Stephanie’s story

When I first signed up as an AEU student member, I didn’t really understand what the union was! I went to my first sub-branch meeting and realised that being a union member was about justice

Year 12 Coordinator, North Geelong Secondary College

When I first signed up as an AEU student member, I didn’t really understand what the union was! I went to my first sub-branch meeting and realised that being a union member was about justice and people working toward positive change in the workplace. Like having a little family at work! It’s that collegiality, that sense of having support around you.

The media portrays unions as heavily masculine; a lot of people think that union members are all about ranting – pitchforks in the air type thing! But in fact, union organisers are calm, professional and understand the right channels to achieve positive change. When I started learning more about who worked in the AEU at the executive level, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were lots of women. In education there are more men than women in senior positions, so I was glad to see the union was different.

When I attended my first sub-branch meeting at North Geelong Secondary, I found that there wasn’t a formal meeting structure, there was a lot of complaining and not much forward movement. A couple of weeks later they were voting on the next AEU Executive and suggested I become the sub-branch president. I felt young and I was a bit taken aback, but I put my hand up and I was voted in.

That’s when I really got to see what the AEU offered to women.

One of the AEU organisers pointed me in the direction of the Anna Stewart Memorial Project.

It was the most fantastic experience of my career! I’ve also been part of the Women in Leadership Development (WILD)program, and I’ve attended the AEU’s women’s conferences and PD for women. They’ve all been fantastic.

The media portrays unions as heavily masculine; a lot of people think that union members are all about ranting – pitchforks in the air type thing!

When I was a student, my Year 10 coordinator said: “You’ll be a principal one day!” But I’d looked at the structures in place and seen lots of men in leadership and assumed I couldn’t become a principal easily because I’m not a man. After doing the AEU women’s training, having so many conversations and seeing so many women in the AEU Executive, I realised that I can do it – especially with the union’s support.