At AEU Victoria, our members make us who we are. We are as diverse, spirited and multi-talented as the nearly 50,000 members we represent, including principals, education support staff and teachers working in public schools, early childhood, TAFE, AMES, and disability services.
We are also the union for disability workers, business services officers, employment officers, program managers, CEOs and those who work in day services. We represent both students and retired educators.
We have 100 staff in Victoria, spanning professional officers, organisers, trainers and specialists.
Our leadership is democratically elected by members, and we are proud to work for you.
Each leader has a strong history in public education and unionism. Being educators ourselves we understand the many joys of the profession, and the challenges our members face.
Meet the leadership team
Meredith didn’t initially intend to become a teacher. She did a science degree and wanted to work in environmental science. After a year working part-time for the ANZ bank, she decided to do a diploma of education. As she was about to start a job in ANZ's graduate program, the education department rang and offered her a job in Shepparton. She decided teaching would give her the chance to put her scientific knowledge into action. Read more
Meredith joined the union as a student and quickly got active at her new school. She was active in the sub-branch's efforts to improve the school’s consultative committee, which didn’t comply with the agreement. She was elected sub-branch president in her second year, then progressed to branch council and, in 1990, branch executive. In 2001 Meredith was elected as deputy vice president of secondary, and the rest is history.
Despite not originally intending to become a teacher, Meredith strongly believes in public education and equity, and was proudly educated in public schools. Neither of her parents went beyond Year 10 at school, and they wanted a different future for their children. They imbued Meredith with an understanding of the importance of education, and a strong sense of community.
Meredith is very interested in ideas relating to leadership. As AEU Victoria president, she continues to put effort into developing her leadership skills in order to better represent members. She loves her job for its diversity – there’s never a dull day in education, or at the AEU!
When Meredith does get down time, she enjoys tending the garden at her parents’ farm, catching up with family, going to see films and going on walks. She has a master’s degree in environmental science, and maintains a keen interest in environmental issues.
Did you know? Meredith learnt to drive on her family farm when she was a child – on a tractor! While her dad unloaded hay from the back, Meredith or one of her siblings would drive the tractor around the paddock. She doesn’t advise it - WorkSafe would be horrified…
Gillian started teaching in TAFE 28 years ago, and it's still her passion. She joined the union in her first week of teaching, and soon began attending sub-branch meetings and found herself keen to learn more about the union. After asking "one too many questions", she ended up being elected to the role of sub-branch president. After 14 years in teaching, Gillian took up a full-time elected role with the AEU as vice president of the TAFE and Adult Provision sector. Read more
Gillian's love of TAFE still motivates her, having seen first-hand how it can transform students' lives. One of her proudest moments with the union was the 2008 TAFE stopwork in Melbourne. Thousands of TAFE teachers rallied to fight for their pay and conditions for the first time in many years, and Gillian was moved by their conviction and their collective power. Gillian will continue to fight with the AEU team against the politically-motivated attempts to destroy our public TAFE system.
As Branch Secretary, Gillian is honoured to represent members and their interests, and is particularly motivated to build the union so it can provide the best services and facilities for members' needs.
Gillian is a passionate AFL fan and Geelong supporter. You can spot her down at the stands in Kardinia Park on the weekends, letting off steam. She thinks it makes her a better person on Monday morning!
Did you know? Gillian is a trained fashion designer. She loves working with colours and textures - a skill that helped no end in her role overseeing the design of the new AEU Victoria building for members of the union.
Justin became a union member while he was still at university studying his diploma of education, and soon got involved with the newly-formed New Educators Network. Justin and his fellow union members didn’t think much of the quality of their course – so they banded together to bring in guest lecturers and revitalise their diploma. Once he started teaching at Princes Hill Secondary, Justin just kept putting his hand up for more opportunities with the union, and four years later he began working at the AEU. Read more
Justin still misses that buzz he got as a teacher when students were really learning – when he’d look around a classroom and realise “this is working”. In his current role as deputy president of AEU Victoria, Justin loves winning hard-fought campaigns on behalf of members – one of Justin’s proudest moments was when the AEU defeated the government on performance pay. He describes public education as the cornerstone of democracy, and is inspired by the work teachers do each and every day.
He credits his strong sense of social justice to his farming family, who always tried to help those “doing it tough”. When Justin isn’t working, he spends as much time as he can with his partner and children. He hopes to teach his kids to be empathetic, socially aware, and to stand up for people who need help.
