Carolyn Allport, the first elected National President of Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), passed away last week. Allport was president of the NTEU from 1994-2010 and served the union at national and international levels, including membership of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Executive, negotiation and representation with eight Federal Education Ministers, an ongoing relationship with Universities of Australia and representation of NTEU and Education International (EI) in the OECD and UNESCO.
Allport was widely known as a strong voice for the values of the university sector, a passionate advocate for the rights of women, a dedicated campaigner for the recognition of, and restorative action for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a life-long supporter of social justice and the labour movement.
“We have not only lost a dedicated trade union activist, but also an accomplished academic who opened eyes of her colleagues and wider audiences to impact of globalization on the education sector,” read a statement from EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Carolyn played a significant role in bringing together the national higher education unions in Education International, while mobilising her colleagues around the world against the spread of privatisation and commercialisation of higher education, and she was actively engaged in struggles against restrictions of academic freedoms wherever they occurred.” Prior to commencing her full-time role with NTEU, Carolyn worked as an academic for 20 years at Sydney’s Macquarie University. She trained as an economist receiving a Bachelor’s degree with honours as well as a Diploma of Teaching, and completed her PhD in 1991. Her teaching and research interests were wide and diverse including economic history, urban politics, public housing and women’s history. She expanded her academic interests as part of her professional role as NTEU President presenting a wide array of papers at international conferences dealing with globalisation, higher education and trade policy, transnational education, the internet and new technology and university/business partnerships. She was also a prolific speaker and writer on Australian higher education issues.
Carolyn’s passing is a profound moment in the history and culture of NTEU – the union that she spent more than half of her working life building and supporting, as well as for her colleagues at EI and all over the world. She touched thousands of people’s lives in the university sector.