ASSOCIATION SPOTLIGHT

Number of members: 1472

President: Mandy Wells

Secretary: Andrew Lambkin

Our meetings: We meet in the Fairfield High School staff common room, with the principal’s support, on the Monday before Council each month from 4-5.30pm. The atmosphere is informal, with afternoon tea provided, but time isn’t wasted. Attendance always meets a quorum, between 15-30 members depending on the time of year and political climate.

How we try to try to attract members to meetings: The FTA creates a member email list to personally invite Fed Reps, Women’s Contacts, Principals, Workplace Committee members and teachers who attend actions. The agenda goes out with the invitation, and flyers are also sent to schools. We run an annual New Career Teachers’ Afternoon and casual/temporary teacher seminars to advertise Federation activity.

Our community: Fairfield, in Sydney’s south-west, is the most multicultural area in NSW with about 205,000 people from more than 66 identified language groups and 50 countries. The number of homes where languages other than English is spoken is two to 17 times the average. The area is low SES. It is mainly residential. We have one of the world’s largest urban parks, the Western Sydney Parklands.

There are 22 primary schools, seven high schools, one Intensive English Centre and one SSP.

Fairfield traditionally receives the most refugees in Australia and will be receiving the majority of Syrian refugees to be resettled in the country.

Six Labor MPs represent the 102 sq km area: Nick Lalich, Hugh McDermott, Guy Zangari (state), Chris Bowen, Jason Clare and Chris Hayes (federal).

Our challenges: Teaching high numbers of students with EALD (English as an Additional Language or Dialect), refugees with trauma-related issues and low-SES students provides many challenges. We require professional learning and support for teachers to develop the pedagogy and skills suited to these students’ needs.

Given that the Department no longer provides Multicultural/EALD Consultants, schools are replying on the expertise of teachers who have worked with refugees plus professional learning provided by principals to adequately meet refugee students’ needs.

Schools in the FTA often have large numbers of temporary and permanent beginning teachers and targeted graduates. We tend not to attract many transfers into the area. Applications for promotions positions fluctuate from very few to 30 when the merit system is enacted.

A substantial number of Fairfield principals have retired over the past five years and principals, in the main, are supportive of Federation and its policy objectives.

Our focus: Our association is focused on Gonski as the full funding is required to meet the needs of our EALD, low-SES and students with disability population.

The fluctuating numbers of enrolments and transient nature of many resettling families often result in both class sizes exceeding best practice and nominated transfers throughout the year. We often fight hard to hold on to established staff and promotions numbers, along with rooms, knowing numbers rise and fall.

We also focus on trying to provide professional learning to casual and temporary teachers who often find it difficult to have schools sign them off for Performance and Development Plans and accredited courses.

At an association level we have formed a team, including executive members, which is taking a much greater role in building capacity in the FTA.

The best thing we have done in the past five years: United and organised action for Gonski, refugee and EALD funding including delegations to MPs at every level. Our big push last year for the federal election saw members of the FTA attend every NSWTF/AEU organised action regardless of the location. Our members are often called upon to give evidence at the Industrial Relations Commission and official inquiries as well as participating in media events to publicise campaigns.

The FTA last year highlighted the plight of an orphaned refugee family and organised fundraising. We are very pleased with the difference we made to that family and the community.

FTA members regularly use social media to get messages across and share photos that show we support Federation social justice actions, refugee/peace rallies, along with multicultural displays, assemblies and special events to promote public education in our schools.

Our executive structure: President, two Vice Presidents (female/male), Secretary, Treasurer, Publicity Officer, Aboriginal Contact, Women’s Contact, Casual and Temporary Teacher Contact, Special Education Contact and Work Health and Safety Contact, and six Councillor positions.