Hastings River TA

Number of members: 141
President: Scott Spurway
Secretary: Michelle Millard

Our area and community: The Association area encompasses many smaller feeder schools to Wauchope High School. These include Wauchope Primary, Long Flat, Upper Rollands Plains, Comboyne, Huntington, Beechwood, Telegraph Point and Herons Creek. Some students even travel to our area from near Kempsey in the north and Kendall in the south.

The Hastings Valley is possibly one of the most beautiful and well-kept secrets in NSW with wonderful beaches, rivers, forests, national parks and World Heritage-listed areas. The valley is 3854 square km, a very large area of forest and prime agricultural land. Some of our public education students have to travel more than 50 minutes each way to their closest school.

Our meetings: We meet at the Wauchope Country Club on Wednesday from 4–5pm and we encourage all of our member schools to send a representative or come along in groups. We know staff are very busy and that our Association draws on a large area but we actively encourage all members to come as much as possible to meetings.

As the area has many teachers retiring over the next few years new teachers are made more than welcome and encouraged to take up the wonderful professional and social opportunities with which Federation can provide them.

Executive Committee: As well as the President and Secretary we have a Treasurer and New Activist Contact in Sarah Rowsell.

Challenges: The rural communities in this vast valley compose a medium to low SES base and the diverse mix of students confronts teachers with the associated problems found in a rural community — poverty, high welfare dependency, seasonal and limited job opportunities.

The public schools have adapted a comprehensive range of programs to support all students regardless of their social or economic status. They include Aboriginal community programs to cater for our strong Biripi student populations, gifted and talented programs, state-of-the-art VET/TAS (Vocational Education Training and Technical and Applied Studies) and Agricultural training facilities, breakfast clubs and special needs student programs for a growing learning support and special needs student base.

We face the problem that steadily-growing, well-funded private schools in nearby Port Macquarie are attracting some of our finest home-grown public education students in their final years, and there are limited employment opportunities for young adult school-leavers in tight economic and welfare-dependent circumstances.

On the bright side, we have Charles Sturt University and Newcastle University establishing million-dollar facilities/campuses and training centres to help our students gain academic qualifications locally. These new facilities include comprehensive medical and scientific health training centres that will be fully operational by the end of next year.

The best things we’ve done recently: We’ve gathered tremendous local support for the Gonski campaign, helped deserving students with grants and physical support, encouraged new teachers to become part of Federation and replace older retiring active members, and joined with the nearby Associations in Port Macquarie and Kempsey to keep our public schools strong.

We’ve contributed to Federation’s activism by proposing many recommendations to Council. We’re thankful to our past stalwart, Wayne Webber, formerly local Organiser and later Federation Life Member and Assistant General Secretary (Schools) and the new area representative, Ian Watson, for keeping our union strong.