Donna’s Story

When I got my first job at a school in 1999, I didn’t know about the AEU, but my boss – who’s a great unionist – said, ‘You’ve got to join’. I found out later

Donna Shell, Careers Counsellor, Northern Bay P–12

When I got my first job at a school in 1999, I didn’t know about the AEU, but my boss – who’s a great unionist – said, ‘You’ve got to join’. I found out later that that was just at the start of ES members becoming part of the AEU.

In my previous life as a shop assistant, I was in the union and I was a union rep. I joined the AEU because unionism is in my blood.

I’m a bit of an advocate for people’s rights. Other ES members are afraid to stand up and ask questions and voice concerns, whereas I will. I think being in the union has given me a greater ability to talk to people and find out what they want, and to try to make that happen through the Log of Claims.

These days, ES staff have increased responsibilities and opportunities within schools. I’m a daily organiser and a careers counsellor, roles that were previously given to teachers.

I became the careers counsellor last year, after undertaking a Graduate Certificate in Careers Education and Development through RMIT University. Before that, I was employed as an integration aide and daily organiser at Northern Bay.

When I started working as the careers counsellor, I had to negotiate to go up the pay scale. I made sure I had my facts right, with help from Kathryn Lewis (AEU Victoria’s ES specialist), and then I fought my own battle.

Knowledge is power and going to union meetings gives you knowledge.

I knew what I had to do and I knew I had the Agreement behind me so I did it the correct way, and was successful. Knowledge is power and going to union meetings gives you knowledge.

Being in the union has given me the confidence to advocate for myself and others.

More members need to be more active in the union by attending meetings and having a say.