Sisters in solidarity! AEU Federal Women’s Conference 2019
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 8, 8 November 2019, page no. 5
Held over the spring school vacation period in Melbourne, the two-day annual AEU Federal Women’s Conference was this year titled “Advancing feminist futures - Together we rise.”
With a focus on creating job security and adequate retirement, addressing violence against all women, and flexible work, the conference brought together union women working in all facets of public education from across the nation. The QTU delegation consisted of elected rank and file members and Union officials.
The conference opened with a keynote speech from ACTU President Michele O'Neill, which led in to a leadership panel featuring our own Vice-President Cresta Richardson, as well as SSTUWA President Pat Byrne and AEU Victoria President Meredith Peace.
Prior to a panel discussion of the current challenges and the dire need for a gender-focused respectful relationships program in all schools to address gendered violence, Professor Amanda Keddie (Chair in Education, Deakin University) presented a keynote entitled “Engaging boys and men in gender justice work: working with emotional intensities”. The panel included Sarah Kearney and Melalie Collie from Our Watch, and Maria Delaney from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre.
While the final outcomes of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces are yet to be finalised and released, it was truly inspiring to hear directly from the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins about this important and much-needed work from the Australian Human Rights Commission. As we know, an alarming proportion of workers experience sexual harassment in their workplace, and there are many barriers to people reporting their experiences. Disproportionately, people who experience this harassment are women, and for teachers, it is often students who are the harassers.
QTU State Council member Rachel Bos was joined by Jeanette Mahon from Winters Flat Primary School and Edie Shepherd, a community organiser at Original Power, for a panel discussion on Engaging First Nations Women in the Union, and this panel was facilitated by Federal Aboriginal Education Officer, Darcel Russell. We heard powerful stories reflecting on practices within schools, our union offices and the wider movement, and how we can all make our spaces more inclusive, rich and safe.
We explored various industrial solutions to the gender pay gap in a panel discussion about industrial and professional issues. QTU Deputy General Secretary Kate Ruttiman explored the EB9 gender pay equity gains, Angela Burroughs (AEU ACT President) shared details of their win on super on unpaid parental leave for ACT teachers, Tish Champion (AEU SA Women’s Officer) highlighted issues inadvertently created for women through insecure work, part-time and parental leave, and Alyson Kavanagh (AEU NT Organiser) shared a wide-reaching win for a woman with a disability through territory-based discrimination channels, and the capacity for non-industrial solutions for individuals.
Conference delegates participated in two incredibly energetic and powerful workshops on gendered violence (Pia Cerveri) and campaigning (Wil Stracke).
With feedback and input from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander caucus, the LGBTIQ+ caucus and TAFE caucus, a conference statement will be presented to the next meeting of AEU Federal Executive.
The conference itself is an intense two days of back to back discussions that explore important, timely and often emotional content. It is challenging and essential work. I have no doubt that the delegation will all bring back perspectives and information that will positively impact and support them in their work for gender justice in their personal lives, our Union spaces and in their schools and TAFEs.