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Big Steps childcare

Because of my union, I have a voice

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By Marian Rakosi

Friday, 04 July 2014

WHEN I reflect on the people in my life, the decisions I’ve made and the values that have brought me here today, I can’t help but think of two people.

The first is my Mum: Juliet Rakosi.

The second is my union organiser and my friend: Doumoua Howcher.

I grew up in a little Housing Commission unit in Mt Druitt in western Sydney.

We didn’t have much but Mum made me feel like I had everything. She let me use our linen cupboard as storage for all my craft materials, my books, my blocks… all the great open-ended materials that I now provide children with as an educator.

She was the one that instilled in me a lifelong love of learning and a passion for expressing myself creatively.

Unions can change lives

When I was eight, I lost my mum, my world, to cancer. But, before she passed away, she asked her 21-year-old sister to move from the Philippines to Australia to look after me.

What I learnt from her was the value of hard work, education and relationships. Fast forward and it’s no surprise I end up as an educator.

And then one day, a union organiser named Doumuoa Howcher, walks into my centre and lights this fire of social justice in me. Ever since then I have been on a steep political/union learning curve.

From the day I joined my union, United Voice, I learned that the meaning of power was simply the ability to act.

I decided to stand up and speak out for our 97% female-dominated profession that had been historically undervalued and underpaid as “women’s work”.


Marian speakingFor me, unions are about uniting people with the same issue and who want to fight for social justice and equality.


I sought out and seized every opportunity to advocate for early childhood education and care as:

•   the foundation of education for children;
•  an essential service for families to return to the workforce and;
•  a profession in itself.

This is what has led me to where I am today.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, union membership is declining but it is the first time that there are more female workers currently at 19% compared to male workers at 17.5% that are members of a union.

For me, unions are about uniting people with the same issue and who want to fight for social justice and equality in our world.

You only get out what you put in

Because of my union, I have had the opportunity to meet like minded people in my profession from across the country and build what I know are lifelong friendships.

Because of my union, I literally sat at a table with just four other educators with the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard and shared my concerns and vision for our profession.

Because of my union, I had the opportunity to jump the fence and work a union organiser myself for 14 months so that I could spark fires of advocacy in educators across the state as Doumuoa had done for me.

Because of my union, I have a voice.

I believe the only catch with unions is that: you only get out what you put in.

•   This is an edited version of a speech Marian Rakosi gave at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on Thursday, 3 July 2014 on ‘The New Unionists: Early Childhood Education and the Big Steps Campaign’.


Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.

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Comments

  1. Mick Rampling
    Saturday, 5 July, 2014 at 11:07 am · Reply

    Great story but there is a problem with your website that the right hand side of the story ( only a word or two) are not visible and this makes it hard to read.

    Whilst I can take the time to work out what the story says others that we want and need to share it with will probably not take the time and will not get the message.

    If you could have someone look at this it would be great. I use a Samsung S3 if that helps.

    Thanks for the great work.

  2. Peter Curtis
    Saturday, 5 July, 2014 at 12:03 pm · Reply

    Good on you and United Voice Marian RakosiI for seeking out and seized every opportunity to advocate for early childhood education and care as:

    • the foundation of education for children;
    • an essential service for families to return to the workforce and;
    • a profession in itself.

    This is what has led me to where I am today.

    We can judge our society for good or worse by the way it treats children

  3. Peter Doherty
    Monday, 7 July, 2014 at 5:01 pm · Reply

    Great speech

  4. Kevin Harper
    Friday, 11 July, 2014 at 7:15 pm · Reply

    I have been a union member for nearly all of my working life (except a short period working for american Bosses which I would not reccomend) but my sister has not. Her working life has been full of minimum wage jobs and less, poor working conditions, few if any sickies and holidays only when she has no job. My sister is a qualified early childhood educator and is currently putting herself through uni, at great expense for a carers pensioner, in order to improve her place in society and the workforce. I see her getting sick often, from the little kids she looks after, but there is no compo, no extra sickies to cover her time off, because the parents sending kids to centres for care see their day at work as more important, because it is too expensive to take a day off to look after your own sick kid.
    There needs to be a union that covers Early Childhood Educators, one that is active in gaining rights for these valuable workers in our society, one that will go out on strike to see that they are given their due.
    Or perhaps parents need to look after their own kids more.


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