Matt Meikle has a good answer for those who ask him why he’s a Federation member: “I see the union as a freight train that rolls through ridiculous government policy and agendas and I love being part of that,” he says.
Matt is in his second year as Fed Rep at Bourke and in his fourth year as Councillor for the Bourke-Brewarrina-Coonamble area.
The role of Fed Rep is extremely important, he says, because “it gives the union a friendly face that every teacher can relate to and opens up a ground-level communication passage between the union and teachers”.
Matt decided early in his teaching career to become part of the union’s support base for teachers.
“Like a lot of new members I went to a Beginning Teachers Conference, and seeing the passion and devotion the Federation presenters had for not only ensuring our teachers worked in the best possible environment but also that our students received the best possible education inspired me to get involved in every way possible.
“The first logical choice was Fed Rep so I could get involved on the ground level with campaigns and do all I could for both my community and my school. Mel Smith and Brett Bertalli, both Country Organisers at the time, guided and encouraged me.”
Matt gets no release time for his Fed Rep duties but counts himself fortunate in other respects. “I’ve been lucky to work with extremely professional and union-minded principals and staff so far and I haven’t had to deal with any negative incidents. Other Fed Reps usually get jealous when I say that. It’s been excellent to only need to focus on positive campaigning.
“At the end of 2015 we had a 100 per cent union member high school and all of them are on direct debit union fee payments. Lots of our staff members are new so when I sign them up I ensure they tick the direct debit box – and I haven’t been asked why yet!”
He’s fortunate to have “a few motivated souls” to form a Federation Executive Committee.
With the federal election now in a definite timeline following Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s parliamentary recall move last week, Matt feels the Gonski campaign has become ever more important and he’s proud of the campaign efforts at his school.
During Gonski Week last year his school held a Gonski information event complete with Gonski cake and green-clad teachers – all of them, Matt says proudly. “The local newspaper came down to do a report on the Gonski campaign and what it means for the school and the wider community. It was awesome to see so many students and local people asking what Gonski is and what they could do to help.”
If there’s a sport Matt’s into it in his spare time – cricket, union, league, football, golf. “If I’m not playing it, I’m teaching it, if I’m not teaching it, I’m watching it.” He has a one-year-old son and loves heading out with his partner on country family adventures. He’s also an avid home-brewer. “I love creating and tasting new beers,” he said. “Our profession might have something to do with this hobby, ha-ha!”