My teaching experience has always been in the south-west of Sydney, a region of high needs for EALD (English as an Additional Language or Dialect) students and disadvantaged communities.
I was familiar with this demographic, having grown up in Green Valley and attended Heckenberg Public and Busby High. It made me understand how important effective public education is for children growing up in similar circumstances to mine: I was inspired by my teachers and the education I received in the 1960s and ’70s.
I’ve been the Fed Rep at Bossley Park Public School for eight years and Women’s Contact for three years. I’d been Fed Rep at my previous school, Busby West PS, for two years.
When I became a teacher in 1983 it was mandatory that beginning teachers joined Federation (on reflection that was probably due to the fact that the Hawke government was in power, with support for unionism being part of its platform).
I was fortunate to secure three years of long-term casual work at St Johns Park PS and gained my first permanent appointment in 1986 at Bradbury PS.
I was introduced in the 1980s to Federation campaigns and realised how important it was to be involved in these endeavours to improve student learning outcomes and teachers’ working conditions.
We went on rolling strikes to support our campaigns and our efforts were rewarded with reduced class sizes, improved ESL support, improved access to professional learning, part time teachers' maternity leave, a salary increase and release from face-to-face teaching.
These achievements inspired me ever since to become involved with Federation at a local level, attending rallies and stopwork meetings, handing out flyers and helping with petitions and reporting back to staff on how the union was working to improve conditions in schools.
Any gain for our students and staff, no matter how small, ultimately makes a difference.
The positive effects of keeping staff engaged with Federation action was happily demonstrated one day at a Fairfield TA meeting when a young member who had been a beginning teacher at Bossley Park PS turned up as the Fed Rep of her new school. It was even more pleasing that she had also been a student at our school. Beginning teachers are greatly needed in Fed Rep roles to continue to champion for public education. The fact that this young teacher had taken on this role after initial exposure to Federation activity at Bossley Park was very satisfying for me as the Bossley Park Fed Rep.
My greatest fear is that if my generation of teachers does not empower and inspire new scheme teachers to be positive and engaged with Federation the substantial achievements gained for our public schools will be at risk.
My growth as a teacher, colleague and mentor has been immeasurable because of my Federation journey.
— with Dinoo Kelleghan