AEU NEWS v o l u m e 16 I i s s u e 2 I m a r c h 2 010
More than just NUMBERS What’s wrong with My School
Women and unions | Victoria’s impending teacher shortage AEU
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Contents cover story
My School: your stories
AEU Victorian Branch Branch president: Mary Bluett Branch secretary: Brian Henderson
Members give their responses to My School and John Graham reveals the flaws in the Government’s flagship.
AEU VIC head office address 112 Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford, 3067 postal address PO Box 363, Abbotsford, 3067 tel (03) 9417 2822, 1800 013 379 fax 1300 658 078 web www.aeuvic.asn.au email firstname.lastname@example.org
country offices B allarat (03) 5331 1155 | Benalla (03) 5762 2714 Bendigo (03) 5442 2666 | Gippsland (03) 5134 8844 Geelong (03) 5222 6633
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Two AEU members spent a month working in a union-run school for Burmese refugees. Now other teachers are urged to follow their lead.
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aeu news | march 2010
3 president’s report 4 letters 23 women’s focus 24 AEU training 25 on the phones
27 safety matters 28 classifieds 29 christina adams 30 culture 31 giveaways
editorial enquiries Nic Barnard tel (03) 9418 4841 fax (03) 9415 8975 email firstname.lastname@example.org
advertising enquiries Lyn Baird 11/02/2010 12:47:06 PM
RANCH Conference will be held on Saturday July 31, 2010, commencing at 9am for registration and 9.30am for the start of the conference. The closing dates for submission of rule changes and for general business for Branch Conference is 12 noon, Monday May 3. ◆
From mediation to creating his own safety devices, health and safety rep Noel Xuereb’s passion for his role is undimmed.
tel (03) 9418 4879 fax (03) 9415 8975 email email@example.com
AEU News is produced by the AEU Publications Unit: editor Nic Barnard | designers Lyn Baird, Peter Lambropoulos, Kim Fleming journalists Rachel Power, Anna Kelsey-Sugg | editorial assistant Helen Prytherch PrintPost Approved: 349181/00616 ISSN: 1442—1321. Printed in Australia by Total Print on Re Art Matt 100% Recycled Paper. Free to AEU members. Subscription rate: $60 per annum. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the AEU News are those of the authors/members and are not necessarily the official policy of the AEU (Victorian Branch). Contents © AEU Victorian Branch. Contributed articles, photographs and illustrations are © their respective authors. No reproduction without permission.
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At this year’s Pride March, one group drew particularly loud cheers from the crowds — students from Melbourne High School.
More than 700 women have gone through the Anna Stewart Memorial Project since it was launched in 1984 to activate women members.
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School shows pride
A woman’s place is in her union
COVER IMAGE: Peter Lambropoulos
Time to TAKE A STAND Members must refuse to conduct the NAPLAN tests in May if Julia Gillard will not act in the best interests of students and ban the simplistic and destructive ranking of schools.
OTHING is more important to AEU members than the quality of education our students receive. That is why we must take the strongest stand to stop league tables. Julia Gillard launched her My School website in January, claiming it would “shine a light” on individual school performance. Her website focuses on NAPLAN results as the major, if not sole, measurement of school performance. For the record, the AEU maintains that rigorous, ongoing assessment is an integral part of successful teaching and learning. We also support parents’ right to rich information on their child’s progress and indeed the value their school adds to that progress. However, the My School website does little to contribute to that rich information. Moreover, it invites shallow judgements on school performance, including the publication of league tables. Despite the urging of the peak organisations representing parents, principals and teachers, nothing has been done to stop those student results being used by the media to publicly rank Cooper, Geoff Allen & Staff schoolsAlan in league tables. Level 3/432 Road,and Melbourne 3004 League tablesStareKilda simplistic misleading. Furthermore, tests were not designed Visit ustheatNAPLAN www.retirevic.com.au to be used to compare schools and are not
Despite expert advice, the Federal Government refuses to protect students and school communities by stopping the creation and publication of damaging league tables. We have called on Julia Gillard to protect schools from unfair rankings by acting to prevent the publication of league tables. On April 12, the AEU federal executive will meet to consider her response to our call. If she is not prepared to act to protect students and schools, we will have to take the only professional and ethical action we can — we must not conduct the 2010 NAPLAN tests in May. accurate enough to do so. The Deputy Prime Minister does not lack League tables damageAEU schools PREFERRED by naming and PROVIDERS shaming those that do not get high average scores. evidence of the impact of league tables overseas. Unfair labelling has led to declining enrolments Unfairly branding schools as failing based on a single test is devastating for students and their and school closures. Moreover, the educational impact has been equally damaging — narrowing teachers. It makes it harder to achieve genuine of the curriculum, focusing on the tests and testing improvement for individual students and for schools practice. Our students do not deserve this. as a whole. Let us hope that the Deputy Prime Minister can Schools that are struggling need resources not rankings. set aside political posturing and act in the interest of students. If she will not, we must. ◆ The evidence is in League tables will force schools to compete and Retirement Victoria the AEU’s preferred providerscore of financial retirement planning services to members. focus more onislifting their average andand less Retirement Victoria Pty Ltd is an authorised representative of Millennium3 Financial Services Pty Lts AFSL 244252 AEU Vic branch president on individual learning.
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letters Letters from members are welcome. Send to: AEU News, PO Box 363, Abbotsford, 3067, fax (03) 9415 8975 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should be no more than 250 words and must supply name, workplace and contact details of the writer. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Next deadline: 28 April, 2010.
VIT fine is an outrage T
HE excessive amount demanded by the VIT for late payment of fees has been a major discussion point among staff at this school since their return from holidays. The imposition of a disproportionately high fine has given us (to quote a colleague) “another reason to hate the VIT”. No other organisation, service or utility provider demands a fine of over 40% for a late bill. Utility
In defence of My School IT'S SO sad to see the AEU taking its stand on the Federal Government’s My School website. After years of destroying any attempts to compare schools and thus allow governments to allocate remedial money on a more logical basis, it is now fighting the only comparison method we have left: NAPLAN. Of course NAPLAN and its predecessor’s results have been available for many years but even as a teacher I couldn't obtain earlier NAPLAN results from my own school. What hope parents? Just look at young students working in food outlets work out change in their head — let alone their writing skills. After spending billions with no tangible results, and good working class students still being shafted, Minister Gillard had no choice but to act. NAPLAN is not perfect but it is a crucial start. It may well be that once the dirt has been swept out from underneath the rug, a new performance measure could be introduced. The AEU is taking its position because it is horrified of Australians finding out the results of Edubabble, the doctrine formulated by the Educational Left in the universities, AEU and Socialist Left in the ALP. Edubabble’s key policy is
aeu news | march 2010
companies even have the courtesy to send reminder notices when a bill has been left unpaid. No doubt the VIT has introduced this fee as a punitive measure, possibly in response to the numbers who do pay late. It would be interesting to know whether the VIT considered the possible reasons for late payment. I can think of three: 1. The bill is sent at one of the busiest times of the school year
and is put aside and forgotten. 2. The bill is sent just before Christmas when people’s financial commitments are already onerous. 3. The bill is sent to disenchanted members of the VIT who intend to pay the bill at the last possible moment and then forget. Imposing such a fee, at such an unreasonably high rate, can only lead to more resentment of the VIT.
