ASSOCIATION SPOTLIGHT

Walgett TA

Number of members: 123
President: John Kotlash
Secretary: Rosemary Davis-Nel

Location: The Walgett TA lies in the far north and west of NSW, covering the towns of Walgett, Collarenebri, Goodooga, Lightning Ridge and Carinda. Because the association is very spread out the meetings rotate around the different communities. Usually they are held in Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Collarenebri and Goodooga. This gives each school a good chance to get to an association meeting.

Our area and community: The association covers a fairly remote part of NSW and the membership is mostly based in the towns of Walgett, Collarenebri and Lightning Ridge and the smaller communities of Goodooga and Carinda. There are large Indigenous communities in most of these centres and, in Lightning Ridge, a very large contingent of non-English-speaking migrants.

The local industries are predominantly mining and farming, although with a recent drought persisting the farming share of the community’s wealth has decreased markedly.

Teacher demographics: The teachers in our association are mostly young, mostly in their first few years of teaching. As a result they are very keen and sometimes unaware of how difficult their working conditions can be. They form a can-do workforce, looking for opportunities to better their schools, communities and student outcomes.

Our focus: At the moment our association is focusing on the conditions under which beginning teachers are employed. We are exploring with local management the amount of time available for first-year and beginning teachers to pursue their accreditation and professional growth.

We are keen to support Federation training when it is available in our area. There’ll shortly be a Beginning Teachers course nearby and we are hunting our first-year teachers for it.

Issues discussed at our meetings: The new Performance and Development Framework is a hot topic at our local meetings. All our staff is very interested to find out how the new system will support them.

Attendance at meetings: Meetings are well attended. Members realise that Federation is a voice of reason that can be relied upon to provide great advice and correct information. At a time when the DEC is in a major period of restructuring, Federation’s information is the best available.

We always have a meal after our meetings. Sometimes this is at the Walgett clubs or the Hong Doo Chinese restaurant, Collarenebri and Goodooga usually put on a couple of plates and a BBQ. In Lightning Ridge the local bowling club provides a welcome ale as well as a meal.

Our executive structure: All our positions are filled. John Kotlash, the new President, was previously president of the Mudgee TA. Apart from Rose, our Secretary, there’s Scott Hardy as Vice President, William Shannon as Treasurer, Renee Fagan as Women’s Contact, Molly Moyes as Aboriginal Education Contact, Leah Buckland as Casual/Unemployed Contact, Sarah Lynch as Peace Contact, Theresa Friggieri as GLBTI contact and Janet Westcott as Teacher Housing Authority Contact.

The best thing we’ve done in the past five years: The best thing the association has managed recently was to find the chequebook! It is very difficult to keep good records and maintain cohesion in the association as the staff turnover in the area is very high.

Challenges: We’re a very united group and are more than happy to come to a colleague’s aid if required. As an association we know that in unity lies our strength.

Our current challenges revolve around making Walgett schools great places to learn and teach in again. It is encouraging that the DEC has accepted our request to provide two principal positions — one for each of the school sites. Hopefully the DEC will recognise that one principal at each school site plus an executive principal to negotiate with other organisations and government agencies might be a better approach in the future. This issue is ongoing and the Walgett Teachers Association really thanks our fellow Federation members for the support they have given us.