Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA set out to provide practical solidarity with working people around the world.
In 1983, a young Australian nurse named Helen McCue was working as a nurse educator with the World Health Organisation in Lebanon.
In the Palestinian refugee camps, she met nurses from Norwegian People’s Aid, the overseas aid arm of the Norwegian trade union movement. Ms McCue was a committed member of the Australian Nursing Federation and felt the Australian union movement could also make a difference in the lives of workers and marginalised people around the world.
Returning to Australia, she took a proposal inspired by her experience in the refugee camps to the then Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Cliff Dolan. Ms McCue’s proposal was for the establishment of a global justice organisation in Australia.
The beginnings of APHEDA
With Mr Dolan’s support, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA was established in 1984. Its international program has developed from a rights-based approach, with a focus on solidarity, not charity. The work aims to build self-reliance through support to educational and training projects for workers and their organisations.
Today, as the global justice organisation of the Australian union movement, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA works to support stronger union and social movements in 15 locations in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, and Southern Africa. It does that by working in partnership with 49 local trade unions and community organisations through thirty projects and campaigns.
Financial support for these projects comes from individuals throughout Australia, the ACTU, Australian unions and workplaces, international grants as well as from the Australian government’s overseas aid agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is the only international development agency in Australia that is run, owned, funded and accountable to the trade union movement.
APHEDA provides on-the-ground assistance which aims to address the causes of injustice and inequality, not the symptoms. We support organised movements of people to make their own change possible, by exerting political pressure for just and sustainable solutions.
It recognises solidarity with the working classes and marginalised people of the Global South and stands with them, as together unions struggle for a better world.
Here are some of the projects and campaigns APHEDA undertakes in collaboration with communities throughout the world.
The flagship campaign Asbestos: Not Here, Not Anywhere seeks to build a movement of people in Australia to join with unionists and campaigners across South East Asia to support their struggle to ban asbestos and eliminate asbestos-related diseases. The aim is an asbestos-free future because as long as the toxic material is being used anywhere, it remains a risk everywhere.
At the core of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA’s purpose is the fight for workers’ rights and safe workplaces.
In partnership with three Cambodian unions, as well as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Women Workers’ Rights project is helping unions improve gender and power relations within the organisational structures of participating unions.
Unions have increased staff awareness about gender and power and made significant amendments to organisational policies and procedures. These include establishing women’s committees, setting quotas for women in leadership and allocating organisational funds to gender equality plans.
APHEDA works with trade unions and labour organisations in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Nepal for climate justice and just transition plans.
In India, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA in partnership with Mondiaal FNV, supported the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to provide skills to establish, repair and maintain solar power plants which are used for pumping water for agriculture, pumping brine for salt production and lighting in houses. More than 800 women in Gujarat state were assisted to develop the skills to repair and maintain the solar energy pumps which have replaced diesel pumps. SEWA found that clean energy use led to improved health of women by removing the carbon fumes from diesel pumps and kerosene for light. It also decreased the domestic burden for SEWA members by reducing the need to gather firewood.
Refugees and migrants
APHEDA provides migrant workers and refugees with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to defend their rights.
The Women’s Humanitarian Organisation in Lebanon was built by Palestinian refugees and has implemented projects with Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA since 1984. The situation in Lebanon has been catastrophic since late 2019, with shortages of work, currency, fuel, food, electricity, water and medicines. To enable the women in the camps to gain employment, and provide early childhood education for disadvantaged children, the organisation runs an early childhood education centre and provides education for children with disabilities and remedial classes for primary school children with learning difficulties. It campaigns for women’s, children’s, people with disabilities and refugee rights.
Critical to global justice is supporting women’s movements and women leaders, advocates and campaigners to achieve equality and respect in their workplaces and communities.
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA work in partnership with the Trust For Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) in South Africa, which is a regional hub for the food sovereignty movement and for the global small farmers’ and peasants movement. TCOE comes from organising done by Steve Biko during Apartheid and identifies as a feminist and agro-ecology organisation, campaigning for equitable access to land, water, food, jobs and knowledge. TCOE works to organise and build capacities of the Southern Africa Rural Women’s Assembly, six local unions of small farmers and fisherfolk, the union of farm workers, and Inyanda, the National Land Movement.
Help Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA continue this vital work. Sign up today at www.apheda.org.au/join.
Help the ongoing struggle for global justice and workers’ rights by buying a ticket in the APHEDA solidarity raffle.
1st prize Commute smarter on a $4800 electric bike from Omafiets.
2nd prize Dine out at Australia’s top restaurants with a $1500 Good Food restaurant voucher.
3rd prize Stock up on the best new releases with a $500 book voucher from Gleebooks.
Ticket seller’s prize Refer 10 or more friends and go in the draw for a $500 Good Food restaurant voucher plus a $100 Victorian Trades Hall merchandise voucher.
Available at apheda.auraffles.com.au or call 1800 888 674.