Being a union member has always been important to Jean Chapman but even more so now. “In the culture of litigation that has sprung up Federation stands solidly at your back,” she says.
Apart from the security provided by Federation, there is the chance for members to attend conferences and rallies and meet many other professionals.
Murrumburrah High, on the southwest slopes of the Riverina, has a solid workplace committee. “I am very proud of the fact that there is a strong workplace committee in our very small high school,” Jean says.
“It was formed at a time of adversity that brought us all together.
“Our strength has made communication with hierarchy so much easier. We each have our strengths and enjoy working together. Staff are represented at all levels and feel confident about reporting and discussing issues of concern.”
Gonski funding issue is of significant importance to Murrumburrah High.
“Our little school is going to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding [if the fifth and sixth years of Gonski are not funded],” says Jean. “We are a small rural school in a low socio-economic area and depend on this funding to give our students the same educational opportunities that students in larger cities have.
“I am also very concerned over the cuts that have been made to the education of students with special needs. We need more equity in education so that all children have exactly the same opportunity to learn.”
Jean wrote to the Prime Minister to state her case and on August 22 received a reply (pictured) from Tony Abbott. If she were prime minister, she says, full Gonski funding would be reinstated forthwith to ensure that all children have access to the same level of
“I would also make the DEC remove all unflued gas heaters and asbestos from schools to demonstrate care for the health and wellbeing of students and staff,” Jean said.
A Fed Rep is called on to represent staff on a variety of issues, some of which can blow up into major irritants. On one occasion, Jean says with restraint, she and the workplace committee “clarified an issue over footwear in the staff dress code when a senior executive member became confused on the issue”.
Jean points out the substantial rewards for members who take up the Fed Rep baton. “There are great opportunities for professional development through the various conferences run, the chance to network with most schools in the State and the chance to really understand the Department’s policies and procedures.
“It is a fun job to have most of the time and you get to work with the staff at your school in a completely different way, leading to better working relationships.”
She does not get any release time for the job but says, “I don’t feel the need for any as I enjoy the job and am willing to take on the challenges. Being the Fed Rep is of major importance to me.”
It’s a busy life, in school and out. “I own five horses and love riding them,” says Jean. “At the moment, I am competing in team penning events but I also enjoy showjump judging at junior events. I am a member of the local Horse Trials club and Treasurer of the Spring Show Society. My hobbies include reading and cryptic crosswords when I have the time.”