Did you know? Justin used to teach philosophy. He loved being able to push kids’ minds into spaces they hadn’t been before – to see them make new connections.
Carolyn is a history major who started her teaching career in what was then called a Day Training Centre (now known as a 'special development school'). She went on to teach at a primary school in Geelong in a limited tenure position before teaching in many primary schools in the western suburbs. Carolyn completed her special education qualifications while on family leave and taught in a number of special schools. For Carolyn, the joy of teaching in special education is in celebrating the small steps, the little successes, and in building strong relationships with students and families. Read more
Carolyn was a union member from the word go, motivated to fight for early career teachers after her own experience on limited tenure. After only two years of teaching she took on a sub-branch president role. Carolyn loved being part of grass-roots action at the regional level – and vividly remembers a protest during the Kennett era where she and other members lined up coloured school chairs outside their local MP’s office to demonstrate how class sizes had gone through the roof.
After stepping into a role on AEU Branch Council, Carolyn became an AEU nominee on the inaugural VIT council, and then took up a position as deputy vice president of primary in 2006. By 2012 she was the deputy secretary. She is passionate about fighting for the best quality education for kids by standing up for the rights of teachers – the two go hand in hand. And she loves talking to members at rallies. Next time you see her, go and have a chat!
When she’s not advocating for education, Carolyn loves listening to live music, and spending time camping on her family bush block in rural Victoria.
Did you know? In primary school, Carolyn was a member of a birdwatching society. She has set herself a goal to make a record of all the amazing birds on her property.
Vice President, Secondary
Erin did a double degree in health promotion and education. She originally wanted to become a tennis coach. When she started her teaching rounds and her first teaching job at Fountain Gate Secondary College, she loved teaching so much the tennis never got another look-in! Read more
Erin's union activism grew out of her time teaching in Korea, when she and her fellow teachers took a grievance with their employer to Seoul’s equivalent of the Fair Work Commission. Later, while working in the UK, Erin played a strong role in making sure casual teachers on long-term placements received holiday pay.
Erin decided she “absolutely had to work for the AEU” after participating in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project and learning more about the history and achievements of the union movement. She started out in the Member Support Unit (now MSC) before being elected as the AEU’s deputy vice president of secondary in 2010, and went on to take up the vice president role three years later.
Erin has a passion for industrial relations, but she is particularly inspired by helping AEU members get active. Whether it's schools funding or an enterprise agreement campaign, Erin loves guiding members through their first phone call to an MP or their first doorknock, so she can be there when they get totally hooked!
When she's not helping lead the Australian union movement, Erin loves seeing live music and spending time with her large family (she's one of six kids) and friends.
Greg started out in the community development and welfare sector – primarily in child protection. During his work with street kids, Greg realised he needed more help to make a difference, and decided to go into teaching to train the next generation of social workers. He loves the way that teaching, especially in the welfare field, can transform peoples’ understanding of who they are in the world. Read more
Greg has been a union member since he was a 16 year old working on a building site. In his family, unionism was as inevitable as the sun rising every morning. Greg’s mother was an inspiration to him, she taught him about social justice, and passed on her feisty spirit.
In 2000, after working at Bendigo TAFE for 11 years, Greg took on the role of deputy vice president of TAP, and then the vice president role in 2010. One of his proudest moments in union leadership was when the AEU won a 25% pay increase for the disability sector. But for Greg, the real purpose of a union is to give people a sense of belonging, and motivate them to call out injustice wherever they see it. He strongly believes that it is AEU members, not the staff or leadership, who are the union.
At least once a year, Greg can be found at a place called Thunder Point in Warrnambool. It’s a rugged piece of coast, with crashing waves and howling wind, and it helps ground him and remind him of what is really important.
Did you know? Greg is an avid cyclist, and tries to do at least a couple of hundred kilometres a week. On the weekends he can often be seen clad in lycra, riding through the Kinglake ranges.
Vice President, Primary
Briley followed her mother’s footsteps into primary teaching. Both her parents were strong union members, and when Briley started teaching in 2003, she joined the AEU straight away. She signed up to the New Educators Network via email and soon got hooked on unionism. Read more
Briley began to get more active in the union after attending her first federal conference as an observer, and soon took up a role on Branch Council and then on Branch Executive. After ten years of teaching, she was elected deputy vice president of primary in 2013 and elected vice president of primary in 2015.
Briley is proud of the AEU’s achievements when it comes to advocating for public education, and winning better pay and conditions for members. But what really inspires her is when the AEU can help individual members or schools by providing resources, information and support when they need it.