encapsulated in the “equality of outcomes” nonsense which says in effect that everyone should get their VCE, and don't worry too much if students cannot read or write. Edubabble is also the reason why huge numbers of AEU members send their own children to private schools. Julia Gillard has seen the “light on the hill” and, unlike the crocodile tears from the AEU, is one of the few heavyweights now really interested in working class children’s educational prospects. — Marcus L'Estrange St Kilda
similarly positioned appear now to be more fortuitous. Too late to help me — I’m enjoying CRT and looking after my children at home; however, the next step I would like the Government to take is to introduce some
In his own image WRITING as a teacher and parent, I broadly welcome the introduction of a national curriculum. Aside from the obvious advantages, it will end the ego-driven bickering, in-fighting and grandstanding that have riven staff rooms to the detriment of the profession for so long. It will also mean school selection panels will be forced to employ teachers who don’t remind them of themselves. With my first degree being a Masters in English Language and Literature, I am always advised after a failed application that I am “overqualified” for the position. The fortunes of myself and others
Many staff feel that it does nothing for them, and the only contact most have is when the bill comes for the next year’s fees. The VIT has shown its contempt for its members by imposing an exorbitant late fee in such a peremptory and dictatorial manner. It is indeed another reason to hate the VIT. — Portland Secondary College AEU sub-branch form of tenure to the profession, perhaps guaranteeing, as they do in Scotland, that every newly qualified teacher is given a job for a year in their first year of teaching. — Simon Clegg CRT, East Doncaster
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League tables opposition grows
Members told to prepare for action over tests if Government fails to ban league tables. Nic Barnard AEU News
ULIA Gillard has just three weeks left to avert action over this year’s NAPLAN tests by banning league tables, as the coalition against tables grows. The AEU federal executive will meet on April 12 to decide whether to go ahead with action to disrupt this year’s tests in May. The swell of opposition to the misuse of test data and concerns over the much-hyped My School website continue to grow, with parents’ and school council organisations working with the AEU and independent education unions. And a further warning has been delivered by visiting academic Robin Alexander of Cambridge University, author of a major report on the state of British primary education where tables and testing have been in place for almost two decades. Professor Alexander visited Australia on a speaking tour this month, including an address to members and guests at the AEU office. He said England’s test regime had “impoverished the curriculum, denying many children their entitlement to a balanced education. … Meanwhile standards have not risen as far or fast as has been claimed (and) the gap between high and low attainers remains as wide as ever.” Children needed to be assessed, and schools needed to be accountable; “The question is how and in relation to what. In any case, it is not testing which drives up standards but good teaching.” He added: “Our evidence also shows that a broad curriculum enhances rather than undermines standards in the ‘basics’, yet many political leaders continue to believe that standards and breadth are incompatible.”
And he warned against the obsession with international student achievement surveys. “‘World class’ has become little more than a slogan,” he said, “sidelining important questions about what one country can legitimately learn from others.” The AEU is to issue a joint letter with parents and school council organisations warning about the impact of tables. Nic Abbey, president of the Victorian Council of School Organisations (VICCSO), said the immediate impact of My School had been to stigmatise “failing schools”. But it was also “fueling complacency for
some schools that are ‘doing OK’.” He added: “What many parents are comparing are the results of schools that are not ... serving similar student populations.” The AEU will email members with the April 12 decision and circulate information about any action, including resources for informing parents, school councils and communities. A special edition newsletter will also be sent to all primary and secondary teacher and ES members about any action. ◆ More on My School: pages 12-16
Equity funding boost urged T
HE AEU has urged the Brumby Government to invest in improving equity in education and giving staff the resources and training to implement reforms, as ministers prepare the 2010 budget. The union’s budget submission again highlights Victoria’s status as the lowest funded state per student on education and urges the Government to target schools and preschools serving vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, including extending literacy and numeracy support, expanding welfare programs and special settings, and linking to community services to support families under stress. In early childhood, it condemns the exploitation and appalling conditions of staff in long day care and warns the Government it must act to reach its target of a highly qualified teacher in every setting. It is also scathing about the “failure to produce one piece of research or analysis after 12 months of dithering” in the state’s review into low pay in the disability sector. It calls for an urgent
independent review. The union offers broad support for many Brumby Government education programs. But it says schools and staff need greater time release and resources for professional development to make these initiatives succeed. It calls for the rebuilding program to be accelerated in light of the significant capital investment from the Federal Government’s stimulus plan. For schools facing declines in student numbers — especially those in rural communities — it urges investment to allow them to continue to provide a broad curriculum. “The economic difficulties facing rural and regional communities due to drought, declining agricultural markets and decreasing populations are only serving to exacerbate the educational challenges facing students.” The full submission can be found at www.aeuvic.asn.au/professional. ◆
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PD AND CURRICULUM COORDINATOR NETWORKS
HE AEU has established members’ networks for school curriculum coordinators and PD coordinators, as well as other members interested in material relating to these roles. Members receive regular email newsletters on matters of interest to each group, as well as one-off
Nic Barnard AEU News
HE AEU has joined the launch of a new national alliance on pay equity for women and the lodging of a federal test case that could have far-reaching consequences for low-paid staff in disability services. The Victorian branch is party to a case under the new Fair Work Act which seeks recognition for social and community sector workers — including our members in disability day services. The case has the backing of the Federal Government and follows last year’s report into the widening pay gap for women — now standing at 17%. It builds on a win by unions in Queensland which led to pay rises of 18–37% over four years for the sector. Instructors in day services are among the lowest paid workers in education and training despite having one of the toughest jobs, with a high risk of injury or assault. The lodging of the case was marked by the Canberra launch on March 11 of a new Equal Pay Alliance of 150 organisations — including unions, businesses and community groups. Guest speakers at the event included Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and sex discrimination
commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. Last year’s Making it Fair inquiry found that although part of the pay gap could be due to greater levels of part-time work and career breaks among women, most of it could not. Jobs in traditionally feminised sectors were consistently undervalued, the inquiry found. AEU women’s officer Barb Jennings said: “This is a really significant case and we’re very excited to be part of it. “The work of our disability sector members — most of whom are women — has been undervalued for too long. They work hard in very difficult circumstances.” Meanwhile, a memorandum of understanding is close to being signed which would see current agreements in disability day services rolled over for 12 months — giving members a 3.25% pay rise backdated to July 2009 and paving the way for concerted campaigning around pay levels in the sector. Services have already been funded for the pay rise, but most have not yet passed the money on to staff. The rolled-over agreement would run from July 2009 to June this year. ◆
PRESCHOOLS SEE pay rises go through P
AY rises have started to flow to early childhood teachers and assistants under the new agreements for community and council-run preschools. Teachers and assistants received pay rises backdated to May 3, 2009, with many also in line for a one-off payment. Preschools are now working through the changes under the agreements, which include a move from a 40-hour week to 38 hours for teachers, changes to the mix of teaching and preparation time, and new time allowances for assistants to support teachers. AEU vice president Shayne Quinn and deputy VP Martel Menz have been running network meetings across the state to explain the changes and answer questions. “The hours have been the biggest change for employees to get their heads around, but we are working through the issues with members,” Ms Menz said. “If anyone needs help, just get in touch and we’ll be happy to set up a meeting for your network.” CONF 8:15 – 9:0 0 9.00 – 9:15 9:30 – 10:4 5
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aeu news | march 2010
a “negotiable” rate. Other services are available. BuffWorx is part of the NSS TrainingWorx program, providing vocational training and employment opportunities to people with a disability who face barriers to developing job ready skills. The carwash can be found at the corner of Arthurton Road and Goldsmith Grove in Northcote. ◆
Early years conference Change will be a major feature of the AEU Early Years Conference on April 17. Aimed at early childhood members and primary members working with Years P–2, its theme is “Taking the lead in a time of change”. The conference features a full program of speakers and workshops on topics from transition and the new early years framework to handling stress, dealing with difficult people and coping with change. More details and a booking form at www.aeuvic.asn.au/childhood. ◆ n Educati From the onal Lea broad per dership spective lecturer Consortium of teacher, — and
