Pat Forward was the Deputy Federal Secretary of the Australian Education Union for more than six years. She was Federal TAFE Secretary of the AEU from 2004, and previously held the position of Federal TAFE President for more than six years. She represented the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council of Trade Unions on a number of national and state government vocational education bodies.

She has a strong commitment to public vocational education delivered through TAFE institutions, and considers the role of highly qualified teachers to be inextricably linked to high quality vocational education. She believes that the future of TAFE and vocational education will be dependent on a fundamental rethinking of its purpose, including its role in the future of work, a return of fairness to workplaces, and autonomy to young people.