Margarita Windisch: “I migrated to Australia in the late 80s and have lived in Melbourne's west for the last ten years. I am a social worker by profession and currently teach community welfare in Footscray. My active participation involvement in social justice and community campaigns started in the early nineties, when the then Labor government enthusiastically sent troops in support of the first US invasion of Iraq. It became clear to me quickly that the Labor and Liberal-National parties were two sides of the same coin; political machines prepared to sacrifice the needs of the environment and the rights and aspirations of ordinary people in order to serve the rich and powerful.
“Over the last 20 years I have campaigned for women's and worker's rights, environmental sustainability and community democracy. I was a founding member of the Melbourne Stop the War Coalition, organising opposition to the unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and helped organize campaigns against Israel's attacks on Lebanon and occupation of Palestine. More recently I have helped mobilise community support for improved public transport and was part of the successful Melbourne Dump Connex campaign.
“I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other workers on union picket lines and in protests demanding better union rights and the abolition of the ABCC.
“I believe in working together to build strong and healthy communities, which means we must challenge racist policies and assumptions. That's why I stand in solidarity with Australia's indigenous people against the discriminatory Norther Territory Intervention and oppose the repressive laws against refugees, asylum seekers and their supporters.
“I also advocate the phasing out of coal and a transition to 100% renewable energy, which can deliver thousands of needed jobs for Victorians and provides a much needed alternative to Australia's destructive mining sector.
“Privatisation has cost working people and our environment dearly and needs to be stopped. We need a massive injection of funds into the social sector to bring our collapsing health, education and housing infrastructure back to a level of human decency.
“With the right political will this is entirely possible.”
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Sharon Firebrace is a Yorta Yorta woman from Echuca. Growing up in country Victoria, she is familiar with racism in country areas as well as the lack of services in country towns. Sharon has been involved in campaigns for indigenous rights since the 1970s. In the 1980s, Sharon campaigned for public recognition of the indigenous people who had died in custody in Victoria. She was CEO of the Aboriginal Advancement League in the early 1980s, and later served with the Indigenous Land Corporation and the East Gippsland Aboriginal Corporation. In the 1990s, she was involved in campaigning against racism throughout Victoria through the reconciliation process.
More recently, Sharon founded the Aboriginal Genocide Centre in Melbourne and is campaigning for a treaty for indigenous Australians.
Previously a member of the Labor party, Sharon set up the Labor Party Group for Aboriginal People in Shepparton.
“I am disgusted that the Rudd Labor government has retained so many of the Howard government’s policies towards indigenous people, refugees and unions. I'm campaigning to end the discriminatory Northern Territory intervention.
“I am opposed to all forms of racism whether it is directed at Aborigines, migrants or refugees. I am opposed to the exploitation of international students and the exploitation of migrant workers on temporary 457 visas which give them no rights.”
Other issues that Sharon is particularly concerned about is ending the exploitation of workers and reversal of the privatization of our basic utilities and telecommunications.
Sharon attended the United Nations World Women’s conference in Kenya in 1985 and China in 1995.
Ron Guy: “At the age of 18, I became a union representative with the Federated Ironworkers Association. This led to a life of involvement in the union movement. I am currently an Australian Workers Union delegate in the petrochemical industry.
“I was involved in the campaign for a 35-hour week in 1978 and in the campaign against WorkChoices in 2005-2007. One major dispute I was involved was the Hoechst dispute when the company got its workers to clean out a dyeing plant which had been banned in Germany. All eight workers got cancer as a result.
“I am disappointed that the Rudd Labor government has retained the draconian Howard-era Australian Building and Construction Commission which treats building industry workers as worse than criminals.
“Being a unionist awakened a consciousness in me about social justice. In the 1990s I was involved in the East Timor solidarity campaign. Currently I am involved in a similar campaign of solidarity with the people of Western Sahara. I participated in the first Australian delegation to the Western Saharan refugee camps and also in the trade union brigade to the Western Saharan refugee camps. I have been campaigning to stop Australia importing phosphorous from occupied Western Sahara.
“I participated in the campaign to free David Hicks from Guantanamo Bay and in February 2010, I participated in a trade union brigade to build a house in an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory – the Alyawarr protest camp, part of the Ampilatwatja community.
“As well as being active in the union movement, I am interested in sustainable energy and am an artist. I was one of the founding members of the Post-Goughists art group.
“I am also the father of a four-year-old son.”
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