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information about relevant forums, seminars and publications. Members can use the networks to seek assistance or advertise activities. AEU members interested in joining either network should email research officer John Graham at email@example.com. ◆
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SCHOOL shows PRIDE MHS principal Jeremy Ludowyke and students at Pride 2010
Nic Barnard AEU News
MONG the rainbow flags and community groups at this year’s Pride March, one drew particularly loud cheers from the crowds. They were students from Melbourne High School, marching in school uniform behind the college banner, with principal Jeremy Ludowyke beside them. Melbourne High is not the first school to have joined the march — that was Princes Hill Secondary College in 2005, and others including Eltham High have marched since. But it was the only one there this year. Ludowyke says next year he’d like to see many others. “If you ever want to experience an event where you have a feeling of community warmth and acclamation
that you can almost breathe in the air, then the Pride March is it, writ large,” he said. “To walk down the street and hear people rise to their feet and salute you and cheer you on is extraordinary.” The single-sex school has made a policy of embracing and supporting its same-sex-identifying students and others with an interest in queer issues, who have formed a group called SOFA — Same-sex-attracted and Other, Friends of Alliance. “It’s a group I have deliberately brought to the attention of the community rather than saying we don’t mind if you hide in a room and talk,” Ludowyke said. He was convinced of the need to stand up for gay students by research showing that on every indicator from
suicide to drop-out rates, same-sexidentifying students were one of the most at-risk groups in any school. “They experience [school] as a place of alienation, if not vilifications, if not constant harassment and bullying. If our intention is to assure all schools are safe and inclusive environments for all students, then this is a group that … we’ve treated with disdain,” he said. And he urged other schools to join next year’s march. “It’s probably the case that one of your students is marching in the Pride March already. What a strong statement you can make if you ask them to march in school uniform or decide to march with them and say, ‘I walk beside you’. “It would be wonderful to see a whole phalanx of schools there next year.” ◆
Writing themselves in S
AME-SEX attracted youth are encouraged to take part in the third Writing Themselves In survey, conducted by La Trobe University, and have their say about their lives and school experiences, homophobia and health and support services. Earlier surveys have made a real difference to the levels of support that same-sex attracted kids receive from teachers, youth workers and other professionals. Students aged 14–21 can take part in the anonymous survey at www.wti3.org.au. The survey ends in April. ◆
teaching initiatives program 2010 As part of our corporate citizenship activities, our Teaching Initiatives Program provides grants to Schools and Preschools to support innovative learning. Applications for funding open 1 March and close 16 April 2010. For more information about the application criteria, funding categories and to apply, visit www.victeach.com.au.
2/03/2010 9:54:10 AM
Green hands make light work
Sustainability coordinator Jean Sheridan with environment captains Maureen McCamish and Renee Povey
Rachel Power AEU News
HEN Western Port Secondary College’s sustainability coordinator Jean Sheridan put out an open invitation to students and staff to join her “Green Team”, she didn’t have high hopes. “I thought that maybe we would get a few staff and students … but we were inundated with keen students across four year levels.” The new team spent its first meeting weeding and fixing up the school garden following the holidays; and came away with a list of ideas for following weeks. “Although throughout our curriculum we encourage and teach sustainable practices, the proof is often in the day-to-day actions of the students,” Jean says. “For some of the students it has sparked a real awareness for our
environment, and is giving them an ownership of their school environment. I am hoping that green teams will spring up in all schools and we can in time all meet and share our ideas, and skills.” Western Port, serving a disadvantaged community in Hastings, 60km from Melbourne, was the first Victorian secondary college to be accredited as a sustainable school by the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSi) back in 2007. Between 2004 and 2007, the school reduced its energy consumption by 26% and gas use by 76%. It has since reduced its CO2 emissions by 43% or 285 tonnes per year. The school’s environmental journey began 10 years ago when it became involved in the “Sustainable Schools Trail”, developed by Mornington
An outdoor classroom is transforming learning at a peninsula college.
Peninsula Shire in 2000 to showcase local schools that were taking up sustainable practices. An outdoor classroom was Western Port’s contribution to the trail, and has become a space where the school draws together all the elements of its sustainable practice. It brings a hands-on approach to learning about environmental awareness, biodiversity and aesthetics. More traditional subjects also benefit from the open-air setting. Jean says the outdoor classroom has transformed learning at the school, improving students’ relations with teachers and peers. “Some of the least engaged and most problematic students come into their own in the garden and even become leaders to others,” she says. “They find they are better able to work as a team and share
JOIN THE AEU ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK
HUSH FOR HOMELESSNESS Sydney’s slippery slope RESS Watch doesn’t often venture north of the border, but we couldn’t ignore the media shenanigans which are sorely exercising our Sydney brothers and sisters. In a story which suggests some hacks would have failed their NAPLAN tests — that’s a purely diagnostic assessment, not a ranking, you understand — the Sunday Telegraph claimed on February 21 that NSW prins were four-square behind My School. Well, that’s one way of looking at a survey (by the NSW Primary Principals Association) which found that 67% considered My School a curriculum “time bomb”; 77% dismissed it as “a political exercise with little benefit to schools or communities” and only 1% agreed it was “effective and accurate”. Over in another Murdoch outpost, the Adelaide Advertiser has been spruiking a “code” that supposedly makes it even easier to use My School to work out how your school is doing. It seems to involve adding different years together, dividing by the square root of x and subtracting the number you first thought of. It all rather reminds Press Watch of those people who sell mathematical formulae for picking the numbers to win the lotto. Top work, chaps. ◆
IGN up for regular news and updates on environmental issues and the part that schools and the union movement are playing in tackling climate change. The AEU is launching a new environmental e-newsletter to keep you up-to-date on the issues affecting members and their workplaces and to highight the work that you are doing. To join the network, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Meredith Peace on (03) 9417 2822. ◆
aeu news | march 2010
responsibility.” Becoming a five-star school has enabled Western Port to integrate sustainable practices across the curriculum, instead of depending on the enthusiasms of individual staff members. The creation of the sustainability coordinator position has been critical to this success, by releasing a staff member to work with colleagues, issue press releases and liaise with other schools. Last year, Western Port was named School of the Year by ResourceSmart, the umbrella organisation linking the range of sustainability programs available to Victorian schools. Now it is now taking the lead again, as one of a handful of schools signed up to the Carbon Sink Schools project, aiming to reduce and absorb its carbon emissions on site. ◆
YMBOLISING the voiceless lives that homeless Australians lead, Hush for Homelessness is Australia’s biggest annual fundraising event to tackle homelessness. Mission Australia is asking Australians — particularly primary students — to challenge themselves or someone they know to experience what it’s like to be voiceless on Friday, May 14. Participants are simply asked to be silent for an hour and to seek sponsorship from family and friends for their efforts. More at www.hushforhomelessness. com.au. ◆
Curriculum going “too fast”
Nic Barnard AEU News
ASTEN slowly” is the AEU’s advice on a national curriculum as the Federal Government rushes to implement one of the most radical reforms in Australian education in just 10 months. The union has urged Education Minister Julia Gillard to delay the roll out of the first phase of the curriculum — covering English, maths, science and history — until 2012, to allow teachers and schools time to prepare. The AEU supports a national
curriculum. But the draft released to just three months’ consultation has prompted concerns that it is too big, too prescriptive, and out of step with educational trends. In particular, it prescribes 14 hours of teaching in the four subjects alone in Years 9 and 10, when many schools are introducing alternative programs to keep students engaged in what are considered danger years for many. AEU branch president Mary Bluett said: “Those are the years when kids start to disengage. The curriculum seems to be putting a
ES wins ongoing after 12 years
HE AEU has helped a northern suburbs IT assistant to win ongoing employment after 12 years on contracts. Susan was spurred to push for ongoing status after hearing AEU ES organiser Kathryn Lewis speak at a department ES conference. She used an AEU proforma letter to submit her bid, with advice and support from her school rep, organisers and the AEU’s Membership Services Unit helpline. She told AEU News she had repeatedly asked to be translated without success until she turned to the union for help. “Being on contract was hard. You’re continually worrying about the fact you’re not secure.
