Nadine Williams honoured with AEU life membership

It was a great honour to introduce Nadine Williams to our 2017 Federal Conference and recommend her for life membership. Nadine has been recognised for her 32-year career in NT public education and her outstanding contribution as an educator, a unionist, and an activist. Below is an edited summary of my remarks to Federal Conference. Thanks go to our Vice-President Stephen Pelizzo who provided many of the words and background information for this summary of Nadine’s achievements.

It is a great honour for me to introduce Nadine Williams and recommend her for life membership.

Nadine forged an extraordinary career in the Northern Territory and she did so in the most difficult of conditions. Teacher retention is one of the biggest obstacles to progress in NT education; careers are often counted in months, sometimes years. This makes Nadine’s achievements over more than three decades all the more remarkable.

Nadine came to the NT from South Australia in 1984, where she had already immersed herself in student and political activism. She commenced as a secondary teacher at Tennant Creek High School.

Her early career saw her teaching throughout Central Australia with time at Ipolera, Tjijikala and Papunya, and in and out of the Department of Education as her direct employer, alternately working for Batchelor College, the NT Employment and Training Authority and the Institute for Aboriginal Development.

Nadine has been a teacher, head teacher, mentor and all-round educational leader. She specialised in working with our most demanding and damaged students, notably at what was then Giles House Juvenile Detention Centre and Irrkerlantye Learning Centre.

Her passion, then and now, has been for Indigenous education, with a primary focus on empowering grassroots community members and a persistent faith in those teachers and Indigenous people who work in this field of endeavour.

Of course, to AEU members, Nadine is best known for her union activism. From her first days in the NT in the then Northern Territory Teachers Federation, she has always been a high-profile campaigner.

Beyond elemental teacher unionism, she has been, and continues to be, a fearsome advocate for human rights in myriad movements: Indigenous rights, youth justice, peace, women’s rights and so on. Critically, her actions always speak louder than her words.

Nadine has always been in the thick of the often turbulent times in our union: as a member of Executive during the traumatic 1991 Branch Conference, at the centre of the multi-strike campaign for primary release time in the mid-1990s, and more recently the Blain by-election fracas.

Never simply a member, Nadine has served as a sub-branch representative on numerous occasions, as well as sitting on Executive over many years, firstly as a regional representative for Alice Springs, later as Women’s Officer and Vice-President, and most notably as our President from 2004 until 2009.

Most recently, from 2012 until her retirement in mid-2016, Nadine was the union’s full-time organiser for Central Australia, based in Alice Springs.

A true believer, Nadine has always been staunchly ‘one of us’. There is no one within the NT Branch who is a more deserving recipient of the honour of AEU life membership.

Jarvis Ryan, Branch President