ASU Member: Angela Bell 

Date: 24/10/2023

Angela Bell, ASU member, consultant and not-for-profit interim CEO

Angela Bell has long had an interest in joining a Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA study tour, wanting to experience workforces and industries that were different to those in Melbourne.

But when she was touring Timor Leste – an island country only 21 years into its independence –meeting with union leaders, women and farmers who are organising for change, it instead made her contemplate the similarities.

“You think about all the different rights we are trying to get for women in the workplace now and look at it there and they are trying to achieve it for the first time at that very fundamental grassroots stage,” she says.

“In Australia we are at a different stage, but we are all still fighting to make things better – the right to work free from sexual harassment, the right to be paid a minimum wage and not be undercut, and the right to have a contract that’s honoured.

“In that way it was all incredibly similar, and you can’t take any of that for granted.”

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA took 12 members, including Ms Bell, to visit its projects in Timor Leste for a week in August.

The 45-year-old had first learnt about APHEDA through her job at the Australian Services Union, where she previously worked in media and communications and joined as a member in 2008.

She now works as a consultant with a focus on the community sector and is currently an interim CEO for a not-for-profit organisation, but she has remained an ASU member and monthly donor to APHEDA for the past 15 years.

In Timor Leste, she was led by Elisabeth Lino de Araujo, a former journalist, human rights defender and activist who has worked as APHEDA’s Country Manager for 18 years.

“To see the work she is doing over there through APHEDA – the connections she has to the farmers, the women workers, union leaders and politicians – to advocate for workers is really impressive,” Ms Bell says.

“It’s about really practical support to help workers. You obviously want to support things at home, and locally, but I’ve also always valued contribution overseas.”

The group met with women from the Working Women’s Centre – who recently successfully campaigned to establish a national minimum wage for domestic workers – and visited farmers on projects outside Dili, who are organising themselves into unions to address an insecure food system, climate change and high importing costs.

They also met with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao at Government Palace, who paid tribute to the union movement and their support for Timor Leste’s independence.

“Learning about some of the challenges they’ve got in the economy there, it’s a feeling of living history. It’s trying to find its feet and its people are trying to set it up for economic prosperity,” Ms Bell says.

“It was great to see local people being supported to drive that change.”

Since returning to Melbourne, Ms Bell is motivated to continue supporting fellow workers abroad and joining campaigns such as plans to sell Timor Leste coffee to Australians for a fair price.

“I really recommend looking into the work APHEDA does. It’s a great other part of the union movement to contribute to,” she says.

For more information about Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) visit:

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