“To know I’m ongoing is such a relief.” She added: “If it wasn’t for listening to Kathryn and having such good support here, it would never have happened. You get so discouraged.” She is now busy telling other ES staff to join the union. “I meet people who are so unhappy but they won’t get off their bottoms and become members and get that support. The union can make such a difference.” ES staff gained greater rights to ongoing employment with their latest agreement. For more details, call Kathryn Lewis on (03) 9417 2822 or email email@example.com. ◆
There were only a handful of members in the sub-branch at the time. Less than two years later, Amanda has signed up almost all the teachers, ES staff and leadership. But first up, Amanda devoted herself to establishing formal consultation processes at the school. “Lots of decisions over time had come to a head, and staff weren’t really aware of the agreement or their rights, so it was a really big process getting people to understand why
HEN Amanda Kingsley was “thrown into” the role of union rep during the campaign for the 2008 teachers’ agreement, Essendon North Primary School had a long way to travel, she says. “The school had never had a union rep before,” says Amanda, AEU Rep of the Month for March. “I wanted them to know how significant these agreements are for their working lives and that you need to step up and have a say.”
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stronger academic focus on Year 9 just when many schools are trying to give students a different school experience.” Early analysis of the draft suggests that it is denser and more crowded than Victoria’s curriculum. There are also concerns that it offers teachers less flexibility and fewer opportunities for creativity and innovation. With the publication of NAPLAN results also putting pressure on schools to teach narrowly to the test, the fears are that teaching will become a less rewarding profession
— at a time when it needs to attract more entrants. Question marks also hang over the production and availability of resources and course materials, and time and professional development for teachers to get to grips with the new curriculum. A number of schools are already piloting the curriculum. The AEU is calling for full trials to run next year, with at least one extra pupil-free day to allow schools to prepare for the changes, followed by further PD when the curriculum is introduced. ◆
JAPANESE exchange A
FTER a year’s hiatus, the annual exchange between the AEU and the Shizuoka Teachers Union resumes this year — and the AEU is looking for families to host Japanese guests in the Bendigo and Castlemaine area. The Victorian leg of the exchange is planned from August 14–20, with the homestay occurring from August 14–17. There will be primary and secondary teachers of a range of subjects; we wish to place two or three in each school so they can support each other. Past participants have spoken extremely positively about their homestay experiences. The Education Department recognises the program and is working with the AEU. Hosts are given a contribution of $200 towards costs. Hosts will also receive priority when the AEU invites expressions of interest for the return trip to Japan, during the Term 3 holidays. For more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 9418 4874. ◆
consultation is so important.” She says the climate at the school has certainly changed since then. “People now understand that there are processes and feel much more empowered.” “Amanda took up issues that, once resolved, had a significant benefit for her members,” says AEU organiser John Handley. “As a result of her persistence, four contract teachers have become ongoing.” ◆
Amanda Kingsley Essendon North PS
Does your school or workplace AEU Rep deserve special recognition? Email email@example.com telling us who you’re nominating and why. The Rep of the Month receives a limited edition AEU leather briefcase.
news Nic Barnard AEU News
TUDENT numbers on some courses are in freefall and teachers have seen hours slashed following the Brumby Government’s TAFE changes. The AEU is today (March 22) due to launch the results of a major survey of TAFE members about the impact of the Skills Reforms, which have seen huge hikes in fees and thousands lose the right to concession rates for studying. But as AEU News went to press, anecdotal reports already made clear the scale of the impact. Some TAFEs are employing more casual staff at the expense of secure jobs because of the uncertainty over the future of courses. Others have slashed casual employment and made already stretched employees pick up the work. Elsewhere, contract staff have been refused ongoing positions, while other teachers have seen time fractions cut and students have seen teaching hours reduced. One metropolitan TAFE member reported on the TAFE 4 All campaign website (see tiny.cc/PAOjF) that numbers on his diploma course had halved. AEU branch president Mary Bluett said: “Anyone could have predicted that such a massive increase in fees would lead to a fall in student numbers and put jobs and courses under threat — anyone except this state government.” “We have tried to tell ministers that the people who rely most on the TAFE system are those who are most averse to debt.” The picture has emerged as the AEU holds sub-branch meetings across the state. TAFE vice president Jo Fogarty said she had received reports that some diploma enrolments were down by as much as 30%. “Courses like diplomas in the arts, ceramics, theatre and visual arts have been particularly badly hit,” she said. “They’re courses that people often take after completing a degree — and
aeu news | march 2010
that means they now have to pay full fees, in some cases of more than $10,000.” Some TAFE managers are understood to be trying to protect employees’ jobs — although this means casuals are taking the brunt. TAFE deputy vice president Mark Hyde said: “TAFE institutes seem to be trying to look after staff by deploying them into different areas. “But the full effects of these reforms are still to be felt. Unless the Government changes course, it’s only going to get worse.” TAFE fees for diplomas have already risen from $877 to $2000 per year, with a further increase to $2,500 due in 2012. Concession rates of $55 have been abolished for many students, and HECS-style loans have been introduced. For more information, go to www.tafe4all.org.au. ◆
VELC rows ahead A
N ACCLAIMED leadership course run by AEU partner VELC has been doubled in size to cope with demand. The Emerging Leaders course will now take 200 aspiring principals this year — and a waiting list for 2011 continues to grow. The year-long course is run by the Victorian Educational Leadership Consortium — made up of the AEU, Deakin University and the Education Department — as part of the department’s Blueprint focus on leadership. A successor to VELC’s Preparing for Leadership program, it combines keynote presentations with workshops spent examining case studies of schools in difficulty. Participants also shadow leaders in schools and industry. For more information, go to velc www.velc.org.au. ◆ victorian educational leadership consortium
Teachers’ health is CHANGING! T
EACHERS Health Fund is the new name for Teachers’ Federation Health, the national, not-for-profit health fund designed exclusively for education union members and their families. The fund believes the new name is clearer and establishes its national nature. It originated in New South Wales out of links with the NSW Teachers’ Federation, part of the AEU. With over 95,000 members across Australia, Teachers Health Fund is the largest restricted membership fund, and the seventh largest private health fund overall. Any AEU member — teacher or not — is eligible to join the fund. More information at www.teachershealth.com.au. ◆ CMYK
CARTOON © POPE/THE CANBERRA TIMES
TAFE changes HIT courses
Spendthrift state South Australia THE long-running dispute between the AEU and the SA State Government over salaries has ended, with the Industrial Relations Commission handing down a decision that raises experienced teachers’ pay by 21.3% — significantly more than the 13.6% offered by the Government. The AEU had argued for 21% across the board and is disappointed that the commission decided otherwise — especially for leaders, who are “grappling with excessive workloads,” said AEUSA vice president Anne Crawford. The commission also ruled in favour of a separate award for TAFE employees, against the AEU’s wishes. AEUSA members are now awaiting the commission’s decision on workload and other conditions. Tasmania TEACHERS have threatened a day of action ahead of the state election in support of the campaign to roll back the post-Year 10 Tasmania Tomorrow changes. AEU TAFE members and the Secondary Colleges Committee of Management hosted regional stopwork meetings throughout February around the state. Industrial commissioner Jim McAlpine rejected an application from the Tasmanian Government for an order to stop the protests. Premier David Bartlett warned that stopworks risked breaching the State Services Act, and a leaked email from an Education Department secretary told various schools that attending meetings might breach their employment contracts. The AEU argued in the commission that the planned actions were political, not industrial, because they were protesting against State Government reforms. AEU president secondary Greg Brown says Tasmania Tomorrow has crushed the professional lives of many teachers, and potentially creates a two-class system. ◆
