Nepean TA

Number of members: 995
President: Sarah Willett
Secretary: May Ptolemy

Our area and community: The Association spreads from north of Penrith, west of St Marys right to the foot of the beautiful Blue Mountains, around the Nepean River.

We cover a wide range of rural and suburban primary and high schools, an academically selective high school at Penrith and a performing arts high school at Emu Plains. The Panthers on the Prowl classroom at Pepper Stadium, Penrith Panthers uses sport to reach out to students who are experiencing difficulties at school. The dynamics of the community are changing quickly with the increase of housing developments.

Our communities are down-to-earth and love their sports and the great outdoors. Nepean has a generous heart, shown when its children and families pooled resources, donating funds, toys and immediate resources to help neighbours in the Blue Mountains after the bushfires.

We have three state electorates — Londonderry, Penrith and Mulgoa. Our Federal electorate is Lindsay, which takes in Darug land. We also have the University of Western Sydney’s Kingswood and Werrington campuses and Nepean Hospital in our locality.

Teacher demographics: We have noticed an increasing number of retiring teachers being replaced by beginning teachers, and the TA has recently engaged our Federation Workplace Committees with training to empower the new teachers’ abilities and skills at their schools: these teachers receive valuable skills and build strong networks that provide crucial support for the first few years of their career.

Our focus: Our current focus is to increase participation at Association meetings. We are using the Gonski Campaign as a tool to increase local activism and capacity-building in our Fed Reps and Workplace Committees.

Our meetings: More people have been attending meetings this year. Many of our schools give reports and receive feedback from our local Organiser, Michael de Wall. We meet at 4pm at O’Donoghue’s Irish Pub at Emu Plains each Monday before Council meetings.

Challenges: With so many retiring teachers winding down and an increase in time-poor beginning teachers, our focus remains on member retention, ensuring that local teachers feel supported and are engaged as activists in their workplaces. We are constantly attempting to reach and recruit new members. We are starting to experiment with different communication strategies such as social media and phone trees to build stronger supportive networks and open communication pathways.

The best thing we have done so far: Working in partnership with the St Marys-Mt Druitt Association to secure the full six years of Gonski funding. We met Lindsay MP Fiona Scott and Penrith MP Stuart Ayers to discuss the importance of recurrent funding in our electorates. Many principals spoke out about the importance of Gonski in their schools at a forum in August attended by parents, principals and teachers where we showcased local public student performers. Today, October 26, we are holding a public sharing of Gonski stories at a community event to demonstrate the importance of the funding — we feel that momentum is building.