If she wasn't in an elected role at the AEU, Briley would be back in the classroom in a flash – she misses seeing the students develop, and the tangible difference you can make as a teacher. Every time Briley sets foot in a school for a sub-branch meeting she’s inspired by the student work and classroom displays (sometimes she has to be herded out of the classroom!).
Briley has two daughters, and on weekends can often be found at their dance classes and competitions, cheering them on.
Did you know? Briley doesn’t like her name – as a kid she felt like the odd one out, she couldn’t find a single pencil case or ruler with her name on it!
Vice President, Early Childhood
Growing up with teachers in the family, Martel was drawn to early childhood teaching from an early age. In Year 10 she did a high school work placement with her old kindergarten teacher, and was hooked. She continues to be inspired by the pivotal role early childhood teachers play in shaping a child’s life, and the important relationships they build with families and the community. Read more
Martel was a union member from the get-go, but began to engage more with the AEU when she noticed how much less she and her colleagues were being paid than her friends teaching in primary schools. She began attending meetings of the AEU’s early childhood sector council, and realised the union was central to combating injustice in education, for both teachers and students. While she was teaching for a year in Singapore, Martel got a call about an upcoming opening in the AEU leadership team. At 27, she felt young and a bit nervous – but decided to “give it a crack!”
For Martel, unionism is all about the collective. She vividly remembers standing on the stage at the 2014 stopwork action, looking out at all the early childhood workers who had closed their kindergartens and come together to stand up for their rights for the first time in 10 years. It’s moments like these that energise her.
Martel has two young children, and likes to spend holidays with her family at the beach in Inverloch. She likes to exercise and meditate as often as she can.
Did you know? Martel is a proud feminist. She’s been known to be involved in an action or two, including one with Van Badham where they dressed as witches to protest Peter Dutton’s misogynist slur.
Deputy Vice President, Secondary
Marino is currently teaching mathematics at Lakeview Senior College in western Melbourne, working mainly with year 10 students. He joined the AEU in 2002 after the sub-branch at the school where he was working in Broadmeadows identified him as ‘one of those brand new teachers who says yes to just about everything’. He says it was a great place to cut his union teeth, as the sub-branch had a strong culture and good working relationships. Read more
Marino was soon persuaded to nominate for Branch Council after seeing how being on council could help him to help his sub-branch. Like many of the current leadership team, he became active in the New Educators Network and was encouraged by senior councillors to run for leadership roles.
Marino says the biggest issue facing AEU members in secondary schools is workload. He says there is an increasing expectation that teachers will talk about and improve their practice in the classroom – and while that is a good thing, there hasn’t been a concurrent reduction in other duties to allow teachers to meet those expectations. Marino says teachers and principals are pulling their hair out trying to organise programs, staffing and support services from a bucket of money that is simply not big enough. It means schools can’t put on the full range of staff and programs they know they need.
Marino also emphasises the importance of the ‘little victories’. Earlier this year, his sub-branch was successful in lobbying his school to transition a number of contract staff to secure employment. For Marino, these wins for individual members are incredibly important for teachers and staff, and for the sub-branch.
Did you know? Marino is not a mountain person – but he’s not an ocean person either! He says his favourite outdoor activities are the kind that happen indoors, preferably involving concrete, electronics, TVs, and no bugs.
Deputy Vice President, TAFE and Adult Provision
Elaine has been a union member her whole working life, from the age of 13 when she got her first job at a fish and chip shop. Her dad was a shop steward in the electrical union, “so he expected to see the union fees come out of my first pay packet”. Read more
Elaine grew up in Scotland, and immigrated to Australia with her husband John when she was 23. Since arriving, John has taken up the bagpipes, and her daughter does Scottish dancing.
As for Elaine, she carried her passion for sports cars across the seas. While working in one of the top salons in Britain, she was preparing a very wealthy client for her wedding day. Having worked late, the client offered to drive her home. The transport was a Mercedes Sports with a soft top and cream leather interior – a gift from the client’s fiancé – and Elaine has had a passion for sports cars ever since. Her own sports car was also an unexpected gift. Her husband had instructed her to visit a shop to ‘pick up a piece of aluminium’. When she arrived, she was handed the keys to a very fancy piece of aluminium indeed: her beloved Mazda RX8.
Trained in beauty therapy, she had always wanted to teach, but to teach in the UK you not only had to be qualified in the industry, you also had to be at least 25 years old.
Elaine’s first Australian employer was “not a good private provider”. It was a steep learning curve.
