Indigenous inspiration

Kerri Carr

Artist Kerry Toomey explains how her painting was inspired by discussions at a previous conference

Federation’s Aboriginal Members Conference on May 21 called delegates to action on education issues and offered them valuable professional development at workshops.

Teachers were updated on the union’s campaigns and the future political landscape.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron called on teachers to dedicate all their strength to the Gonski campaign from now until the federal election on July 2.

Deputy president Maxine Sharkey warned school teachers to learn from the TAFE cuts experience.

Morning workshops addressed topics such as asserting your professional authority, supporting students with disability, TAFE cuts, creating safer schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) students, families and teachers, plus social media for teacher activists.

Afternoon workshops introduced participants to a Sydney University online learning module on kinship and to the support environmental educator Cool Australia can offer teachers in terms of lesson plans and units and professional development.

In a cultural presentation, the audience heard fellow teacher Gary Cattanach’s “Recognise” song, Rhonda Ashby and Penelope Grace spoke in Aboriginal languages from the homelands, plus artist Kerry Toomey gave an explanation of her painting inspired by conversations at a previous Aboriginal Members Conference.

Delegates were also briefed about changes to Aboriginal education by Department of Education and Aboriginal Education Consultative Group representatives.

The night before, boxing champion and former NRL player Joe Williams told Federation’s Friday Forum, an Aboriginal Members Conference event, he wants to get in front of every single schoolkid in Australia, to talk to them about mental illness.

Former teacher, former NSW Community Services minister and candidate in the federal election Linda Burney told teachers at the forum: “It’s your job to be the best educator you can be.”

She acknowledged the support systems required to support kids and families were not there — “So you’re trying to wipe up and pick up the pieces. If it weren’t for people like you, imagine some of the tragedies that didn’t happen,” she said.

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