For everyone From your branch secretary: cool, calm and collective

Erin Aulich, Secretary, AEU Victorian branch

Being a union member has never mattered more. In Term 2, the collective strength of the AEU and the solidarity of our members have shone through in every sector of our union. This means we’ve had the capacity to help members in need, including those who have been affected financially by the pandemic, as well as the many members who have experienced anxiety or other difficulties in managing the challenges we’ve been facing.

It’s no surprise that AEU membership has increased nationally as educators realise the value of being a union member in these challenging and unpredictable times. In Victoria, we now have almost 50,000 members – and continue to strive towards our goal of surpassing 52,000 members in 2020 – which puts us in a strong position to support and promote your professional and industrial interests.

I’m proud of the way AEU members and staff have led the way with such professionalism to put public education and our students first.

The Branch Executive passed a resolution in March to suspend fees for casual AEU members. At that same meeting we were able to also approve a number of financial hardship requests made as a result of COVID-19 and the Victorian bushfires. It has been a particularly challenging time for many of our members and we were pleased to have successfully advocated for casual employees to access the JobKeeper allowance, and to be involved in conducting remote learning.

Your willingness to make this as smooth an experience as possible for those you teach – while dealing with risks to your own health and that of your loved ones, juggling family responsibilities, and managing all the other unique challenges that isolation has presented – has been nothing less than extraordinary.

Once remote learning was introduced for the majority of our members late in Term 1, the AEU office also transitioned to a working-from-home arrangement. On the whole, our shift to new modes of communicating with members has been well received – and we have appreciated your patience during those peak times when we’ve had an understandable influx of queries and requests for information or support.

We have welcomed the involvement of many members who do not usually attend AEU meetings and training sessions, sub-branch meetings or online regional meetings.

It has been pleasing to see the enthusiastic response to our online meetings, webinars and website content. Your engagement has helped us think about the best ways we can access and consult members in the future, as well as acknowledging the trust and support you have placed in the union to be advocating for your rights and interests.

We have also welcomed the involvement of many members who do not usually attend AEU meetings and training sessions, sub-branch meetings or online regional meetings. As we transition back to working in the office, we are looking at which positive changes we should maintain – as well as greatly looking forward to finally being able to visit members in your workplaces or at regional meetings around the state.

The impact of this pandemic, including the work intensification that comes with such heavy reliance on technology, has highlighted the significant issue of wellbeing. One definite plus has been greater understanding and appreciation from the community at large of the immense skill and workload of educators, now that so many have had a small window into the complexity of your work.

Thank you to all our members for maintaining such a high level of professionalism during a time of great stress – and for being a part of an organisation that values public education and its students across Victoria, who have relied on you to stay connected.

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While we’ve been in a constant state of flux of late, what remains the same is the resilience, flexibility and dedication of our members – as illustrated yet again in the Term 2, 2021 edition of AEU News.

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