The position of Federation Representative has allowed Deniliquin High School’s Paul Ferguson to develop a deeper understanding not only of the objectives and operation of the union, but of the teaching profession itself.
“A lot of colleagues over the years have been Fed Reps and told me how much they learned about teaching, policies and processes by doing this job,” Paul recalled. “It seemed like a good idea to try and learn as much as I could about the profession.”
There are many ways for Federation members to learn more about the union and the profession, and to prepare themselves to take on the role of Fed Rep, he said. “I would suggest that they join a Federation work- place committee. Ensure that they go to as many association meetings as they can and get to know what the current and future issues are. Also, try and take advantage of the training that Federation has on offer.”
While the role is helping to educate Paul about the profession, he also recognises the responsibility he has to convey the relevance and importance of Federation to beginning and new teachers.
“We get a lot of teachers at the start of their career in Deniliquin and it is pleasing to see them engage with Federation and become members, keeping our union strong,” he said.
“I enjoy the current benefits and conditions due to the hard work and sacrifice of teachers and the union over the previous decades. I feel that for this to continue I need to do my part as well.”
While one of his primary wishes for 2013 is to see Benji Marshall lead his beloved NRL team, the Wests Tigers, back to the top, there are plenty of issues in education that also need to be addressed. The reduction in government funding of public education is “of huge importance”, he suggested, adding that the lack of accessible professional learning opportunities for teachers in country areas is a problem.
While Paul does not get any release time for his Fed Rep duties, he receives plenty of support from his fellow workers and Federation members at Deniliquin.
“We have so many teachers who are involved with helping out with their time and energy,” he said. “This year our committee consists of Bronwyn Money, Martin Blake and Karen Riley. We also have a number of teachers who, while not on the committee, help out when they are needed.”
“I have dealt with many issues and incidents over the years. Some weeks are quiet, and others are crazy. There has definitely been a range of things to keep me on my toes!”
In contrast to the role of a Fed Rep, he suspects the Prime Ministership would be an opportunity to recuperate. Paul joked that if he was in the nation’s top job for a day, he’d simply “hang out at Kirribilli House, have a BBQ and play bocce on the lawns”. No doubt it’d be a well-deserved rest from the responsibilities of a Fed Rep.