along the Thai-Myanmar border. Without the Mae Tao Clinic, patients would otherwise go without treatment or risk catastrophic debt to pay for it. Located on the Thai side of the Thai-Myanmar border, the Mae Tao Clinic was established in 1989 by Dr Cynthia Maung, to provide health care for the large numbers of people seeking refuge from conflict and poverty in Myanmar.  As Myanmar’s generals push the country toward civil war, displacing large numbers of civilians in the context of a global health crisis, the Mae Tao Clinic remains a life line for the mostly Karen refugees seeking shelter and safety in Thailand along the border today. With almost 100,000 medical consultations, each year the Clinic provides over 7,000 general hospital admissions, about 1,500 births, cares for over 400 babies with severe malnutrition and prevents ongoing transmission of tuberculosis and HIV through early detection and facilitation of access to treatment for just over 5,000 patients.

Timor Leste Anna Graduates Meet the 2021 Tasmanian Anna Stewart Program

The following day, APHEDA’s Women’s Development and Timor Leste Organiser, Samantha Bond, ran an online workshop on Global Sisterhood Solidarity for the Tasmania 2021 Anna Stewart Memorial Program. The session featured a Q & A with Timor Leste Country Manager Elisabeth Araujo and Working Women’s Centre Timor Leste (WWCTL) Director Ricar Pascoela. Both Elisabeth and Ricar completed the Anna Stewart Memorial Program in 2008 and 2012 respectively and spoke passionately of the program’s significant impact on their work.

The Anna Stewart Memorial Program (ASMP), established in honour of long-time women’s rights campaigner and Victorian union official Anna Stewart, is run from peak union centres around the country annually and brings together rank and file union women to share experiences and develop skills, knowledge, and confidence to be more active in their workplace and union.

The 2021 Tasmanian program participants loved hearing the story of the establishment of the Working Women’s Centre of Timor Leste following Mana Elisabeth’s participation in ASMP in 2008 in Adelaide, where she was hosted by the Working Women’s Centre of South Australia. Elisabeth returned to Timor Leste determined to establish a similar organisation back in Dili.

The WWCTL celebrated its tenth anniversary this year, and in August 2021 Mana Ricar was presented with the Prime Minister’s Award for Strong Advocacy in recognition of WWCTL’s successful long-term campaign with Timorese Domestic Workers seeking labour rights and dignity at work.


APHEDA joins Tasmanian Women’s Conference

Rounding out the busy week, APHEDA was invited to deliver an online presentation on APHEDA’s Women’s Development and Feminist Movement Building work for the Unions Tasmania Women’s Conference on Friday August 20. Attended by approximately 100 union women from across the state, the APHEDA session highlighted current women’s projects and the long-standing connection between Australian unionists and APHEDA projects and partners overseas.

Several local APHEDA activists were in attendance including a former volunteer for APHEDA, Deborah Brewer, who worked as an adult educator in Timor Leste in 2003. Conference hosts Unions Tasmania encouraged all attendees to join the Global Solidarity family by becoming a member of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA.


The Global Justice Organisation of the Australian Union Movement

The work of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA relies on the efforts of thousands of Australian unionists and internationalists who raise funds, volunteer, and take action to build solidarity across borders. 

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