ASSOCIATION SPOTLIGHT

Members: 1193

President: Gemma Burrows

Secretary: Paul Green

Our community: Gosford TA is one of the associations that covers schools on the NSW Central Coast, an area north of the Hawkesbury River to South of Lake Macquarie, and is home to more than 86,000 families.

Many would probably know the region for its natural beauty and fantastic beaches. Some of our teachers even manage to fit in the odd early morning surf before they get to school. Gosford TA covers schools in the state electorates of Terrigal, Gosford and Wyong, and the federal electorates of Robertson and Dobell.

Our challenges: The local population includes many young families who have settled on the coast to raise their children. While the coast lifestyle may seem idyllic, below the surface there is a large degree of hardship for many families.

There are very few local jobs, unemployment is high and the youth unemployment figures are staggering; at the previous federal election it was around 30 per cent.

Many families also face the hardship of a daily commute to Sydney or Newcastle for work. The most recent figures show that 38,000 make the trip by train or car every day and many of these workers have young children.

Our public schools not only deliver high quality educational outcomes for the local community but play an integral role in providing stability for these families.

Federal Liberal member Lucy Wicks repeatedly refuses to meet our delegations even though the vast majority of kids in her electorate go to public schools. She has refused to support the full needs-based funding package for our schools but did manage to build a tax office on the Gosford waterfront despite great public opposition. It is now up for sale.

Our teachers: They are generally more mature in age but also a new generation of teachers who are taking up the baton for public education. Some of our teachers are born and bred “Coasties” and others have come from the hard-to-staff areas of the state through incentive transfers and other appointment mechanisms in the Staffing Agreement.

Our meetings: They are certainly never dull and attendance is great. Teachers want to engage and we have some fantastic young teachers who are becoming seasoned activists.

Meetings are held at the Gosford Arts Centre and consist of a mostly merry band (depending on the time of year and their day at school) of extremely overworked and committed teachers.

Our teachers are able to express opinions openly and engage. The star attraction is our incredible organiser Deb Westacott who works tirelessly in our schools engaging with members. But there is an added incentive; our munchies and refreshments provided by Kate and Mark. The great thing about GTA is we are a strong collective supporting each other. There is power in our unity.