Schools need fair funding allocations so that every student gets the right educational opportunities to achieve the best results possible — this, says Stephen, is an issue of central importance. If he were prime minister he would “fund the full Gonski and then some”.
He urges other teachers to become Fed Reps, saying the role offers the chance to play a positive role: “It is important to have someone who takes up issues with management and encourages other members to engage in our campaigns.”
As Fed Rep at Warners Bay HS he is scrupulous about ensuring that members in his workplace are properly consulted around changes to work practices: “The Fed Rep is crucial in ensuring that members are properly informed of developments in government policy and industrial relations that will affect their employment into the future”.
One incident that engaged Stephen’s skills and knowledge was when he helped a member in troubling dealings with the authorities after a student had made vexatious allegations against the teacher. “The process needs to be followed properly and the support members receive through this process is important to their wellbeing,” he said.
Stephen has always been a union member, whether working at the BHP steelworks after finishing school or as a student member at university. “Unions are our only protection against poor pay and conditions and can play a constructive role in any workplace,” he said.
Many members on his watch have “made the switch” to direct payment of union fees but he’s aware that there is a bit of resistance from older members.
He said he does not receive any release time at Warners Bay HS for his Fed Rep duties but does have a Federation Committee to lighten his load.
Whenever he has time and half a chance Stephen, an avid jazz, blues, reggae and rock ‘n’ roll fan, plays the harmonica and jams with his mates.
If he had the power he’d release all asylum-seekers from detention. “Mandatory detention of refugees is a scar on the nation’s soul. Assess them while they live and work in the community as we used to before Labor and Liberal politicians decided there was political mileage in punishing vulnerable people for electoral gain.”