Unions for Yes: Will you join us?
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No number, day Month Year, page no.
The official “Yes” campaign for the referendum to enshrine a First Nations Voice into the Constitution was launched in Adelaide on Thursday 23 February, and like many other civil society organisations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) will be inviting union member and community supporters to be part of their own campaign “Unions for YES”.
The campaign will provide resources and training to support Union members in having informed conversations about why their Union is supporting a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
As an affiliate of the QCU, the QTU will be inviting members to accept the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s invitation to join Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
As part of this campaign, the QTU has amended the acknowledgement of country used at the commencement of all meetings:
“I would like to acknowledge the lands on which we meet today – the lands of the Traditional Owners on the land upon which we gather and pay my respects to elders past and present.
I would also like to urge you to heed the call of First Nations people who want our movement’s support for a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution.
Parliaments have made laws and failed policies for First Nations peoples for centuries; a Voice enshrined in the Constitution will give them a direct line to Parliament to give advice on laws and policies that directly affect them.
Previous laws have often entrenched discrimination and disadvantage, such as forcing First Nations peoples to work for free or below legal minimum wages over two centuries.
The minimum First Nations peoples deserve is that their voice be respected and listened to before laws and policies are made. For these reasons, the QTU has committed to supporting the ‘Yes’ campaign in any referendum”.
The QTU has a proud history of supporting First Nations members. Our First Nations committee Gandu Jarjum achieved self-determination, we amended our rules to include an identified First Nations as a member of our Executive and two positions at QTU Biennial Conference. These are small steps in a journey of reconciliation, but have provided a voice for members within our formal democratic structures.
Additionally, Rachel Bos was appointed as the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer of the QTU in 2020, and the QTU's Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan was endorsed by Reconciliation Australia for 2022-2024.
Our work supporting First Nations members has also seen significant salary increases in EB10 for community teachers, and work continues to ensure these members are supported with secure employment and career development opportunities. We have also achieved a range of enhanced cultural leave entitlements for teachers and school leaders in the latest agreement.
Most importantly, QTU members and school leaders work every day in state schools and TAFE to ensure that First Nations students receive the best education possible. But we know more can be done to close the gap and ensure connections to culture, county and kin are recognised, resourced and supported through adequate funding, professional development, curriculum design and support programs.
We are proud of our achievements, but the Unions for Yes campaign provides an even greater opportunity to support our First Nations colleagues and students, many of whom have suffered significant intergenerational trauma through systemic abuse, discriminatory laws and attempts to remove their cultural identity.
By achieving a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution, we will finally be united as a country.
If you would like to be involved in the Unions for Yes campaign, sign up at https://act.qldunions.com/unions-for-yes
Keep an eye out for updates throughout the year via future the Journal, QTU social media and the QTU website www.qtu.asn.au