Joining the fight for what’s right

Federation welcomed a large number of first-time delegates to Annual Conference, a notable increase on the six who participated for the first time last year.

Among the reasons for stepping up their involvement in the union, the new delegates cited the need to fight against commercialisation in schools, workplace rights and concerns over the outsourcing of teaching in Corrective Services and TAFE.

First-time delegate Heather Byrne, from Middle Harbour TA, teaches at Sydney’s Killara High School and said she was excited to see issues discussed at conference that are relevant to her — such as housing affordability — as well as matters relevant to Killara’s staff, such as workload.

“My impressions are that it is a very democratic forum in which people get the opportunity to make their voice heard,” she said. “I enjoyed hearing what the priorities for the union are.” Ms Byrne was recently nominated Women’s Contact at Killara and has attended association meetings. “I was nominated as a delegate for Annual Conference there, which I was very excited about.”

Now in her third year, she teaches Geography, Society and Culture, Aboriginal Studies and Studies of Religion. She aims to promote a happy, healthy workplace and is a strong believer in the power of public education to bring about positive social change.

Another first-time delegate, Brenton Kotz, who has taught in the TAFE system for 29 years, attended conference because he’s very concerned by government campaigns to commercialise and privatise public education. “I was very encouraged by the support by the schools sector of the Teachers Federation for TAFE,” he said. Cuts to TAFE were discussed in-depth at the conference by Pat Forward, Deputy Federal Secretary of the Australian Education Union.

Mr Kotz has been head teacher in Automotive Trades in Taree for almost 10 years and has taught at TAFE in South Australia and Western Australia. As an alternate delegate to Council, he aims to protect the rights and conditions of teachers and to fight for members.

After 23 years of teaching in NSW correctional centres, Michael Falcioni of the Corrective Services TA said he was motivated to become more active after last year’s decision to outsource public education in NSW prisons, which resulted in the loss of 138 teaching jobs. He was proud to represent his association at conference and to present concerns to the wider Federation to gain support from teachers across the state.

“Federation has been outstanding in supporting teachers in correctional centres and continues to be a source of ongoing professional development,” he said.

Scott Anderson, from Yass TA, said his first Annual Conference had given him a boost in confidence to fight for justice, not only in his own workplace but also in workplaces around NSW, Australia and the world. “The democratic process is engaging and empowering,” he said. “Meeting other enthusiastic and proactive peers is refreshing.”

An enthusiastic and energetic science teacher in his first permanent year, Mr Anderson used his first year as a Councillor to raise issues such as classroom safety, curriculum, teacher welfare, workload, and job security. “Currently, I want to continue my work as a Councillor and campaign for the rights of all teachers, while being the voice for the teachers and students in my association,” he said. “I would also like to learn the role of Fed Rep and, in future, pick up the baton from our current Fed Rep Phil Armour, and continue advocating for Yass teachers and students.”

Mr Anderson said he enjoyed the country lifestyle in Yass, the students and the close-knit community of teachers at the school.

Fifth-year permanent teacher Ree Nicholson, also from Yass TA, said attending conference had reinvigorated her desire to become a more active member in the Federation community and to network with fellow teachers to create a strong activist presence. She was asked by her fellow Yass association members to attend as an extra delegate with her association Councillor.

“Conference also allowed me to understand discussions spoken about during staff meetings and by the media,” she said. “I feel that teaching is one of the few professions where you feel you are actively involved in the process for change.”

As the Women’s Contact in Yass TA, Ms Nicholson, who teaches English/Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) at Yass High School, was previously an active Federation member in Bourke TA, where she taught for three years. There she held the positions of Secretary and New Activist Contact. She attended her first Federation meeting while at university and now wants to be a strong voice for the public school community and an agent for change. “My focus will be on ensuring better teacher wellbeing through active Federation participation,” she said.

Scott Cox, from Sutherland TA, rated his conference highlights as the keynote and specialist speakers, who provided a wealth of informed knowledge to discuss with his associations and branches. Attending conference allowed him to witness the strength of union solidarity and commitment to public education.

