Corindi is a beachside farming town on the NSW Mid North Coast, 33km north of Coffs Harbour, where Kim Taylor has been Fed Rep at the public school since 1992.
It’s home to Australia’s biggest blueberry farm and inhabited by around 1200 townsfolk, with the school of about 160 students a focal point for the local community.
Up until three years ago, Corindi Public was classified P5 — one of the 35 per cent of NSW schools known as small schools — which brought with it challenges, especially for the union rep.
Mr Taylor said that under the nominated transfer system, a small school such as Corindi PS stood to lose a teacher if just one student left.
“This causes a great deal of stress on all staff just waiting for the phone call,” he said. “As Fed Rep, I have needed to support those members who were ‘selected’.”
His support had been called on seven times over those years, but on one occasion the town had had enough and there were “community protests and media at the gates”.
“Federation’s Trade Union Training courses gave me the strategies and confidence to deal with these very delicate situations,” said Mr Taylor, who was encouraged to be active in the union by a mentor at Chatswood High School.
The many challenges of the smaller P6 and P5 schools were the reason he became a candidate for a position on Federation’s Small Schools Committee, an appointment he held for 12 years.
“During this time we met with various Education ministers, the Board of Studies, directors and state politicians,” he said. “In particular, we met several times with the champion of public education, [the late Greens MLC] John Kaye.
“The committee fought for changes to the nominated transfer system, multi-stage units of work, executive release and the addition of a full-time senior school assistant in P6 schools.
“These committees give a Federation member, other than through their local teachers’ association, an opportunity to help formulate Federation policy. For a classroom teacher from a ‘bush school’, it was great to see the inner workings of Federation and the dedication of all in head office and regional office staff.”
Being close to Southern Cross University’s School of Education in Coffs Harbour, Corindi Public takes on up to 10 student teachers each year.
“Their passion and enthusiasm is contagious!” Mr Taylor said. “As Fed Rep, I inform them of how the Federation can support them in their career in teaching and of the historical gains the union has made over the years for the profession.”
Beyond the school gates, Mr Taylor is a keen traveller who caught the travel bug early in life and has squeezed in some impressive adventures over the years.
“I have been to every continent except Antarctica,” he said. “From living in Portland, Oregon, on teacher exchange in the early '90s to over the past couple of years trekking in Nepal, canoeing the Mekong, riding camels on the Moroccan/ Algerian border to white-water rafting the Peruvian Amazon.
“So I have many travel stories for the students at Corindi PS. I’m now wondering what the surf would be like on Lombok at Christmas.”