Kris McGrane is proud of belonging to a union with a strong grassroots democratic culture. “I’ve heard it said you get the union you deserve,” he said. “NSW teachers get the best and it’s all thanks to the active efforts of our members.”
The Gonski funding campaign is a case in point. “I’m proudest of the way we have continued the Gonski fight despite official discouragement,” said Kris, who regularly wears his Gonski t-shirt to school.
Most Woolgoolga High teachers gathered outside the school gates to welcome the Gonski buses last year and a couple of them have “greened-up” their staffrooms with Gonski material.
As a history teacher he is astounded when some people don’t understand the watershed significance of Gonski funding.
“At one of our school meetings someone in a position of power said, ‘I’ve seen Gonskis come and go in the past 30 years’. How can anyone say that? This is the first time I can recall any government giving us more funding rather than less. Governments since the Eighties had been cutting our funding.”
“We’re taking on more kids who need support so it’s very important that we get continuing Gonski funding,” said Kris. “These children need all the help they can get.”
Kris has been Fed Rep at Woolgoolga HS for a year — a busy one — and is also Vice President, Councillor and Aboriginal Contact of the Coffs Harbour TA.
Industrial experience has given him appreciation of how solidly the Teachers Federation functions.
“I’ve worked in other industries before teaching and taught in other countries, and I’ve always been a member of the relevant union — I’ve even helped start a union when there wasn’t one,” he said.
“So I can speak with some confidence when I say Federation can be proud of its history and institutions.
“The organisation of those institutions means every member is able to contribute what they can from workplace, from association, from Council and conference.”
As Fed Rep at Woolgoolga, Kris is following in the footsteps of Federation stalwarts Dick McDermott and Kath Flanagan, and hopes to make his own contribution to the work of the association and the larger union.
“The Fed Rep is the face of the Fed to the grassroots membership,” he says. He values the job because it exemplifies Federation’s bottom-up democracy.
Woolgoolga High has an active Federation Committee with a core of seven members. Kris has half an hour a fortnight for release duties and is in the middle of negotiations to get more time.
Away from the classroom and Fed Rep duties the local beaches beckon. “I swim at our beautiful local beaches, garden, read sci-fi, watch the game they play in heaven — rugby union — and NFL, listen to punk music and play backgammon,” says the Woolgoolga High Fed Rep.