Shoalhaven TA

Number of members: 174

President: William Bruffey

Vice President: Foty Loupos

Secretary: Jo Sheppard

Our community: It is an amazing location. The city of Shoalhaven has a population of approximately 98,600. Nowra, the area’s centre, is located on the stunning Shoalhaven River. Major industries include tourism and manufacturing, and the naval base also brings income. There’s beautiful Seven Mile Beach and the Murramarang and Jervis Bay national parks. We have a strong presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our federal member is the MP for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis of the Liberal Party.

The challenges we face: The Shoalhaven region is predominantly a low SES area, with a mix of young families and seniors. With the Department leaning more towards temporary contracts than permanent positions, we find that some teachers can’t settle in the area because they don’t know where their next contract will be. There are multiple unfilled vacancies in our area that are currently filled by amazing temporary teachers but if these positions are not filled then we run the risk of losing great teachers to other areas.

Other problems are gaining casuals in Term 4, the implementation of the Bump It Up program and ensuring that schools for specific purposes (SSP) schools such as Havenlee at North Nowra receive special needs funding.

Teacher demographics: According to the Department, last year 9.6 per cent of teachers were under 30 years of age, 38 per cent were 30-44 years and 52.4 per cent were 45 and over. The issue hindering teachers from gaining permanency in Shoalhaven is that teachers are delaying their retirement yet new teachers continue to graduate each year. As an example, TA Secretary Jo Sheppard began teaching in the Illawarra in December 2007 but it was not until December 2014 that she gained permanency, through the elusive code match, and that was only after completing a master’s degree.

Special events: The highlight this year was members taking time out of their weekend to participate in the Gonski Doorknock in the targeted seat of Gilmore.

Meetings: We meet twice a term on a Tuesday after Council at Bomaderry Bowling Club. We all get along very well and like to have get the opportunity to “debrief” with one another over a soft drink. Attendance is usually about 10-15 people but this fluctuates. We invited members to stay on and enjoy the $9.90 cheap Tuesday meals at the club bistro and now we usually have five to seven people stay, so now before each meeting we reserve a table. A night off from cooking is good for the soul!

Getting members to meetings: We get each Fed Rep to advertise forthcoming meetings. We let teachers know that they are welcome to grab a free drink at the bar. Ideas for 2017 include members taking turns to bring some snacks and inviting guest speakers; we had a representative from Stewart House come to talk with us about the fantastic programs they offer disadvantaged children.

Our executive structure: As well as our Organiser (John Black), President, Vice President and Secretary we have Nathan Harvey as Treasurer. The Secretary has also taken on the role of Publicity Officer, promoting social justice, gender equality and public education issues on Twitter and Instagram. This has included support and retweeting on Twitter of such hash tags as #educationbeatscrime, #Gonski, #StopTAFEcuts, #BoycottCUB and #teachersmakeadifference.