Without a dedicated union for the beauty industry, she joined the retail union and the Australian Association of Beauty Therapists.
After maternity leave with her daughter, and a period of working part time, Elaine took on a teaching role with Ella Bache – and very quickly became a principal trainer.
When she shifted to Victoria University, she joined the AEU. “I learned very quickly there – when I asked someone to do something and they told me ‘no, that isn’t in the Agreement’ – I realised I needed a proper union education.”
One of her team members was in the sub-branch executive, and she learned the Agreement cover to cover. Already helping and supporting people with industrial issues, when the sub-branch president became AEU deputy vice-president (TAP), Elaine’s boss suggested she step up.
She was elected as sub-branch president unopposed, and went about setting up a proper active sub-branch with regular meetings and proper allocated roles. Soon after that she became a branch councillor and an observer at Federal Conference. “But it was the Anna Stewart Program that really did it for me,” she says, “Being in that room with 12 other women with the same values and ethics and the same passion and drive that I had.”
Elaine knew very little about Disability when she became deputy vice-president (TAP) at the AEU, but it has become one of her driving passions. “Those who work in the sector have and the worst working conditions and yet they’re the most giving people, with the biggest hearts. Our members go above and beyond for their clients; their passion for what they do is incredible.”
She says the NDIS has been hailed by Government as the saviour for the sector, but it’s at the expense of those people working in it. Above all, she would love to see a state-wide agreement for Disability members, with funding from government to maintain conditions.
“With a good unionised sector, we could improve pay and conditions into the future. People with disability are the most vulnerable people in our society. We need to improve conditions, or nobody’s going to work in the sector."
Deputy Vice President, Primary
Seir is currently a leading teacher at Keilor Heights Primary School. Both of Seir’s parents were teachers, so a career in education was natural. Her parents were both strong unionists too, so joining the AEU was also natural! Read more
Seir says her experience working with strong union women at Footscray North Primary School opened her eyes to the real power of unions. These women showed Seir the positive influence a union can have in a workplace by having a very active sub-branch.
Although Seir wanted to learn more about the union, she was aware she needed to find her footing in teaching first. Once she became confident in her teaching role, she was able to find some additional time for union activity. In 2010, Seir joined Branch Council, which was critical in helping her learn the bigger picture about how government and policies influence what happens in schools – and how unions and their members influence what happens in government.
Seir undertook the Anna Stewart Memorial Project union internship in 2013, and then the AEU’s Women in Leadership Development program. In 2015 Seir nominated for and was elected to the position of deputy vice president of primary.
Seir says the biggest issue she sees every day is workloads – she and her colleagues are constantly trying to prioritise things and do what is best for their students, but the ever-increasing requirements around assessment and data gathering makes it extremely difficult.
Cats or dogs? Seir grew up in a family with a beloved pet dog, but unfortunately does not have one at the moment.
Deputy Vice President, Early Childhood
Cara is a teacher at Strong Drive Preschool in Hampton Park, southeast of Melbourne. She grew up in a strong union family – her dad was a union official. Unionism has always been part of Cara’s life, so when she started uni it was natural to join up as a student member. Read more
Cara didn’t get active in the union until she was five years into her career, but once she did, things moved quickly! She was invited to join Sector Council, and says that once she’d attended her first meeting she knew this was exactly what she wanted to be doing. She joined Branch Council, then Branch Executive, then completed the AEU’s ‘Women in Leadership’ program. From there, it was an easy choice to accept an invitation to stand for deputy vice president of early childhood.
Cara would like to see AEU members become more empowered and have more of a voice industrially. That means knowing your entitlements and understanding your agreement, and having the courage to explore why something is not happening as it should be in the workplace.
Activism, advocacy, and leadership play a strong part in Cara’s vision for early childhood educators. She sees these elements as an essential part of the educator role, but believes more members need to recognise how they can exercise them broadly, as part of everyday practice.
Cara wants to help pre-service teachers understand their natural leadership role, with support from mentors and by making sure university qualifications for early childhood teachers include leadership, activism and advocacy as an essential part of learning.
And, of course, the best way is through being an AEU member. For many people, it is not until they join a union that they understand how there is power in numbers – and why it is important.
Movies or books? Cara chooses books every time. She says they bring the reader to use their imagination, letting them fall into a world they create instead of a world created for them. Her current recommendation is The Book Thief, by Australian author Markuz Zusak. It’s written from the perspective of Death, and Cara says you need to read it!