From left: Alexander Johnson, Kerrie Walters, John Ryan, Skye Lang, Paul Rudd, Sinead Aekins

All together now ...

Views of first-time delegates at Annual Conference

Dinoo Kelleghan

First-time delegate Kerrie Walters from Dubbo TA said Annual Conference reinforced her conviction that Federation provides a voice for teachers in increasingly complex educational and political contexts.

She and other delegates heard President Maurie Mulheron explain the insidious influence of neoliberalism on education while others spoke about the challenge of negotiating a wage rise in the face of the Baird government’s refusal to uncap public sector wages, the crisis facing gaol educators and TAFE teachers, the protection of leave provisions and Indigenous education.

“The conference was fascinating,” said Kerrie, who teaches English and drama at Dubbo College, where she is on the workplace committee. “The passion of the delegates was a highlight.”

This was Kerrie’s first opportunity to attend the conference (July 3–5) as there are many keen activists waiting for the opportunity in what she calls “the fantastic Dubbo TA”.

“Listening to the various reports, recommendations and debates widened my knowledge of the issues affecting education,” Kerrie said.

Another first-time delegate at Annual Conference, Skye Lang, was struck by the way conference demonstrated Federation’s multi-channel input into issues facing teachers.

“The conference has shown how truly democratic our union is — members working together for the benefit of all teachers and students,” she said.

Skye joined Federation as a student teacher, attending a Beginning Teacher conference. She’s been teaching at primary school at Mt Druitt for 13 years and last year became Fed Rep. “I was re-elected this year and decided I would stand for the role of Councillor, and this gave me the chance to attend Annual Conference this year.”

She loves the way the union not only promotes the “fantastic” work of teachers but also supports school students through the work of its campaigns.

John Ryan (Canterbury-Bankstown TA) agrees. “I noticed how often in the debates the welfare and learning of students was at the core of the debate,” he said.

The formal and informal discussions at Annual Conference showed him that teachers have common concerns and beliefs.

“Delegates’ voices are heard. The debate is relevant. Reports are concise and I have learned a lot about the issues facing teachers in this state as well as nationally and internationally,” said John, a high school learning and support teacher.

The conference is great for bonding, said first-year casual teacher Alexander Johnson and Stage 2 teacher Paul Rudd, both from the St George TA.

Paul, who works at Kingsgrove PS and is LGBTIQ contact for his Association, said the conference was an “excellent networking and educational forum”.

Alexander made the most of his time at the three-day conference, mingling with other members, especially at the dinner, making new friends and getting to know about the work of other Associations.

He hopes one day to move his activism from his Association to a full-time role in Federation.