Hello everyone! My name is Heidi Ratje and I was recently elected by sector council to take on the role of Deputy Vice President of Early Childhood with the AEU Victorian branch, following the resignation of Lily Ames.
I was introduced to the AEU when organisers delivered an informative introduction to all things union while I was studying at the University of Melbourne. I joined the AEU as a student member and have been a member ever since.
It was early in my career as an EC teacher in community-run kindergartens that I really learnt the value of that membership. Being part of the AEU gave me the opportunity to attend union conferences and access other professional development opportunities, where I connected with colleagues across the sector and discovered the AEU Early Childhood Sector Council, which I joined in 2012.
Unionism was not something I grew up with and not something my extended family valued. But my introduction to the importance of union membership, care of the AEU, opened me up to a much wider understanding of the world. My awareness and understanding of the importance of activism grew as I took part and worked alongside amazing union role models.
Learning to say ‘yes’ unlocked a raft of new opportunities for me to participate in, including the WILD (Women in Leadership Development) program in 2017, and the chance to work as an AEU Project Officer in 2018. Working as a Project Officer allowed me to spend a semester visiting a variety of EC services, recruiting members and listening to compelling stories from those working in the sector.
Over the past few years, I have taken on a more active role within my region. I nominated as president for the Inner-City Region this year and became the first EC member to step into this role.
Each opportunity has boosted my confidence to engage further in advocacy and activism. I have come to appreciate and recognise the importance of standing strong and utilising the power of the collective to unite as one voice.
I look forward to continuing to work alongside the leadership team at the AEU – working closely with our Vice President, Cara Nightingale, working to support our members in the early childhood sector, and continuing the great work of those who have come before us.