Monaro Teachers Association

Number of members in the association: 287
Meets: On the third Tuesday after Council meetings, at Coffey’s Hotel in Cooma
President: Denis Bruce (acting)
Secretary: Scott Grose

How would you describe your area and the community covered by your association? Cooma is a regional centre in South-eastern NSW. During the post-war period a large number of “displaced persons” were brought to Australia to work on the Snowy scheme and many eventually settled in Cooma. A lot of names on class rolls reflect this early multiculturalism though most are now third or fourth-generation Australians and the area is less diverse. Like many country towns we have a mixture of agricultural industries, tourism, retail and regional services employees and tradies. Politically, Monaro is seen as a bellwether seat and in both recent elections, the sitting Labor member was defeated, installing conservative politicians at both State and Federal level.

What are the demographics of teachers in your Association? Our membership covers teachers from an area bordered by Jindabyne, Nimmitabel, Bredbo and Adaminaby. Most of the active members of the Association are in the latter half of their careers and we have had six or seven long-term unionists retire in recent years.

What is your Association focusing on at the moment? On attracting newer teachers to our meetings and making them aware of the long-term efforts that have been made to obtain their working conditions. Some may not be aware of the past struggles our predecessors undertook on the profession’s behalf. Our first meeting of 2014 was a BBQ get-together on March 4 in order to attract a younger crowd.

What is the best thing your Association has done recently? Our association provided funds to sponsor awards at our local school’s presentation ceremonies.

What are your Association meetings like? The meetings are very relaxed and friendly. We try to stick to the agenda but often we break into a general discussion on some point, which allows everyone the chance to have a say.

What does your executive structure look like? We have a President (the Vice-President is acting in this position while an election is held after Janet Johnston retired), Vice-President (Denis Bruce), Secretary (myself), Treasurer (Natalie Milliken) and a shared Councillor with Bombala HS (Krystal-Rae Mobbs) as our main office-holders.

What sort of issues are being discussed at meetings? We try to stay abreast of the broader issues affecting teachers, especially those across NSW Government schools. The “around the grounds” reports from Fed Reps are, however, usually the most entertaining part of the meeting. One issue pertained to the poor quality of toilet paper in a school’s dispensers, so samples (unused) were collected and displayed to the meeting. It had the desired effect and was improved rapidly.

How do you try to attract members to attend meetings? We pay for light snacks and refreshments at meetings. Our annual dinner is partly subsidised by the Association and is a great opportunity to get new members along. We are also sponsoring presentation night awards to schools that have Fed Reps who attend meetings and lodge a submission.

Have you held any special events lately? A shared annual dinner with the Bombala branch was recently held, with Federation Deputy President Gary Zadkovich as special guest. It was a good night out and provided us with some updates on current Federation campaigns.

What challenges does your Association face? Most of the active members of the Association are in the latter half of their careers and we have had six or seven long-term unionists retire in recent years. This has led to a reduction in the number attending meetings. Another factor is teachers’ workloads, with the new curriculum, programming, assessment and reporting regimes all adding to demands on staff time. It’s hard for many to get passionate about industrial issues when they are flat-out getting through a normal day’s work.