Victoria continues to spend less on its students than any other state or territory, according to the latest official figures Justin Bowd research officer
HERE is one league table in which Victoria consistently wins the wooden spoon. Early each year the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services shines its light on the low level of public education funding in Victoria. There were no surprises this year; once again Victoria had the lowest recurrent expenditure per government school student of any state by a comfortable margin — spending just $10,395 dollars per student in 2007/08. This was $832 less than the next lowest funding state (New South Wales) and $1,151 less than the Australian average. Victoria’s expenditure per hour of VET delivery was also the lowest of any state (again) and preschool expenditure per enrolment was among the lowest — although the preschool figures are difficult to compare accurately across states. Governments have argued that funding is so consistently low in Victoria because we have a large population in a relatively small area, which brings economies of scale. Yet the ACT spends almost $5000 more per student — 45% more than Victoria. According to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which assesses relative educational costs between states, government school students in the ACT were only 4% more expensive to educate than Victorian students. Canberra has a higher proportion of students in nongovernment schools, which means that government schools have proportionally more high-needs students than the ACT
overall population profile would suggest. But no explanations seem to explain such a large discrepancy in funding levels as much as a simple policy preference for well-funded government schools. It’s worth remembering that in the pre-Kennett era Victoria was among the highest-spending states. The report also reveals the continually increasing level of government funding for the non-government school sector. Combined real State and Commonwealth per-student funding for non-government Victorian students rose by 2% between 2003-04 and 2007-08 (the period covered by the latest report); non-government fees rose by 11% over the same period. These increases are all per student. Non-government school enrolments in Victoria have been growing faster than those in government schools, which should mean that private students are becoming cheaper to educate — so fees should be reducing. What we’re seeing instead are non-government fee increases outstripping demand; non-government schools, on aggregate, are becoming price-setters. This obscenity is, in part, a consequence of the federal system of non-government school funding, where any increase in government school recurrent funding results in automatic increases in non-government funding. The AEU will be campaigning to have this outrageous policy overturned when a federal review is launched later this year. ◆
Nunn better in BENALLA T
HE AEU in Benalla has a fresh face — a new office providing a better, more visible service for members in the Goulburn northeastern region. The new office at 90–94 Nunn Street was officially opened on March 11 by branch president Mary Bluett and branch secretary Brian Henderson. They joined members from across the region for a look round the premises with the longserving Benalla team, organiser John Oakley and secretary Phyllis Doxey.
The new office marks a L-R: John Oakley, Mary Bluett and Phyllis Doxey big improvement — not least area.” in giving the AEU a street-front For the AEU’s five country offices, presence; the previous premises the next step will be the ability to run were over the post office. It has also video-conferences with head office meant goodbye to 1970s furniture in Abbotsford, allowing members to and orange carpet tiles. discuss cases with legal, industrial “We’ve got more space and it’s a and other experts without making lot more comfortable for members,” the trek to Melbourne. The service a happy Oakley said. “There’s an will hopefully be available later this interview room for private chats with year. ◆ members, and a proper reception
Inaccurate, divisive and damaging — those were some of the verdicts to the Federal Government’s launch of the My School website. Rachel Power reports on the reactions of AEU members in some of the schools affected.
ASS Valley Primary School was having a “fantastic start” to the year until the South Gippsland Sentinel Times landed on the desk in the middle of orientation week. In a spread that sang the praises of East Gippsland’s local private schools for “blitzing their peers”, the paper credited the new My School website with exposing “serious problems” and a “worrying slide” in student performance at some of the region’s government schools. The Sentinel Times was just one of many papers that trawled the site to produce lists of winners and losers within hours of My School going live. With the major dailies first off the rank with mini league tables, local papers followed suit to create sensationalist headlines and rush to judgement on schools in their regions. Bass Valley PS was one of those listed (as struggling) in a report headed “Writing on the wall for some primary schools”. In the week following, it lost several of its brightest students to a nearby school. “We were just gutted,” says assistant principal Tina Mayling. With stable housing a problem in the area, Bass Valley PS suffers from high levels of transience, and also caters for students with intellectual disabilities. “What is demanded of us as teachers throughout the year is huge, and maintaining that commitment is a huge enough thing already without feeling there are guns firing in your direction,” says Mayling. The only sunshine was the concern shown by the AEU, she says. “We contacted the union as soon as we saw the article and we were thrilled with the response. “(Branch president) Mary Bluett was so supportive. Basically, we felt
aeu news | march 2010
there was someone out there who cares about us.” Across East Gippsland, Swan Reach PS saw what looked at first
and get much more detail,” he says. “It doesn’t reflect the value-adding we’re offering our students. We have a very good welfare program here and
L-R: Bass Valley PS principal Leanne Edwards, AEU rep Ann Ricardo and assistant principal Tina Mayling with AEU president Mary Bluett.
❛ We know what we do here for our students. Those numbers on My School mean nothing. ❜ sight to be a worrying result: a drop in points from 2008 to 2009 in areas such as grammar and numeracy. But with only around 10 students in Year 5 — half the previous year’s cohort — including two or three struggling students, principal Andrew Kenyon said it was in fact an example of how figures for small schools can be totally misleading. Rather than shine a light on low performance, the My School website “muddies up” the real picture of what a school offers on the ground. “My School doesn’t offer transparency. Any parent can come in here
we do take in kids from other schools that are having problems.” Small schools can have large shifts in results from year to year based purely on the performance of a couple of students, Kenyon says, whereas this can be hidden with a larger cohort. Across Victoria in the state’s south-west, Woodford PS teacher and AEU councillor Dave Clift points to another anomaly thrown up by the site. “I’m working with another school as a teaching and learning coach at the moment,” he says. “What do you
think its colours are on My School? All green and dark green! Whereas my own school looks much more patchy. “Fortunately the region has used more complex means to identify which schools need extra support to improve teaching and learning.” He says misusing the NAPLAN data undermines the joy of teaching and puts unnecessary stress on students, no matter how well teachers try to disguise the high stakes involved. “As a parent, I’m going to make sure my own kids never sit the NAPLAN. I just don’t agree with testing an 8-year-old under such stress-loaded conditions.” He thinks NAPLAN and VELS (Victorian Essential Learning Standards) are working at crosspurposes. “VELS is all about integrated curriculum and personalised learning, and then you’ve got NAPLAN, with its narrow set of dots and dashes. “I want my students to be showing me the skills they’ll need in 10 years time, not the things we thought were important 100 years ago.” Back in Gippsland, Tina Mayling and Andrew Kenyon agree that the site has compromised NAPLAN as a useful tool — perhaps fatally. “There has never been a consistent approach to NAPLAN testing across schools as it is,” Mayling says. “Now those that have a lot to lose, or perceive it as a competition, will find the loopholes. “There (will be) no integrity in that data ever again ... because schools can’t trust what’s happening to the results.” Kenyon agrees: “I’m not against the NAPLAN test — it’s just another test for the school to use internally and we get excellent feedback now. But I am against them being used as a political tool, and just being turned
