Cover of December AEU Journal  AEU SA Journal:  December 2021Contents

What makes us powerful

Lara Golding reflects on her time as Branch President and Vice President, and on how members’ collective action has been key to your union’s successes.

“Labor leader Peter Malinauskis has picked a fight with a powerful union.”

 While I was indeed angered by Labor’s announcement to change an important policy without proper consultation, I was proud to see recognition of our power in this recent Advertiser editorial. But what makes us powerful?

Part of our power comes from the knowledge and expertise of AEU staff to work through legal and industrial processes to protect rights of individuals and groups. This power is invaluable to many – so far this year we have assisted hundreds of members with issues like permanency, workload and leave entitlements.

Most of our power to improve our working conditions and public education as a whole comes from the collective action of our members, whether that be large scale like strike action or a small scale like a group of members writing a collective letter. It is our solidarity that gives us the strength to make a difference to our work and the lives of our students.

Our members demonstrated their solidarity in collecting over 10,000 signatures on our petition for more support for children and students in schools and preschools. In collecting all those signatures, thousands and thousands of conversations were had about our work and why additional funding is needed urgently.

This builds on our success last year, collecting 11,000 signatures on our petition to keep teacher voice on the Teachers Registration Board. All of those conversations are powerful – they are the tactic mostly likely to change votes and hence why they influence politicians.

When I reflect on my time as Vice President and President, highlights were always standing in solidarity with members across the state. It has been amazing to join members in rallying in Whyalla and marching in Murray Bridge, on the steps of parliament with thousands of members from across the state, standing with members outside school gates and at polling booths talking about the need for fair funding, and walking the streets of Premier Marshall’s electorate with members to drop off postcards to stop cuts to TAFE.

I also remember meeting with Branch Council for our first ever meeting over Zoom as we discussed the present and potential implications of a global pandemic, with each member carefully considering how we can support each other and our students through such a challenging time.

It is these actions together, big and small, that make us powerful. We see the impact of that power through Labor’s recent election announcements. While there may have been some poorly thought-out proposals about hiring and firing, the vast majority of commitments would result in significant improvements to public education in South Australia.

We have campaigned for years for ongoing country incentives and increases in permanency and it is our influence that has resulted in those commitments. Similarly, announcements to lobby the Federal Government for proper and fair school funding and to employ 100
additional specialists, including mental health support, directly relate to our Every School Every Child campaign.

Our lobbying on this issue has also resulted in plans to improve the IESP by the Department. We also see our impact in the Greens’ bill to decorporatise TAFE and return it to public management, something that could help to save TAFE from further cuts.

While I may be hanging up my President badge at the end of the year, using our collective power to campaign for better working conditions for our members and better learning conditions for our students continues to be as important as ever.

We need to see all political parties committing to improving funding for schools, preschools and TAFE at a State and Federal level. We know it is winnable, but only if we all play a part.

I look forward to continuing the fight alongside you all. 

Lara Golding plans to return to teaching after serving terms as Branch Vice President from 2018 and Branch President from 2020.