Mr Cox is Federation Representative, Councillor and Secretary for Sutherland TA, and has been a permanent TAS teacher for the past 10 years, specialising in Computing Studies and Industrial Technology: Multimedia.

He found Federation “reasoned in its approach” and said Annual Conference had been an excellent opportunity to witness and contribute to union democracy at the highest level. Conference also provided global scope for the future direction of Federation to support members and their students.

“I have been a financial member of NSWTF since university, but after being personally invited to an association meeting three years ago, saw directly the strength, value and importance of increased activism in the union and the power of each of our voices as a part of the whole.” He hopes to educate less-active members.

Kim Hines, from Camden-Campbelltown TA, said she had been a Federation member since 1986, when she completed her Bachelor of Education, and wished she had attended conference earlier.

“I am humbled to be part of this and amazed at the complexities of the process involved with recommendations, amendments and other procedures,” she said. “An absolute wealth of information and knowledge was presented and I wish I had been aware of even one-fifth of all this before.”

Ms Hines was elected Women’s Contact this year and feels this is where she belongs: in a role to support, advise and represent the needs and rights of students and teachers to receive and provide education in a safe and equitable environment.

As a temporary teacher, Ms Hines is waiting for a permanent position, although she has worked as a casual and temporary in Schools Service Point (SSP) and primary schools K-6 in a wide variety of positions.

Kristy Davies, from Gosford TA, felt very privileged to attend Annual Conference and hear so many amazing guest speakers. “I am becoming familiar with many members from different associations and love the positivity and passion that each of these individuals bring to the table,” she said. “I think the work that the Teachers Federation does is crucial for the future of Australia’s young people. To be in the room contributing to the decisions that are being made is incredible.”

Ms Davies is a third-year special-needs primary teacher, who has helped develop a support network for special education teachers and school learning support officers to share expertise and knowledge. She is also a doctoral candidate exploring professional development for these teachers in Australia. She said she was lucky to be elected as Fed Rep for Valley View Public School last year and although she does not hold the role this year, she’s still actively involved in her association.

“Eventually, I would like to contribute to the future of the union by conducting valuable research to provide insight into the professional needs of special educators,” she said.

Uralla TA’s Charmaine Endacott found the debate about workload informative and nominated the speeches of life members as a highlight.

Ms Endacott works as an instructional leader with five schools in the New England area, and is a Federation Women’s Contact and Councillor. She enjoys going to local association meetings and working with passionate educators, who are very active members of the union, to offer continued support in areas such as workload funding where the bottom line is education for all.

Shay Laurent, from Parramatta TA, said her first experience of Annual Conference had been very engaging and informative, and, in the future, would also like to work more directly with Federation by participating in the Anna Stewart Program and/or becoming an Officer.

As the Fed Rep for Guildford Public School, Ms Laurent serves on the Parramatta TA executive as New Activist Contact and Publicity Officer, supporting teachers with issues including workload, salary, working conditions, bullying/harassment cases and Department of Education system failures. “I attend Council in these positions and have now come to Annual conference,” she said. She looks forward to continuing as an active member of the Parramatta TA by running events and recruiting new members.

She teaches a Safety Net class and co-leads the Positive Behaviour for Learning Committee and the Beginning Teacher Committee.

Mick Baines, of Nambucca TA, has been a Federation member since 1987 and “decided to have a look” at conference for the first time. He found it informative, with vigorous debate and a great forum for maintaining teachers’ rights as professionals. He has taught English, History and Drama, as well as coaching rugby, for 30 years at Macksville High.

At his first conference, Simon Jasper, of Maitland TA, said it was important to be kept informed of the rights teachers are fighting for. He has been a Year 3/4 teacher at Dungog Public School for the past two years.

He is secretary of the Maitland TA and attended the New Activist Conference last year. He hopes to become a Councillor, supporting teachers and fighting for better conditions. “I will become more heavily involved as the years go on,” he said. “Unionism for my family is very important. I want to carry on that tradition and fight for what’s right.”

Raity Batha, from Wyong TA, attended her first conference as a delegate from her association and said it was “enlightening and passionate, and everything that public education should be about”. She believes Federation affords “protection against the commercialisation of education and the commodification of our students”. She hopes to continue to be an effective and respected leader within her school and association.