RIES into a dot [on a graph] for parents to see.” His own school is trying to stay away from teaching for the test as much as possible. “We’re focused on educating the whole child. Before, NAPLAN was just a test; now it’s become more important than it should be because it becomes the public’s picture of you.” Kenyon has spoken to principals from schools listed on My School as high-performing who now feel under pressure to maintain those results and are nervous about the backlash if they drop, he says. Having lost students, Mayling fears for the future diversity of her school — without which disadvantage can become entrenched. “Diversity is so important for social cohesion, social health and social connectedness. If everyone’s thinking it’s all about the data and the government is saying that’s what’s important, that’s what people will start to believe.” A week after the Sentinel Times’ story, one of East Gippsland’s nongovernment schools placed a large ad in the paper announcing itself as “better than the competition”. “The paper was quite prepared to profile their private schools as all-winning and all-successful,” Mayling says. “We don’t have the advertising budget of the local private schools.” Both principals say the site doesn’t begin to show the amount of value that their schools give to students or the breadth of the work they do in often challenging circumstances. Tina Mayling says: “We know what we do here for all of our students. We’re a really low socio-economic school and those numbers [on My School] mean nothing. Engagement is our biggest issue; we are working on engagement all the time.” ◆
ELBOURNE High School could be expected to do well out of league tables — and indeed, the selective college was Victoria’s top public school on raw results. But principal Jeremy Ludowyke quickly stuck his head over the parapet to denounce the site as “a crock” in The Age — a response that won applause from his peers. Students enter MHS in Year 9, so have had just three months before they sit the tests. Ludowyke (above) says the tables show nothing more than “the superb work that literally
every secondary school in greater metropolitan Melbourne has been doing with these kids.” Government claims that it needed My School to identify schools in need of extra support and resources are “disingenuous, and that’s putting it politely,” he says. “They’ve had that data and they’ve had it for years.” Ludowyke argues that My School’s greatest flaw is the complete absence of the most crucial contextual information of all — private school funding. But he says he has real reservations about the need for the
website at all. “There is richer, more contextual information on the website of any government school in the state. I’d be far happier if that were matched by equivalent information for every non-government school.” He adds: “If we take its purported purpose to be to give a lay member of the public information to make an informed choice about that school, it just fails miserably. “In terms of the greater sin, it’s better to have no information than misleading and misused information. It’s actually disinformation.” ◆
London’s warning A
LISHA Fleckhammer knows the damage league tables and highstakes testing can do — she’s seen it and she wants to warn other AEU members about what’s ahead. The Manchester PS teacher spent six years working in inner-city London schools where tests, or “SATS”, and tables have been in place since the early 1990s. Her first job in London was as a “SATS-booster” — taking Year 2 kids out of class to coach them for the tests at the end of the year. Alisha was so alarmed at the introduction of league tables here that she approached the AEU to tell her story. A compelling video can be found on the federal Stop League Tables website at tiny.cc/C5Ryk. She says it’s only since moving back and working at Manchester PS that she has rediscovered her passion for teaching. “Teaching [in London] was very prescriptive and very restrictive. We never got through everything we were meant to be doing,” Alisha says. “I just found it to be a system that left
children behind.” Even teaching the equivalent of Prep and Year 1 she was asked to predict how kids would do in the Year 2 tests. And as the tests approached, teachers felt forced to drop other subjects from the curriculum to focus on teaching to the SATS. “They felt that pressure of having to perform well.” League tables were broken down by local area, intensifying the competition. A bad result would “ruin the reputation of that school. It can take an instant for a school to lose its good name and years and years to regain it.” One unintended consequence was a massive turnover of teachers in schools that struggled in the tables. In one school Alisha taught at, four out of five teachers were from overseas, working a few terms at most before moving on. Tables also destroyed collaboration between schools. “Nothing positive came out of league tables,” she says. ◆
PHOTOGRAPHER: NOEL BUTCHER
Julia Gillard’s My School site has won plaudits from the press, but its accuracy doesn’t stand up to academic scrutiny. Research officer John Graham wonders what the real agenda is.
ULIA Gillard is doing her best to put a dunce’s cap on the collective head of the teaching profession. She told parents to visit the My School website to find out if the teachers at their school had been doing a good enough job. She launched the new national curriculum
drafts byquestioning the capacity of teachers to implement them. She introduced her proposal for a “unique student identifier” for every student with the warning that it would be used to evaluate the performance of teachers “with full rigour”. She told the National Press Club on February
24 that she was looking at bringing back school inspectors because “gone are the days when we could have teachers in classrooms with the door closed”. Her reward has come from the Murdoch press which shares (or perhaps created) her “teachers are the problem” educational agenda. Phillip Hudson, the national political editor at the Herald Sun, commented: “You’d expect some of these changes from a conservative ideologue, not a one-time socialist.” He describes her as “strongperforming” (no longer “left wing and risky”) and now a credible contender to take over from Rudd. The Deputy Prime Minister’s populist campaign of transferring public unease about contemporary schooling standards from government to teachers has served to transform her political image and give the impression that the Rudd Government has got at least one thing right. The evidence to support this public show — proof of widespread teacher incompetence — is nowhere to be found. No credible research or reliable data is ever cited; there are only the metronomic assertions that poor teacher quality is the problem. My School exemplifies the yawning gap between Ms Gillard’s political cabaret and credible educational policy. It supposedly identifies the good, the bad and the ugly among the nation’s schools and, according to
the DPM, its teachers. It also claims to do this “fairly” through its Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA). But the more the content of the website is analysed, the more it appears deeply flawed. My School is the very opposite of transparent — obfuscating with judgements which are inaccurate and misleading. The head of ACARA, the organisation which owns the website, Barry McGaw, has stated that 70% of the differences between schools are explained by student intake rather than what the teachers and principals at the school do. Once ICSEA has controlled for the 70%, the remaining 30% can be used to measure effectiveness between “like schools”. Associate Professor Margaret Wu from the Assessment Research Centre at Melbourne University disputes the 70:30 ratio. She points out that research findings from the United States show the “teacher effect” typically accounts for between 3% and 16% of variation in students’ assessment. The recently published 10-year international research study of identical twins, led by Brian Byrne from the University of New England, found the teacher effect to be as low as 8% and that individual schools have “negligible” effects on students’ literacy levels. The website’s inclusion of 2008 as well as 2009 NAPLAN results
ACARA (the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority), the organisation responsible for developing the My School website, has told him it is looking into the matter and will get back to him. While that is Lockington’s “biggest beef”, he says the wider issue is the use of NAPLAN as the basis for school comparison.
“NAPLAN is a very narrow piece of data,” he says. “It provides a very brief outline compared to stateperformance data, which is quite comprehensive. [State data] takes in NAPLAN, teacher assessment against VELS, attendance, attitude, retention… a much greater raft of data.” ◆
OMPARING “apples with apples” is how Education Minister Julia Gillard describes the My School data. But Robin Lockington (pictured), principal of Reservoir District Secondary College, believes his school has been unfairly disadvantaged by the ICSEA index used to compare supposedly similar schools. Developed specifically for My School, ISCEA is a special measure designed to make “meaningful and fair comparisons across schools” by identifying those serving similar student populations. Reservoir District College was given an ICSEA of 1003 — three points more than the average of 1000.
aeu news | march 2010
“But looking around at schools with a similar socio-economic profile, they’re at about 950,” Lockington says. “We have quite high socioeconomic disadvantage, with 50% EMA and 10% Indigenous students. [Yet] we’re being compared with average, middle-class schools.” According to Gillard, the capacity to compare equivalent schools is what makes My School website such a “powerful” tool. But Lockington says that in his school’s case, the census snapshot used by ICSEA is inadequate and does not reflect the student population, and that it’s likely other schools have been similarly misrepresented.
