On the road to Gonski, eyes pinned to COAG

“Tell Malcolm Turnbull to get on board with Gonski!” That was the message of the national Gonski bus tour that took the campaign back on the road throughout March to meet crowds of Gonski supporters at local events in Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and NSW. Campaign events were also held beyond the bus routes.

The campaign events aimed to continue raising awareness of, and support for Gonski needs-based funding, particularly in marginal electorates and in the lead-up to the April Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting at which the issue of federal education funding was originally scheduled to be decided.

A week into the bus tour it was announced that this meeting has now been rescheduled to June following the federal Budget due in May.

At the heart of this campaign action, two buses, each clad in Gonski messages, departed separately from Adelaide and Brisbane on March 1, with the goal of meeting at Parliament House on March 22.

A third bus completed a tour of Tasmania. Each state’s teacher union took responsibility for the leg of the bus tour through their state, and the northern bus was handed over to the Teachers Federation on March 10 at an event in Brisbane, while the southern bus entered NSW on March 17.

While travelling through NSW, the buses stopped at schools and MPs’ offices to greet crowds of supporters. Federation President Maurie Mulheron travelled with the northern bus, speaking with teachers, parents, MPs and community members about the importance of needs-based funding and the great benefits to student learning already being delivered with the 36 per cent of Gonski funding already in schools.

Many of these success stories are featured in the booklet Getting Results 2, published by the AEU just prior to the bus tour.

“Everywhere we visited the message from schools was the same: Gonski funding is making a significant difference in lifting the educational outcomes for countless numbers of children and young people.

"The funding model must be secured to ensure that the programs continue,” Mr Mulheron said.

One key electorate for the campaign was that of New England, held by Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce.

Despite his electorate receiving the second largest amount of Gonski funding in NSW, he remains opposed to the funding model and still supports Mr Turnbull’s plan to cut the funding in 2018/19.

Where to from here?

With COAG postponed until June, the next major focus of the campaign is the federal Budget next month.

Now that all state and territory governments are in full support of the Gonski model, each state branch will be inviting ministers attendance at an event prior to the Education Council meeting in Hobart in early April to show a united front to the Federal government.

For Federation associations and school-based activists, the next focus for action is the lead-up to the federal Budget, which is to be delivered on May 9.

Organisers will be working with each association to schedule at least three delegations prior to the budget.

Further information will be sent to Fed Reps and Workplace Committees, and via local Organisers, after the April school holidays.

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Tales from the green bus