Ms Batha started as a high school History/Society and Culture teacher in Sydney’s south-west in 2003 and has been a head teacher of HSIE on the Central Coast since 2012.

Kym Arntzen, from Illawarra TA, said that coming from Keira High School, a strong and passionate school that supports Federation, it was hard not to get involved. The highlight of her first conference was moving an amendment, and was glad she attended two council meeting before Annual Conference, which allowed her to better understand processes and objectives.

“I was approached about standing for Fed Rep at the start of the year and with the support of some very experienced members have embraced all things Federation,” she said.

Ms Arntzen is studying a Masters of Inclusive Education, she is passionate about public education and is now working as a learning and support teacher.

Alanah Jack, from Newcastle TA, said the highlight of her first conference was the presentation by Professor Chris Sarra, founder and chairperson of the Stronger Smarter Institute, which trains Aboriginal leaders. “I became involved in Federation after workplace bullying and a desire to learn more about my rights,” she said. Ms Jack is the Women’s Contact at Mayfield West Public School.

Seeing democracy in action was what Julie Parsons, from Kandos-Rylstone TA, most enjoyed. “I think conference should be required professional development for all members to attend,” she said. “Hearing about policies and procedures was very eye-opening.”

As President of her association, she has been a Federation member for more than 30 years. “I thought it was time I found out more about how the union works.” She enjoys educating and agitating, and wants to become more active on an association level.

As a careers adviser at Kandos High School, but with a home economics background, Ms Parsons teaches Hospitality and Food Technology.

Rebecca Asquith, from Newcastle TA, enjoyed many aspects of her first Annual Conference and believed the second day was the best of the three, when delegates heard presentations on affordable housing, the schools funding campaign and the future of assessment and testing.

“I was elected on my schools Work Placement Connect Committee this year, so have been actively trying to expand my knowledge on Federation issues,” Ms Asquith said. “I have been regularly attending the Newcastle TA meetings.”

After teaching for 11 years, she now works at Mayfield West Demonstration School. “At the present time, our Fed Rep isn’t working within our school and our Women’s Contact has accepted a new teaching position, so I will be nominating for one of those positions.”

Beatrice Murray, from Cowra TA, said she was impressed by the quality of discussion and debate. “I find the decisions made at the Annual Conference so important for public education.” As an Aboriginal member, she was asked to attend as a proxy.

“I have been teaching for 17 years and I currently teach a Year 2 class at Mulyan Public School. I am assistant principal of infants. I believe in setting teachers up for success to ensure our children are given quality education. I’d also like to learn more about Federation processes.”

Rachel Holmes, from Brewarrina TA, said the conference was enlightening and clearly showed how essential the union is. “Over three days, I was exposed to a democratic process of a collective and passionate group of colleagues,” she said. It also gave her the chance to network with many like-minded people.

No other members at her school were able to attend the annual conference this year, so she volunteered. “I have been a member of the union since my final year of university, where I joined at a careers seminar.”

Ms Holmes is in her first year of teaching, and is a temporary relief from face-to-face teacher .She teaches multiple key learning areas across K-6 and high school at Brewarrina Central School.

Matthew Eastman, from Hornsby TA, enjoyed being part of the Annual Conference process and found the debates interesting. He works as an assistant principal as part of Schools for Specific Purposes (SSP) for an autism support class.

As the Fed Rep at Sir Eric Woodward Memorial School, he holds a number of positions at Hornsby TA including Special Education Contact, Vice President, LGBTIQ Contact and New Activist Contact.

He relishes representing and defending teachers’ rights at work and will continue to represent teachers at the school and association level. “I will possibly look at a Councillor position in the future.”

Kristy Lea Hayes, from Goulburn TA, attended her first meeting this year and enjoyed the debates, motions and recommendations. “Project Officers initially recruited me while I was a temporary teacher in a central NSW school,” she said. “I was nominated to conference by the association.”

Ms Hayes is a learning and support teacher who was permanently appointed as an English teacher. She is a Workplace Committee member and year advisor at Goulburn High School, who is keen to protect workers’ rights and seeks more involvement in association meetings.

— Shelley Dempsey