There was a time when Robynne Prosser had needed to call on Fed for advice and help, and she realised what a source of strength the union is.
“I felt that the time had come for me to share what the NSWTF could do to help members,” says Robynne, whose career in classrooms spans 30 years in NSW and Queensland. She now teaches in the picturesque little green valley of Bungendore, near Queanbeyan, and indulges a lifelong passion for music and handicrafts when school’s out.
Robynne’s activism was fuelled by Organiser Waine Donovan. Some years ago, she began attending association meetings regularly and disseminating information to members at her workplace. She became Fed Rep at Queanbeyan PS and, after moving to Bungendore PS, became Women’s Contact last year and Fed Rep from the beginning of this year.
“I really wanted to share with others what was happening in Federation,” said Robynne. “Indeed, I don’t profess to know about all that Fed is able to offer but we have a brilliant Organiser who is always able to offer assistance when it’s needed.”
“It’s important to have a Federation initial point of contact in a school that members can access at need. This is a necessary and vital role — the Rep has been my first point of call on the several occasions when I’ve required assistance in the past.”
Personal and altruistic reasons drove Robynne to join the union.
“Firstly, I wanted to be protected,” she said. “In my early years as a teacher I heard numerous horrific stories involving workplace injuries and accusations against teachers. I never envisioned any of these things happening to me — who does? But I wasn’t about to get caught out — anything can happen at any time, right?”
The other reason for her activism stems from the reason she and most others join this profession. “Teaching was what I had always wanted to do — I really enjoy seeing the difference that I can make in a child’s life as they become more knowledgeable about themselves and the world — to see them develop skills to reach their potential and lead productive lives.
“I wanted to protect these rights for each and every child so joining the NSWTF seemed like a great idea — many single voices all joining together to fight for the educational rights of children and the working conditions of teachers to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all.”
At Bungendore PS, Robynne and others have recently formed a Federation Workplace Committee and are planning to become more active in school: “This is a new thing for some of our committee members, including me. We’re hoping to make a small difference in opening up channels of communication for members with Fed.” So far she has not felt the need to apply for release time to fulfil her union responsibilities.
A question we usually asks our Fed Reps, is “What would you do if you were prime minister for a day?”, and Robynne came right back on that one.
“Well, I think I’d rather turn the tables and have the PM stand in my shoes for a day. Maybe then Mr Abbott would actually experience what we public school teachers do each day and how children perceive every experience and opportunity we make available to them.
“It would be invaluable for him to witness first-hand the problems we encounter daily with a lack of staff, physical resources and money.
“Hopefully (and I am being extremely optimistic here), Mr Abbott would realise that investing in the future of our youth, our greatest resource, is imperative, and that all Australians would reap rewards that would far exceed all of our expectations if education was properly and fairly resourced.
“I don’t think I could make much of a difference in the PM’s shoes but I’m sure more would come of Mr Abbott being a teacher for a day.”