Retiring General Secretary Jenny Diamond wants teachers not to forget that a strong and seasoned union stands behind them and if, despite government attempts to atomise the public school system, they link hands, they’ll find the strength to fight for the things that matter.
The attacks on public education and unions today are “more insidious and covert”, says Ms Diamond, who like much of her generation of Federation members was blooded in the battle against the Greiner and Metherell education policies of the early 1980s.
“The current incarnation of the old devolution agenda that we fought Metherell over is Local Schools, Local Decisions — it’s the same kind of thing but sneakier, that leaves schools to sink or swim on their own instead of having statewide cohesiveness.”
Ms Diamond’s first taste of the workings of Federation and the vision that inspires the union’s enduring campaigns for “fair and decent” education policies came when she first attended Annual Conference in 1982, shortly after starting work as a teacher. Her commitment strengthened, she became more active: four years later she was inaugural Federation Representative at Kingscliff High School, then followed a succession of Fed Rep and Association President positions until she became City Organiser in 1996. In 2010, she was elected General Secretary.
Her departure comes partway through her term as General Secretary. “I was eligible to retire two years ago but it was a critical time,” she said. “The world around us was changing and our leadership needed to be stable.” She feels the time is right now to leave. “Our Officer corps is committed and strong, and with that stability it’s a good time for a change.”
Ms Diamond is laying down her own battleaxe to spend time with her family and take up old interests that have fallen by the wayside over the years. “Just quiet little things like gardening and knitting. Does that sound boring? I’d like to play the piano again. I used to teach music but I haven’t touched a piano in ages.” She plays a mid-air chord and smiles.
Nominations for the succeeding General Secretary are open and an election will be held on August 2.