Chantal’s Story

I’ve always had a really positive view of unions. When I was at school, I remember my teachers taking industrial action; my mum was involved in the school council and she supported the teachers and

Teacher, Ainslie Parklands Primary School

I’ve always had a really positive view of unions. When I was at school, I remember my teachers taking industrial action; my mum was involved in the school council and she supported the teachers and explained to us what was behind our day off school.

When I came to my current school, I found out we didn’t have an active AEU representative, so I contacted the union and said: “Help! I don’t know what I’m doing!” I did AEU Active Training, which gave me really great insight into what the union does and how I could personally empower my sub-branch. It taught me about branch council, caucus, executive, how the union operated – I’d really encourage young members to enrol because it gave me such a good overview.

As part of my rep role, I keep colleagues up to date on AEU campaigns like Gonski. I let non-union members know about training opportunities and their rights, and let them know thatjoining the union will give them access to really good advice. As an AEU rep you get a lot of experience in leadership and being a role model for others.

Now I’ll speak up when I think something needs to be said.

I’m part of the AEU Branch Council now, which is a forum to pass motions about the operations of the AEU, as well as industrial action we can take. It gives you a really good insight into what the Department is doing internally and how the government is negotiating with the union.

I’d really encourage young members to enrol.

When I attended the AEU Victoria Women’s Conference there were so many inspirational women talking about different ways to “do leadership”, and I realised that I wanted to be working at that level too. Before that program, I didn’t have leadership ambitions – I had reservations about my own capabilities – but now I realise it’s all about not being afraid of what you can achieve. I participated in the Women in Leadership Development program this year. You learn about workplace issues for women, how women tackle leadership, work/life balance.

I didn’t have leadership ambitions – I had reservations about my own capabilities – but now I realise it’s all about not being afraid of what you can achieve.

I’ve been nominated to be part of Executive Council, which is more directly linked to leadership – having an active voice in the direction the union’s going to take. It really makes you feel you can create positive change. I’ve always been passionate about public education but being part of the union has taken it to that next level.

Because teaching is so female-dominated, it’s about discovering that you’re part of a large group of women who are all trying to make a difference in the world. I’ve met and listened to all these other amazing women and it’s prompted me to ask myself: “Where do I fit in? And how can I make a difference?”