Sutherland TA

Number of members: 1779
President: Tracey Gocher
Secretary: Kylie Davis

Our area and community: Sutherland Shire is most commonly known as the place where Captain Cook first came ashore in 1770. The original owners of the land, however, are the Tharawal (or Dharawal) People. Much of the natural geography is composed of the dense Royal National Park, filled with beautiful walking and riding tracks and known for its extensive coastline and surf beaches.

There are more than 60 schools, from Cronulla in the east, Alford’s Point/Menai in the west, Heathcote/Waterfall to the south and Taren Point/Sylvania to the north. The population is growing and is currently about 225,000 residents, 12 per cent of whom speak a language other than English at home (predominantly central/western European languages, but also Mandarin, Cantonese and Arabic). The main federal electorates are Cook and Hughes, both usually comfortably held by Liberals, currently by Treasurer Scott Morrison and Craig Kelly. The south is zoned within Cunningham, a strong Labor seat currently led by Sharon Bird, who you may remember for her passionate speech to parliament about the impact of Gonski funding on her electorate. Liberal MPs hold the three state seats.

Issues and challenges: The greatest challenge faced by educators here is student apathy. Our students largely come from middle to high-income families where their parents have steady employment and have been to university or TAFE. We face challenges in encouraging awareness of the value of public education among those who see their wonderful opportunities as an entitlement. It can be difficult to gather broad support for campaigns such as Gonski or Stop TAFE cuts. Of course, there are exceptions, and teachers often do not fall into this category, but a cultural shift to increased awareness and consideration of universal needs is needed.

Teacher demographics: Teachers generally both live and work in the area. Many are reaching retirement, placing the Shire at a time of change with a number of beginning teachers gaining employment on temporary contracts or permanently. There are many transfers from other parts of Sydney and NSW, resulting in a diversification of experience and knowledge base.

Our focus: The greatest focus is to collect Gonski stories and promote the importance of gaining years five and six of the funding model. Members are also working on safeguarding the Disability Loading as there are Schools for Special Purposes, school support units and individual students who need this funding fully implemented.

The best thing we’ve done recently: Education was at the forefront of voters’ minds in this year’s state election and the last federal poll, and the Shire’s wonderful teacher activists went into action, writing letters, gathering signatures, leafleting, making speeches to P&Cs and the broader community, initiating informal discussions and doorknocking. Federation members were relentless in getting the word out about Gonski and keeping pressure on politicians to guarantee full funding — and we will continue campaigning as we approach the next federal election.

Our meetings: We meet at the Gymea Tradies on Wednesday before Council at 4.15pm. Our meetings are a lovely balance of communal conversation and formal business. Sutherland TA has a history of strong activism. With many teachers retiring in the next few years, the TA is beginning to see some new members taking on a more active role in the association, which is wonderful to see. In order to attract new members to meetings we email a reminder to all schools and encourage Fed Reps to promote the meetings. We rely heavily upon regulars bringing their co-workers and introducing new staff to the Association. We have a raffle with prizes and offer Association-led courses for casual and temporary teachers on accreditation or the new Performance and Development Framework. These are quite effective but executive is trying to do more to promote engagement within the Association.

Executive structure: We have a President, Secretary, Treasurer and four Vice-Presidents. Beyond this we also have a Women’s Contact, LGBTIQ Contact, Beginning Teacher Contact, Peace Contact and Aboriginal Education Contact. All are elected annually at our AGM in February.