Wednesday, 11 August 2021
Cabaero, Ms Lina
[by video link] Over the weekend, Australia lost one of its quiet heroes. Lina Cabaero was a lifelong activist and feminist and the leader of Asian Women at Work, a key community organisation in Sydney. Her path to activism started as a student in the Philippines—a veterinary science student, in fact—protesting the Marcos dictatorship. They were brutally repressed by that corrupt dictatorship—murdered, tortured and repressed. Their response was vibrant, expressive music; protest; colourful demonstrations; pickets and strikes. It was that commitment to activism and social justice that she brought to Australia in 1998 and that has greatly enriched the Australian labour movement.
Her leadership at Asian Women at Work brought the exploitation of migrant women to the fore, particularly in textiles, in factories and in black-economy outwork. Asian Women at Work came to reflect the vibrant politics that Lina had learnt in the streets of Manila. She brought it to work, workplaces and industrial advocacy, but had also brought the same dancing and singing, calligraphy, painting and drumming. In a society and an economy that too readily excludes these women from view, Lina taught that politics and public expression were a source of power and affirmation and a pathway to change. She made a real difference, including in the provisions of the Fair Work Act that protect the rights of outworkers. She was effective. She will be greatly missed.
She'd a young family with Jego—Natasha and Miko. Lina was lost far too young.
Our honours system accords awards to Australians who've made a real contribution. One of the tragic aspects of Lina Cabaero's early passing is that we won't get to honour her great contribution during her lifetime.