Gunnedah TA

Number of members: 127

President: Patrick Twining

Secretary: Emma Holdom

Our meetings: We meet twice a term on Tuesday afternoons at The Courthouse Hotel in Gunnedah. A few teachers from each school in town usually attend and some teachers from small schools in surrounding areas such as Curlewis, Carroll and Mullaley. We run the formal part of the meeting fairly quickly and have plenty of time for informal discussions. Often a small group stays around for dinner and drinks after the meeting.

Our attendance triples when there’s an issue at one of our schools but this is an excellent example of teachers seeking advice from their Organiser and colleagues. We also try to hold membership events to get members interested in what we do, such as a welcome dinner or family-friendly lawn bowls.

Our community: Ours is the koala capital of the world! You can find our beautiful community an hour’s drive west of Tamworth in north-western NSW. We’re the sunburnt country of Dorothea Mackellar’s poem, “My Country” — a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges, of drought and flooding rains.

We have farming families with both cattle and crops, especially cotton and sorghum. We’re also a mining community with a number of large coalmines close by. This is a low socioeconomic-status area. Our state electorate is Tamworth, with MP Kevin Anderson and our federal electorate is Parkes, with MP Mark Coulton, both from the National Party.

Our challenges: The biggest issue we face is a lack of casual teachers. We have very few casuals in town and many get snapped up quickly for extended temporary blocks. This makes daily school organisation very difficult and limits our ability to take professional learning or obtain extended leave. Our location turns some professional learning and excursions into huge expeditions. To see a play or attend training in Sydney we have to factor in six hours of travel each way or a flight from Tamworth if we’re lucky. The distance doesn’t stop us offering the best experiences to our teachers and students, but does make it difficult.

Fortunately, we have a mix of teachers in our area. Some have taught here for more than 20 years and some have been part of the Gunnedah community for much longer. These experienced locals offer so much support to our newbies who arrive in Gunnedah straight out of university or are in their first few years of teaching.

Our focus: We’ve focused on Gonski at association meetings. We recently held a letterbox drop with flyers to support Gonski funding, followed by a Gonski brunch in our green shirts. It was a great way to get out into our community and bring together teachers from schools in town for a Saturday brunch.

The best thing we’ve done in the past five years: Our association encourages networking and activism by all members, especially those who attend association meetings. We regularly send members to Trade Union Training for positions in the Gunnedah Association and in our schools.

Members also attend events like Beginning Teachers Conferences at Lightning Ridge or Coonabarabran, Women’s Conference and New Activists Conference. Involvement in union events is always highly valued by our members, and encourages them to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others.

Our executive: We have all the usual positions: President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and Women’s Contact. Where possible, we like to make sure all our schools are represented. Other positions are LGBTIQ contact, Casual and Temporary Contact, as well as a Teacher Housing Contact for houses and units we have in town.