Former National Secretary Sharn Riggs welcomes Dr Sandra Grey into her new role as TEU national secretary, and considers the opportunities her unique experience and expertise will bring to the role.

I first met Sandra when she was women’s vice president for the Association of University Staff (AUS) prior to the merger of AUS and ASTE in 2009 and I quickly realised the many strengths she brought to the union and the sector, as a leader, educator, and academic.

Curiously, as she would recount to me several years later, Sandra had voted against the merger of AUS and ASTE (Association of Staff in Tertiary Education), for a variety of reasons. However, she came to the conclusion reasonably quickly thereafter that the merging of AUS and ASTE was a positive move and that the new TEU was going to be very much a union-driven and member-informed entity.

Having got to know Sandra working through the merger, during her time as women’s vice president of AUS, and then as she stood for president of TEU, it was evident that through her leadership there was an opportunity to move forward in a space where we had a union that really reflected the interests of all its members.

Having a union that represents the full spectrum of its membership is something that Sandra values really highly, as I have during my time as national secretary. TEU continues to strive to be a union-driven and member-informed collective, and one in which its leaders are open to re-evaluting their positions on key issues, while keeping the best interests of its members in mind.

Sandra brought to her role as president of TEU her exceptional abilities in political analysis, a new perspective on campaigning in which she brought key issues to the forefront, along with members, in creating change. Now, as national secretary, Sandra has the opportunity to advance those facets of her leadership in a much more integrated way, as a leader within the union, but also as a leader within the political sphere.

It’s crucial that the national secretary has a political function, and I look forward to seeing how Sandra’s distinctive experience and expertise can advance that political role further.

With her broad skills and experience, Sandra is in a unique position of being able to integrate those roles - president and national secretary - while bearing in mind the clear boundaries between being a member-leader and a staff-leader. She has the skills to bring those two together in a way that will create a momentum for TEU in the political space in ways that we perhaps, as a union, have not seen before.

Sandra’s skills: her experience, ability, astuteness, her political analysis and strategic thinking, are ones that are vital to the success of our union. Sandra is a person who is uniquely qualified in taking the TEU and its members into a place where unions have more of a say in what happens, not just in our workplace, but across the sector, in our economy and in society.