Vale George Obray

John Hennesy
Life Member

Infants and primary teachers rally at Wentworth Park in 1983 as part of the campaign for release time from face-to-face teaching

Recently the Federation lost a Life Member who made a unique contribution to the working lives of all primary and infants teachers.

George Obray was an active member of Federation throughout his teaching career, having been involved with Coolamon-Ganmain, Young, Wentworth, Wyong and Gosford associations.

His sympathy has always been with the primary/infant classroom teacher, who not only worked five days a week with virtually no relief from the classroom, but also had to cope with constant educational changes.

He was President of the Wyong Teachers Association when Federation gave them the “green light” to commence the relief from face-to-face teaching campaign.

Then General Secretary Max Taylor and myself, as his organiser, set George the challenge to call a meeting of all Central Coast primary/infant teachers and gauge whether they were prepared to support a minimal-supervision campaign. They came in unprecedented numbers, and they committed to the campaign to support regular stoppages.

The campaign spread throughout the state and its success changed the professional status of primary/infant teachers forever. It was certainly a great retirement present when, in 1988, all infants and primary teachers received their two hours of release.

As George recently said: “It worked because it was right. It was fair and the message was fair.”

It was clear in 1988, and still is, release time is teachers’ time. It is for teachers to use to improve the public education system for teachers and students.

It is not the property of government, the Department or others to stipulate how it is used.

No single person ever does it all when change is needed, but many should be given credit for really understanding how to bring it about. George Obray was such a person. It was a pleasure to know him.