Anna Stewart program strengthens resolve

Kerri Carr

Joanne Sheppard relished the union's "fantastic energy"

Participating in Federation's Anna Stewart program has given teacher Joanne Sheppard the confidence she needed to become more actively involved in her union.

The program is aimed at ensuring that women's representation in Federation decision-making bodies, and participation in the union's activities, comes closer to their representation in the union's membership.

The program's initial goal was to encourage women to stand for Officer positions, because they were grossly under-represented. Now, the program also fosters women into nominating for other union roles, such as president of their local association or Federation councillor.

Federation Women's Coordinator Anna Uren said taking part in the Anna Stewart program gives women members an opportunity to see how their union works.

"Understanding how the union's processes work allows you to be more effective as a unionist — be it your campaigning or dealing with a workplace issue," Ms Uren said.

She said program participants start to understand the link between teachers in workplaces and the work that Federation Officers and activists do. "It's what happens in classrooms that drives what happens in the union," Ms Uren said.

Joanne said that it was great to see how the different sections of the union work together, when she participated in the Anna Stewart program at Federation's head office in Surry Hills for two weeks in Term 3, 2016.

"I just liked the vibe," she said.

"The highlight of the program for me was going to Corrective Services protest outside State Parliament — there was a fantastic energy with colleagues all coming together. The camaraderie appealed to me," she added.

Joanne said she came away from the program with increased knowledge about the union and passion to do more for her union and public education at a school and state level.

Prior to participating in the program, Joanne had been a teachers association proxy and a Workplace Committee member.

"Experiencing the Anna Stewart Program gave me the confidence to nominate as Shoalhaven TA Secretary." [She now holds the position.]

When Joanne was at Federation HQ she was given Gonski and Education Beats Crime t-shirts, which she now proudly wears to school. She has also put up a Gonski sign on the fence outside her home.

"Since the program I've tapped into social media for professional reasons. I now share information about rallies and campaigns. I didn't realise how powerful social media could be on a professional level before I saw it at Federation," she said.

Federation operates two-week and one-term Anna Stewart programs.

Candidates need to have shown some interest in union activism, whether it be at the workplace level recruiting and supporting members, participating at an association level or in other forums such as the Aboriginal Members' Roll.

At the beginning of the program, the Women's Coordinator establishes participants' teaching experience, Federation activism experience, plus what interests them, so experiences at the union can be tailored for them individually.

A core part of the program is observing Officer, Executive and Council meetings to see the union's democratic processes in action.

An Anna Stewart Officer may also find themselves visiting schools with an Organiser, attending a hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission or observing a Unions NSW meeting — it depends on what is happening during the time of their term.

The program gives teachers the opportunity to build relationships with other union officers and activists.

Joanne attended a LGBTIQ restricted committee meeting and a city association meeting.

She was interested to talk with Aboriginal Education Coordinator Charline Emzin-Boyd about Aboriginal education.

Joanne is a special education teacher at Shoalhaven Tutorial Centre at Bomaderry High School, so also found her chat with Officer attached to the Special Education Restricted Committee, Claudia Vera, very useful.

Having seen a Federation restricted committee in action, Joanne said she is keen to participate in the Special Education and Aboriginal restricted committees.

For more details about the Anna Stewart program select Women's Program from the My Interests tab on the home page of Federation's website. Applications are considered by the Women’s and Anna Stewart Program Committee, made up of six elected woman Federation members. The Department of Education supports the program.