Rebecca Simpson shares her reflections on being an active AEU representative
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Rebecca Simpson shares her reflections on being an active AEU representative

Rebecca Simpson shares her reflections on being an active AEU representative

by Freya Lucas

December 30, 2022

Rebecca Simpson has been an active Australian Education Union (AEU) representative for many years, six of those as a member of the union’s early childhood sector council. Before retiring due to ill health last year, Ms Simpson was a kindergarten teacher, and she has been heavily involved in some long-running AEU campaigns – most significantly, a decade-long push for secure, ongoing preschool funding.


Ms Simpson’s recollections of her time as a Union member were recently captured in an AEU piece, excerpts on which appear below. To access the original coverage please see here


“There were lots of meetings with MPs and talking with them about why they need to be supporting us. We didn’t get permanent funding until federal Labor got in last year and we had been campaigning since 2011,” Ms Simpson began.

It was often a frustrating and uncertain process. “I spent a lot of time helping other teachers understand why it’s an issue. We can’t just sit back – we need to be saving our profession.”

She recalled being in South Australia when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced its support for 15 hours of fee-free kindergarten for all three-year-olds. 


“That was just massive. It’s something that we’d always wanted to happen because it wasn’t funded, which basically meant it was only accessible to children of parents who could afford to pay full fees. There was this inequity. Now, this means everyone’s going to get it – so, three-year-old kinder isn’t just for rich families, it’s for everyone.”


Being a passionate advocate for children and for her profession, Ms Simpson said taking up arms for others in the profession is also about “future-proofing our workforce, making sure the future generations of teachers will be coming into a better place than my generation did.”


She appreciates the many aspects of teaching that were improved by the generations before her, saying “I had paid maternity leave for both my kids. Talking to older teachers, they say: ‘We didn’t get that!’ It’s about recognising the advocating that went on, to know that this wasn’t always the standard.”

“It’s a 10-year rollout with [funded] three-year-old kinder, so there will be new teachers coming in in 15 years who will just take it for granted. I think a lot about legacy and knowing your roots and where this stuff came from – and who struggled to make this happen.”

The campaign for portable long service leave, for example, started in 1984. “That’s the year I was born,” Ms Simpson said. 


“The discussion has been going on for that long – and it’s knowing that basically all these people are just passing the torch along, keeping these campaigns going, for however long it takes.”


“We didn’t just have to accept crappy work conditions. I looked at that power and knowledge and thought, ‘I want that ability to be able to advocate for myself and for my profession’.”


This ability, and deep commitment to “fixing problems for the greater good,” with integrity and with such unique and infectious energy cemented her position as “the popular winner” of AEU Victoria’s inaugural Early Childhood Activist Award.

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