Rania Saunders, Caroline Chisholm SSP

“If you are a doer who cares about your profession and is willing to work on your dreams for our amazing job, then this is your perfect opportunity.”

Federation probably couldn’t get a better job description for the position of Fed Rep.

That’s how Rania Saunders sees it. She’s been Fed Rep since 2011 at the Caroline Chisholm School for Special Purposes in Padstow in Sydney, having nominated herself for the role to try and secure greater benefits for her “very special” and often-neglected education sector.

It paid off for everyone: her proudest achievement was, through sustained advocacy with region executives, to gain much-needed RSSSP (school learning support) funding that had been delayed several times. “The delays had profoundly affected the running of many of our programs,” Rania said. “We had been dragged through the dark wells of bureaucracy.”

She sought help from other activists. “Our voice was heard and through our Organiser, Leeanda Smith, we were able to achieve an outcome in a very short period of time.” Rania carries out her Fed Rep duties without release time irrespective of these gains for the school. There’s a nascent Federation Committee. “I was able to get four teachers to commit to the committee but we are awaiting some direction from our Association on how to best utilise the support of the committee,” she said. “The Women’s Contact is very co-operative and she and I usually do things together.”

Not long ago, Rania was able to prove to a teacher that being in the union is a no-brainer. The person was a very regular casual temporary teacher who had asked but been refused maternity leave during her temporary service period.

Even though the teacher was not a Federation member, Rania helped to present her case to the principal and Department.

“The support she got from me and the Federation encouraged her to become a member and it also gave her the maternity leave she deserved,” Rania said happily.

The union rep has a brisk attitude — asked how she persuades members to Make the Switch to direct payment of union fees she says, “This is what I say, It’s coming out of your pay regardless so you might as well do the direct debit” — but she knows how to inject peace into her life. “I love sewing, knitting and relaxing on the nearby quiet beach where I live. Anything that has to do with peace, quiet and relaxation, I am in for it.” Then it’s back to Side A: “I am also a volunteer bushfire fighter in my area. I do some work to support prematurely born and stillborn babies at the Royal Hospital for Women.”

Rania believes a school’s Fed Rep is crucial in articulating the concerns of teachers. “If we don’t become the voice of our profession our achievements will be forgotten and all our aspirations for the future will be squashed,” she says. Above all, a teacher should be highly valued. “A good teacher who is looked after by the employer will make do in any environment with any set of resources — it all comes down to the passionate, capable teacher.”

If she could, she would keep the profession alight with only the brightest flames: “I would use my teacher thermometer to only keep passionate, enthusiastic and strong believers of our mission in the job and show the rest the door.”