PHOTOGRAPHER: NOEL BUTCHER
Apples & oranges
for each school, presumably to and so-on. It also assumes that minor measure performance over time, is variations between families will be also misleading. The ACER report distributed equally among all of the Reporting and Comparing School schools that students from that area Performances stated that “fluctuations attend. in student cohort from one year to Neither assumption is correct. The the next are large enough to swamp census district SES is simply a statisthe effect of any improved teaching tical construct. There is abundant that may be occurring”. Professor Wu evidence that significant variations says any attempt to measure student in family circumstances occur within growth as an indicator of school census districts and that these effectiveness requires “many years of variations are not distributed equally data” to achieve acceptable accuracy. among schools. More fundamentally, the measuring Data from the Australian Bureau of instrument used by My School Statistics indicate that private schools (NAPLAN results) is incapable of have a far greater proportion of producing valid estimates of school/ high-income families and a far smaller teacher effectiveness. According to proportion of low-income families Professor Wu, the large margins of than government schools. The two or error in student NAPLAN test scores three wealthy families in a particular mean that an accurate measure census district are far more likely to cannot be obtained. send their children to a private school ICSEA creates additional measurethan a government school. ment errors. ICSEA is blind to this variation. The index uses local census The result is a potential bias against districts to categorise the students government schools on the My School at each school, and assumes that all website. families in a district can be deemed to There are many other factors 2801_125x185mm_hph.qxd 5:59 PMthePage have the same socio-economic status3/3/10 which undermine notion 1that My (SES) regarding their income, educaSchool is comparing like with like tional and occupational background through the ICSEA mechanism. Chris
Bonner carried out a study of 36 secondary schools across Australia which had all been given the same ICSEA 1000 rating. He found that their differences were in many cases more apparent than their similarities. The differences included selectivity through fee levels, schools located in an area where they compete against entrance test schools, significant gender variations, ethnic make-up variations (ranging from wealthy international students to students from refugee families) and schools where there is a high churn in enrolments between Year 7 and Year 9. Another weakness in My School comparisons is their failure to address the effect of school size. Professor Stephen Lamb from Melbourne University has identified the critical effect of margins of error in small schools “where a marked difference in performance by one student in one year could make a huge difference to the school’s average.” After the launch of My School, the DPM announced that she would be allocating an additional $11 million to 155 schools across Australia.
She could only do this, she opined, because of “the unprecedented transparency” of the website. Let’s hope she had her fingers crossed behind her back when she made that announcement. First, it is the ludicrous that the Federal Government needs a website before it can obtain school-by-school information from states and nongovernment authorities. Second, it had already been able to allocate $2.5 billion to individual disadvantaged schools before the website appeared. Third, if any allocation of funds based on such flawed information actually occurred, the wrong schools probably got the wrong amounts. While dunces’ caps disappeared from schools a long time ago, there may be a good reason to bring back at least one of them. It could be ceremoniously handed over to Julia Gillard for her next photo opportunity in one of her website schools. ◆ Visit our website
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A woman’s place … … is in her union. More than 700 women have gone through the Anna Stewart Memorial Project since it was launched 25 years ago to encourage women to be active in their unions. Elisabeth Lopez meets some of the many AEU alumnae.
N MAY last year, Brimbank Secondary College PE teacher Julie Quinn was at the Victorian Trades Hall Council headquarters in Carlton, witnessing history being made. The Rudd Government had chosen Mother’s Day to announce a national paid maternity leave scheme. Quinn, who has a 4-year-old of her own, remembers sitting with dozens of fellow women unionists and feeling the atmosphere in the room crackle. They had just been lectured by veterans of the 30-year campaign for PML — three decades that had seen Australia slip behind countries like Congo and Thailand. “The energy in the room was amazing, especially from the people who had been campaigning for this for years,” she says. There was an additional significance for Quinn and her group.
aeu news | march 2010
They were there as part of the Anna Stewart Memorial Project, an annual two-week program that helps women get more involved in their unions. Since it began in 1984, some 700 women have taken part nationally. Victoria is the only state where it runs twice a year, in May and October. In 1974, when young Melbourne journalist Anna Stewart accepted an offer to write a history of the Federated Furnishing Trades Society of Australasia, the dice were loaded against women in every sphere of life. The principle of equal pay for equal work had been enshrined in law but in reality benefited fewer than 20% of working women, who at the time made up only a third of the workforce. Childcare was almost non-existent, and married women were routinely accused of stealing teenagers’ jobs.
Stewart led the first blue-collar push for maternity leave provisions in industrial awards. In 1975, she moved to the Victorian Vehicle Builders Federation and fought for childcare facilities in car plants. She went on to help found the ACTU Women’s Committee in 1977. In 1979, she was involved in the ACTU maternity leave test case, which awarded leave to women in the private sector. She worked to define and eliminate sexual harassment, introduce affirmative action measures, and build up women’s representation at all levels of the union movement. She remains an icon for the idea that women should not endure the work-family regime that employers would like them to have. When she died in 1983, aged 35, the union movement set up the memorial project to carry on her work. Transformation Fellow unionists remember Anna Stewart as committed and bold. She would breastfeed her son in tribunal hearings, and stare down any attempts to adjourn. Some of these stories are collected in a 15-minute DVD played to project participants on their first day. The VTHC’s women’s officer, Jennifer O’Donnell-Pirisi, who administers the project, says she has seen women leave the fortnight transformed. “They really just evolve and become these strong women.” The project enables organisers and delegates to form bonds with
other women, identify common problems, and go back to their workplaces feeling a little less isolated. It also encourages women to take up leadership positions in their unions. She reels off a list of alumnae now in prominent roles: AEU Victorian deputy president Meredith Peace is one — no fewer than six AEU staff and electeds have gone through the program. Ingrid Stitt, a receptionist at Trades Hall in the early 1990s, is now secretary of the Australian Services Union’s Victorian private sector branch; ASU assistant branch secretary Lisa Darmanin and Colleen Gibbs, environmental officer for the AMWU, are others. Unions can nominate one to three applicants, and the AEU gets three per intake. Participants spend four days over the fortnight with O’Donnell-Pirisi, doing workshops and hearing guest speakers on subjects such as occupational health and safety and the terms used in pay negotiations. They attend meetings and negotiations with their own or another union, and often travel to workplaces. They also get a potted history of women in the trade union movement, starting from the founding of the Tailoresses Union in 1882. Troublemakers Julie Quinn says she appreciated being able to watch in action all the cogs that drive unions. “I went to Vision Australia to see
negotiations for an agreement, a meeting at TAFE, I sat in on a publicity and media campaign meeting with Mary Bluett. You just see how it all runs.” Donna Shell, an education support member at Norlane High School on Geelong’s outskirts, says she was amazed at “the amount of kilometres [union leaders] travel. And how hard they work.” When O’Donnell-Pirisi did the program in 2000, she was a union rep at an ANZ call centre. “All the supervisors and managers were men,” she says. “There was a woman who was pregnant with twins. She was targeted for being sick and going to the toilet quite often. She was actually followed to the toilet to see if she really was going.” She says one of the strengths of the program is that white-collar workers get together, often for the first time, with women in male-dominated industries. “Especially women in tradie positions, and hospitality. Horrible things happen in kitchens.” The AEU’s Meredith Peace did the program in the late 1980s, and shadowed the now-defunct Food Preservers Union. It was her first contact with blue-collar workers, many of them migrants, doing shiftwork on production lines. “We got out to Heinz, I think they’d just downed
tools and had a stopwork meeting in the car park, which was an eyeopener for me because we didn’t do that,” she recalls. “They were very responsive to the union officials; there was a really good connection with the members. We had extraordinary access.” She tells would-be applicants: “Go for it. As a teacher … you are
