AEU submission: Yoorrook submission

AEU Victoria's submission to the Yoorrook Justice Commission's investigation of systemic injustice in Victoria's school system. 


AEU Victoria made a submission to the Yoorrook Justice Commission’s inquiry into systemic injustice experienced by First Peoples in Victoria in relation to health, education, housing and economic life, including systemic injustice in Victoria’s school system. Hearings ran from 4 to 7 June, 2024. 

The AEU represents 251 members who identify as First Peoples in addition to 59 student members in kindergartens, schools, TAFEs, Adult Migrant English Services, and disability services. AEU First Peoples members undertake a range of roles in schools and non-school locations of the Department of Education. This submission is informed by the experiences and perspectives of these members who are authoritative voices concerning the lived experiences of staff, students, their families and communities in Victoria’s system of school education. Producing this submission has been primarily the work of the AEU’s First Nations Committee and First Nations organisers.

In presenting this submission, the AEU would like to acknowledge that it has not done enough to be a culturally safe organisation, nor to stand in active solidarity with First Nations members in eliminating racism and oppression within the public education system and more broadly. Too many years of inadequate action by non-Aboriginal members of the union, including senior leadership, meant that the union was not culturally safe, inclusive, and a place where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members could collectively organise and exercise their power apart from and as part of the union’s 45,000 strong membership.

We acknowledge that when the union has previously employed an Aboriginal member in an identified role to work with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members, that the AEU was not close to being a culturally safe organisation and that we did not have the cultural competency to maintain the relationship. This is a situation the AEU is addressing through focused engagement with First Nations members and First Nations People and organisations more generally.

In 2020, the AEU recommenced proactive engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of the union. Our initial steps were small and tentative but have grown increasingly sure footed guided by a recommendation1 by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members through the union’s inaugural First Nations Members Forum, and the response by the AEU Branch Executive. The AEU Victorian branch acknowledges the work of AEU Federal Office’s Yalukit Yulendj Committee and the AEU Federal Executive, through the AEU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement plan. In particular, the AEU Victorian Branch acknowledges the expertise and guidance provided by the former AEU Federal Aboriginal Education Officer, Darcel Russell.

March 2024