Bathurst based Aboriginal Education Worker Kylie Martinez attended a five day training course hosted by the ACTU Developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workplace Leaders, courtesy of the IEU.
An IEU Council member, and member of the IEU’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, Kylie gathered at the MUA Sydney office with nine other unionists from a range of industries at the end of October.
The group considered “how we can get our mob involved in the union, why our mob are not involved in the union, and any obstacles that are in our way and how we can overcome them”.
The group planned to go back to their respective unions and workplaces and try and get their mob involved.
“There’s lots of yarning going on, lots of storytelling, which I find is what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are renowned for,” Kylie said.
“We’ve been sharing our stories of how we came into the union and any negative and positive experiences.
“Like the history of how long Aboriginal people have been involved in unions and not known, like the Wave Hill walk off, and looking at how industrial issues affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
“We’re from all different walks of life and all different unions, but it’s funny how it doesn’t matter where you work or what you do, the issues are still the same at the end of the day, especially with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my family, but I’m glad I’m here. I think it’s a lot to do with Wayne [the course instructor], being an Aboriginal man himself, and that’s where the authenticity of the course comes from.
“It’s not just some fella standing there telling you what you should do. He’s a man who has lived, walked, talked the experience. He’s very good, so that helps.”
Visiting with IEU Secretary Mark Northam, Kylie said: “Today was coming to the IEU and tackling some questions with Mark and Marilyn [Jervis, IEU Organiser] about what our union is doing, and what we want to do, and ways the IEU can help our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters and make sure they’re okay and looked after”.
“Coming down to the IEU has been lovely and sitting with Mark and having that one on one with him has been invaluable to me to make that connection with him. And I had those questions to ask, but it was really lovely to be able to talk about other stuff that has been on my mind and to have a voice.”
Kylie said she was reassured by her experience doing the course, saying she feels that the IEU is doing well in comparison to other unions, and is continuing to move in the right direction.
“We still have a way to go, but I feel that we are tackling it, we are not afraid to take the steps and try and break some of these barriers, like with our Aboriginal Advisory Committee, our Newsmonth regularly putting articles in, having two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on Council, all these are positive steps forward.
“I feel like we’re eating the elephant one bite at a time. Which is nice, because you can’t eat it in one go, but I feel the IEU is slowly chomping away at it and I like that feeling.”