ASSOCIATION SPOTLIGHT

Glen Innes TA

Members: 108

President: Alok Pisharody

Secretary: Jody Lamph

Our meetings: We meet on the first Wednesday after each Council at the New England Club, West Avenue, Glen Innes.

Attendance is generally reliable but some members feel pressured to attend workplace staff meetings in what would normally be our association meeting time. In an effort to resolve this, we have extended invitations to our association principals and executive teachers who are members to help them see that Federation watches out for all members at all stages of their career.

Our best-attended meetings tend to be when we are farewelling a retiring member and long-term activist. We make a mini-function of such occasions with a retrospective on their careers, campaign tales and inspirational words for campaigns to come. It is heart-
warming that some TA life members include more than one generation of local teaching families.

Our community: The Glen Innes district is approximately the same size as the Sydney basin but with a population of barely 15,000. It was first populated by the Ngarrabul people, who are neighbours to Bundjalung, Anaiwan, Gumbaynggir and Kamilaroi, and around 15 per cent of our students are Aboriginal.

Our association features a mix of small public schools serving the rural semi-isolated townships of Deepwater, Red Range and Wytaliba, plus a central K–12 school at Emmaville and a single infants, large primary school, and large high school in Glen Innes itself.

The district has historically relied upon an agricultural grazing economic base with some limited gem and tin-mining activity but is now undergoing a renewable energy boom with recent major investments in wind and solar farms nearby. The public sector is also a vital economic support, employing nearly as many workers as the agricultural sector.

We are in the NSW seat of Northern Tablelands, represented by Adam Marshall (Nationals), and the federal seat of New England, represented by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (Nationals).

Our challenges: Our region is low on population but high on complexity and, sad to say, economic disadvantage.

Five of Australia’s 10 lowest-income postcodes are all within a one-hour drive of the Glen Innes region, and we see the multi-generational impacts of entrenched rural poverty each day in our classrooms. That’s also why we understand the critical importance of Gonski funds to break the cycle of poverty and disengagement from education.

Because many of our schools are small schools we also appreciate the essential and irreplaceable role that small schools play in rural communities.

Although our district tends to vote strongly for Nationals in most elections we do see some interesting political back-and-forth between our state MP, who could be considered among the more moderate or even progressive elements in the party, and our federal MP and this has led to divergent messages on hot-button issues including TAFE and Gonski.

Recent activism: Our association is among those at the forefront of Federation’s campaign to defend quality teaching and learning against superficial assessment regimes such as Bump It Up and the misuse of NAPLAN data.

We proudly brought a motion from our association to October 2016 Council that prompted sustained, vigorous and effective action by Federation Executive, Officers and school-based members in defence of teacher professional judgement at the workplace.

We’ve held community coffee stands for each visit of the Gonski bus, including this year’s vital big push to get the federal government to commit to the full Gonski. You’ll always find Glen Innes teachers proudly wearing their Gonski shirts for every Federation event.

The best thing we’ve done in the past five years: Glen Innes teachers took an effective stand to improve teaching and learning conditions by securing fully-flued gas heaters in classrooms and staffrooms at the high school, replacing the old unsafe gas heaters.

The Department initially told us that the high school was ineligible for these heaters because Glen Innes winters fell outside the relevant thermocline by an average of just one-tenth of 1C.

As anybody who has spent winter on the Northern Tablelands would know, our winters are long and bitterly cold: it is usual to have days or weeks at a time when the nights are below freezing and the days are in single figures.

We took action and organised a “Blanket Day” at the high school, and with support from local parents, community members and the media, got the Department to see sense.

Our executive: As well as a president, secretary and treasurer, this year we have an Association contact for casual and temporary teachers. Without our casual and temporary colleagues, how could permanent teachers confidently take long service or maternity leave, or even just cover short-term absences? It is vital for Federation members to include and value the needs and concerns of our temporary and casual teaching colleagues.

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