For everyone From your branch secretary: looking back on a year like no other

Erin Aulich, Secretary, AEU Victorian branch

Preparing for the annual AEU Victoria Branch Conference has given me an opportunity to pause and reflect on what an extraordinary year it has been. The challenges posed by COVID-19 have been immense but, looking back, I was struck again by how resourceful our membership has been – and how, in the midst of crisis, you have been recognised and treated as the essential workers you are.

On a personal note, I also reflected on how grateful I am that those of us working at the AEU have been able to successfully reimagine the way we work in order to support our members across all sectors. While this year has been undeniably difficult, there have certainly been positive experiences we can draw upon.

Among these, we have seen incredible flexibility and creativity, particularly in our use of technology. A highlight has been reaching more members via online meetings and forums, and experiencing greater connectedness with our regional members and office staff.

By the end of 2020, the AEU will have at least 50,200 members, a 5% growth compared to this time last year.

We’ve also seen much higher attendance at remote training, events, webinars and regional meetings than ever before. The necessity of working remotely has enabled us to more easily connect with members who live in rural areas, where travel was previously a barrier to attending AEU meetings. The union has also been able to connect with members who have caring responsibilities that might make out-of-hours meetings difficult.

We’ve connected with members whose employment and income has been severely affected by the COVID-19 response. The paradox of having to stay apart is that it’s allowed us to get closer to people we often struggle to reach. Thanks to our embrace of new technology, AEU members have been more active and engaged than ever, despite the challenges of working during a pandemic.

Another positive is the extraordinary boost to our membership this year. By the end of 2020, the AEU will have at least 50,200 members, a 5% growth compared to this time last year.

In this time of crisis, our profession recognised the value in being part of a collective. We’ve had positive feedback from many members who have experienced the comfort and sense of connection provided by the union during this pandemic. I hope you always know and feel that we were standing in solidarity beside you, even if from a legally mandated distance.

The AEU will continue to lead the way in advocating for educational equity and high-quality public education.

I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank each and every member of the AEU’s staff for the way they approached their roles in offering that support to members. Throughout the year, I’ve seen our staff move out of their comfort zones to try new technologies and ways of working. I am very proud of the success we’ve shared and the service we continue to offer our members in these extraordinary times.

This growth is important because, put simply, the more of us there are, the more we can achieve. It means increased numbers of powerful workplaces and workplace reps, who can form part of our effective and strategic planning for the year ahead. It also means we’re in a healthy financial state to head into bargaining for a new Schools Agreement, which will take place next year.

Congratulations on the professionalism you’ve demonstrated all year. AEU members have truly shown that they are essential workers. You have put your students first in the most trying of circumstances. I hope the end-of-year break provides all of you with a chance to take stock and reflect on your achievements. More than that, I hope it gives you a chance to catch your breath and put your feet up!

Looking ahead to 2021, the AEU will continue to lead the way in advocating for educational equity and high-quality public education, powered by increasing numbers of empowered and active members.

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