Gonski knock-on effect

Dinoo Kelleghan

In school after school, teachers are answering the call to join the Gonski campaign, convinced their students would lose heavily if the needs-based model was killed off by a Coalition election win.

The appointment of full-time Gonski Coordinators has ratcheted up grassroots enthusiasm among members, paying off in boots on the ground in the Gonski door-knocks and billboard rallies.

The willingness of teachers to become active in the Gonski cause has built up gradually. “I don’t think teachers realised how much Gonski money was having a positive impact on their school,” said Bungendore Primary Fed Rep, Robynne Prosser. “As the campaigning has progressed, the knowledge of Gonski benefits has grown. People realised what we actually spend the money on. Then it was like, ‘Why would you want to let it go?’”

At Karabar High, Fed Rep Anna Brown sees the change too, particularly after the local Coordinator, Kelly Bowman, came around to recruit volunteers for the June door-knock, the third in the past two months in Queanbeyan.

“We’ve just given everybody a good pep-talk this morning,” Anna said. “People who haven’t been doing much have been stepping up. Some people had hung back because they thought they’d have to do a lot of work and give up a lot of time — teachers don’t have much spare time — but we told them that if they just take one leaflet and put it in one letterbox they’d be useful. We told them every little bit helps.”

Kelly was upbeat after her visit to Karabar. “The staff were jumping out of their seats to grab a handful of leaflets. They were absolutely motivated,” she said, prior to the June door-knock.

“The [May 28] door-knock in Queanbeyan West was very successful. We absolutely carpeted the area. The people trust us, the teachers.”

Anna and Robynne are united in praise of the Coordinators’ efforts.

“Having full-time Gonski Coordinators has been a really good move for this campaign,” Anna said.

“It’s really helping activism in the schools, and it’s helping the Fed Reps too. Sometimes we all need a bit of a push! They’ve also taken pressure off the Fed Reps because it can be difficult for us to go in hard sometimes.”

“It’s been brilliant because Kelly has been in contact all the time,” Robynne said. She came to Bungendore to give a really excellent talk to the teachers about how the money was going to affect everybody. This is a massive one where we need everyone on board.”

And everyone is on board at Bungendore: “Support for Gonski funding at the school is 110 per cent,” Robynne said. “The principal is fully behind it. The P&C is strongly for it.”

“There are Gonski signs on every corner of that school,” adds Kelly.

Paul Robson of Paddington Public and Dean Newbold of St Clair High plan, like Anna, Robynne and Kelly, to be out door-knocking next Sunday, Paul in the targeted electorate of Reid and Dean in Lindsay.

Everyone Dean has spoken to has said they have an interest in the continuation of needs-based funding in schools, “whether they were parents or grandparents of school students or as employers who want to see kids coming out of school with a full set of skills”.

Members know the help of supporters is crucial. One rock-solid supporter in Queanbeyan is Sharon Baxter-Judge, editor of the Bungendore Weekly (readership: 4500) and a past president of the Bungendore school’s P&C.

An elderly farmer bailed her up after a big spread in her paper on the Gonski billboards this month. “I didn’t like your last edition because you were really spruiking for Labor,” he said. Says Sharon: “That sparked a discussion because I explained what the Gonski funding was doing locally, so that was really good because if he goes around and tells other people, well, I’ve done my job because a lot of people don’t understand the facts.”

To volunteer for a Door-knock in your area click here.