ASSOCIATION SPOTLIGHT

Manning River Association

Number of members: 288
President: Kerryn Cooen
Secretary: Judith Wood
Where and when do you meet? We meet on the third Wednesday after Council at the Railway Bowling Club in Taree.

How would you describe the area and community covered by your
association?
The association is centred on Greater Taree but includes small rural communities inland and on the coast. The ageing demographic is changing as city people take the “tree route” and younger families move into coastal areas such as Harrington and Old Bar. The isolation and distance between communities is a barrier to uniting them but the MRTA prides itself on providing opportunities to engage the wider community in its work. There’s a significant Indigenous population. We’ve got a big oyster industry and large farming and riparian sectors.

What issues and challenges do you face? The significant Indigenous population has meant that two of the schools are part of the Connected Communities Initiative. The MRTA is trying to help those schools in particular to support the learning needs of Indigenous students. This involves advocating for the full Gonski model so that the additional funding to support Indigenous students as well as regional communities is forthcoming.

What are the demographics of the teachers? There are increasing numbers of early career teachers. We have a mix of permanent and casual/temporary teachers.

What are you focusing on at the moment? We’re focusing on the recruitment and retention of new teachers to ensure that Federation’s strength is maintained and enhanced. We’ve been heartened by the increasing activism of new teachers taking on the roles of Fed Rep, Women’s Contact and Workplace Committee Members in schools.

What is the best thing your association has done in the past five years? Last year, the association held a Gonski funding rally outside a high school. AEU Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos attended, and the then local federal member, Rob Oakeshott, spoke in our favour. The event garnered print and television coverage.

What are your meetings like? How is attendance? Our meetings are laidback — members are offered a drink to help promote atmosphere. There are robust discussions on local and national issues and updates on issues raised at State Council.

How do you try to attract members to meetings? Last month we held a combined Wingham TA and Manning River TA dinner at which Deputy President Gary Zadkovich was guest speaker. It was a chance for colleagues to form links and share experiences.

Have you held any special events lately? We held a temporary and casual teachers’ seminar followed by drinks and nibbles a few months ago. All permanent members were invited to attend to meet the casual and temporary teachers from the course and encourage activism.

What does your Association executive structure look like? We have a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Women’s Contact. This activist core is always open to more members. We’d like to encourage people into roles such as Aboriginal Education Contact and New Activist Contact to support the demographics of the area.