On the 8th – 10th March in the Sydney office ActionAid Australia’s activist network came together to kick the year off collaboratively, creatively and constructively. It was a great chance for the team to meet, as well as to hear what local groups have been doing to grow the broader ActionAid activist network around the country.
Day one – Friday
Today started with training for new members to ActionAid’s National Leadership Team – made up of State Coordinators and office-based support teams.
At lunch we were pleased to find delicious Iraqi food waiting for us in the kitchen. The catering over the weekend was arranged by Parliament on King. (http://www.parliamentonking.com/) A social enterprise catering provided by asylum seekers and refugees, in partnership with local Australians. The food each day was based around a different culture’s cuisine and never failed to be absolutely delicious, satisfying our hungry bellies and minds.
After lunch, we learnt a bit more about the role of State Coordinator and their responsibilities with community organising. Within ActionAid Australia, community organising involves developing local leaders who can build groups of activists to hold the government and corporations accountable for actions in breach of women’s rights and justice. We discussed the importance of centering this feminist approach to making real long-term change in areas we are trying to organise.
Day two – Saturday
The day began with an introduction to ActionAid’s Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) delivered by Executive Director Michelle Higelin. To everyone in the room’s surprise, Michelle shared with us the inaugural 5th pillar of the HRBA. Originally the 4 pillars were; the need for empowerment of those most excluded, the importance of influencing and campaigning, the invaluable resource of global solidarity and the significance of learning and generating alternatives. The 5th pillar is collective power and the weight of its consequences. The team was inspired by the introduction of the 5th pillar and excited to put it into practice in our 2019 work.
Lucy and Siri from the ActionAid Australia campaigns team then introduced us to the Global Campaign with 2019’s focus: economic justice for women. An important objective of this year is ensuring that if Australia is to become a signatory of the RCEP free trade agreement, it must meaningfully address ActionAid’s concerns of gender injustices. Free trade agreements like RCEP disproportionately impact the rights of women working in signatory countries. As workers, they risk greater exploitation, lower wages and far less rights and protections. Learning about the 2019 Global Campaign gave the group a new bout of inspiration. Each state then worked together to arrange a calendar to map out the campaign strategies and tactics for each month in the year.
Day Three – Sunday
Sunday was the final day of the training and spirits were high. Today was about culminating everything we had learnt over the weekend and working out our next steps. We worked on creative ways to involve and educate the broader community in ActionAid’s campaigns, then brainstormed everything – from the possibility of running educational events such as film screenings or Q&A panels to how to meet with your local MP. Activists shared their experience with past events they had run and we were able to learn from each other what work best moving into 2019.
The weekend provided the National Leadership Team with invaluable practice and information to equip themselves and their teams back home for the 2019 campaigns. It was full of excitement as we bounced off each other, learned new skills, refreshed old ones and, most importantly, made lasting relationships with other ActionAid members around the country.
By the end of Sunday’s activities everyone was sad to leave this group of amazing activists, but eager to return home and continue working with ActionAid towards equality for all women. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard organising the weekend; it was a powerful start to the year. Stay tuned, because if this weekend is anything to go off, 2019 is looking to be an exciting year for ActionAid Australia’s endeavours!