Leah Wright has a tip for teachers troubled by injustice in their working conditions and in the classroom: “Don’t be afraid to speak your mind as nine times out of 10, others are feeling the same”.
As Fed Rep, she places priority on building a trustworthy environment that enables people to do their best and be confident to speak their mind. “There should be transparency so that everyone knows the ins and outs of procedures and issues can be dealt with collaboratively,” she said.
Leah, who became Fed Rep at “Bre” at the beginning of this year and was Secretary at her last appointment in Walgett, advises teachers thinking of becoming Fed Reps: “Take every opportunity that comes your way, attend meetings, conferences and trade union training — this not only gives you a wealth of information but connects you to some really great, interesting and well-informed teachers who are at the forefront of fighting for what really matters in education. Pay attention to Federation’s goals, read about events and progress in the journal and support this in whatever way you can; emails, letter drops, hosting events etc.”
Since taking up the position, Leah has been busy organising a BBQ to support the Gonski tour, giving out leaflets of invitation to the wider community, and working on a motion on temporary and casual positions rights and roles — a pertinent issue at her workplace.
What she’s most proud of is “creating a collegial atmosphere where members are comfortable to discuss what’s important to them in the workplace and also want to socialise and have a good laugh together”.
Brewarrina CS is a rural and remote school in north-west NSW 97 kilometres away from the nearest settlement, Bourke, with a population of 1500 and an enrolment of 170 students — 97 per cent Indigenous — from kindergarten to year 12. Leah teaches science from kinder to year 6, Human Society and Its Environment and Creative and Performing Arts to 4/5, maths in kindergarten, and sport in years 5-12. She gets no release time for Federation duties but has the support of an Indigenous Contact, a Women’s Contact and “an absolutely fabulous Secretary”.
Outside school hours Leah would love to surf “but there’s none of that out here, unfortunately!”. Instead, she plays Oz tag and netball and coach’s netball during the lunch break. She is involved in Bre Girl Fit (a program specifically targeting high school girls’ health and wellbeing). “Since moving to Bre I have joined the NSW Fire and Rescue crew, and I’ve also began having a few flying lessons,” she adds.
Leah’s “prime minister for a day” agenda is huge. “I would make all the politicians take a pay cut to help provide the money needed for quality health care and schooling. I would initiate prison work crews to tackle problems such as deforestation and regeneration and up-skill them to provide building maintenance and cleaning programs for low-SES households. I would make all politicians have at least a five-year placement in a labouring job so that they could truly empathise with workers and reassess continually raising the pension age.”