haven’t felt isolated at all. But gosh, I can see from doing the program the isolation of some other women in different unions, male-dominated unions … There was one woman involved in battles where there’s a lot of harassment or even outright aggression. She just stood up the whole way. I thought, good on her.” Donna Shell saw that marginalising
❛❛I've seen women leave the fortnight transformed. They just evolve and become these strong women❜❜ very much focused on the issues at your school. To step outside that framework and see what happens statewide and what other people are experiencing in their unions is invaluable.” Participation by blue-collar women is slowly recovering after declining sharply during the WorkChoices era, at the mention of which O’DonnellPirisi shudders. But even in white-collar professions, those active in their unions can face isolation, if not harassment. And it shows when they first come to Trades Hall. “A lot are frightened to speak up. They don’t realise they’re not at work and that it’s a safe environment. They can speak their mind and raise issues in the two weeks.” Julie Quinn saw that isolation. “I’m pretty fortunate where I’ve been, teaching in the western suburbs for the past 10–11 years, and it’s got a really active union participation, so I
tendency too, on a peer recruitment drive around Victoria after her Anna Stewart stint last October. “It’s been positive at my own school, but sometimes [at another school], you can tell immediately from the body language: some people won’t even look at you when you introduce yourself. There’s a stigma attached to unionism and you’re automatically characterised as a troublemaker.” The next step It’s only recently that ES staff have become more visible in government policy, the union and schools. The main issues ES staff face, Shell says, are “incorrect classification, not being paid properly for the duties that they do, and lack of consultation.” Until recently, Shell was the only ES sub-branch rep from Geelong to the South Australian border (there are now two). She credits her
participation in the Anna Stewart program last October with her decision to stand for the AEU council. “It was very empowering for me to meet other women who are ready to take the next step and work with their union. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do that, but after I’d done the project I did want to take the next step. It probably hadn’t even occurred to me that I could do it.” Julie Quinn wants to put her experience on the program to good use in the negotiations around her school’s amalgamation with Deer Park SC. And as a parent and a member of the AEU’s elimination of sexism committee, she’s keenly aware of the work that needs to be done on workfamily balance. “I’ve noticed a lot of women who work part-time teaching and it does affect positions. If they want to go for other roles as a leading teacher it makes it very difficult. I don’t see what other options are available right now. “Outside of school, I just go to as many women’s conferences as I can, I try to keep my hand in and keep learning.” ◆
THE Anna Stewart Memorial Project runs from May 3–14 and from October 11–22. Deadline for expressions of interest for May is March 25. To apply, email barbara. firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information go to www.aeuvic.asn.au/women or see the VTHC website at tiny.cc/K1WBs.
Vouchers by any other name There may be no piece of paper, but the Brumby Government’s skills reforms are a de facto voucher scheme — and will fail like all the others, argue Justin Bowd and Julia Collin.
LOT of people have seen a lot of failed voucher schemes both here and overseas. Most of us will remember the underwhelming response to the Howard Government’s literacy vouchers, but there is a more recent example. The now discontinued Home Insulation Program was essentially a voucher scheme. Unfortunately it provided a grim demonstration of the risks that can arise when government policy meets a competitive marketplace. There are lessons to be learnt here for the Victorian Government as it pushes ahead with its demand-led Skills Reform program. Because that too is in essence a voucher system. Politicians may object to the description. “There’s no physical token,” they may say. But Louise Watson, in an excellent article for Campus Review in 2008, provided a succinct definition of what a voucher system essentially entails: A voucher is a mechanism for funding a service provider on the basis of the number of clients it serves. On rare occasions, the voucher is given physically to the client, to carry into the provider that they choose. More often, an approved provider receives a per capita amount from the government multiplied by the number of clients. The appeal of vouchers for governments is that they seem to provide a win-win situation. The consumer has more choice and providers in competitive markets drive down costs; to an extent, governments are distanced from their responsibilities. Although Kevin Rudd’s essay in The Monthly last year suggested that the relevance of Friedmanite economic policies is on the wane, the great man in 1955 encapsulated most neatly governments’ fondness for vouchers: (Vouchers) would bring a healthy increase in the variety of educational institutions available and in competition among them. Private initiative and enterprise would quicken the pace of progress in this area as it has in so many others. Government would serve its proper function of improving the operation of the invisible hand [of the market] without substituting the dead hand of bureaucracy. In 2008 Michael Cooney from the Government’s pet think tank Per Capita wrote a paper prescribing vouchers for vocational education and training (and
praising Victoria’s reforms) in which one could be forgiven for thinking that Milton Friedman was being channelled. But the problem with economic rationalists is that they are seldom empiricists. Educational vouchers have been implemented in different polities and their effects can be measured. One of the obvious places to observe the effects of education vouchers is in the Friedmanite laboratory of Pinochet’s Chile. In a move foreshadowing recent reforms of the Victorian TAFE system, from 1980 the Chilean
❛The voucher scheme [in Colorado] led to an 8% reduction in higher education enrolments for students from low socio-economic backgrounds❜
aeu news | march 2010
Government decentralised school governance and funded schools on the basis of monthly enrolment figures. According to a Stanford study conducted by Carnoy and McEwan in 1999, the result was a burgeoning of private, for-profit schools and “a large-scale sorting of students across public and groups suffered as a result. private schools”. Equity
entitlements in Australia, Colorado, Germany and the Netherlands, Vossensteyn and Jongbloed found that “individual freedom of choice results in inequality of educational opportunity”. This is hardly surprising, as individuals are not equally equipped with information or other resources that facilitate efficient use of choice. Furthermore, providers may exploit this, as the students who lack them are frequently the more expensive to train and the ones who may damage an institute’s brand. The studies mentioned above have also found no or negligible aggregate advantages in voucher systems in terms of achievement (schools) or enrolment levels (post-secondary education). This too is not surprising. A decentralised system sacrifices economies of scale for the discipline of competition and, as a result, marginal production costs rise. These extra costs are either shifted onto the student via increased fees or through a reduction in the quality of the product or service offered. Such cost-cutting is often achieved by skimping on the quality of the workforce. That was exactly how the Federal Government’s Home Insulation Program was exploited — don’t be surprised to see the same in Victorian VET provision. Justin Bowd is an AEU research officer. Julia Collin studies
The cost of decentralisation political science at Monash University. Vouchers have been shown to Join the campaign against the Brumby Skills Reforms at be harmful for disadvantaged students www.tafe4all.org.au. ◆ in post-secondary settings as well. In a paper presented Tackling Underachievement – to the AEU’s national TAFE Engaging Boys and Girls council general meeting last year, Leesa Wheelahan cited radii.org NATIONAL CONFERENCE SERIES a government-commissioned DON’T MISS OUT – register now! evaluation of a voucher SYDNEY: Monday 17th May 2010, Parramatta scheme for higher education in MELBOURNE: Tuesday 18th May 2010, Albert Park Colorado. The report found that the REGISTRATION FEE $300 (+ booking fee $15) ex GST KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Dr Andrew Martin, Mr Andrew voucher scheme led to an 8% Fuller, Prof Bruce Robinson. Plus Workshops reduction in higher education Full program details and online. enrolments for students Bookings:http//conferences2010.schoolevent.org from low socio-economic backgrounds. At the concluTEL: (03) 9534-2934 Email: email@example.com sion of a comparative study of higher education learning
Two AEU members spent a month working in a union-run school for refugees from Burma’s military dictators. Now other teachers are urged to follow their lead. Rachel Power reports.
FTER a month sunning themselves in Vietnam two years ago, Rob Tunks and Morgana Chantagit decided they would never do that again. “We realised that if we came back we’d want to do more than sit on a beach,” says Rob. “We wanted to make a difference.” So in September last year they returned to Asia and spent several weeks as volunteer teachertrainers with the BLSO (Burma Labour Solidarity Organization) School in Mae Sot, a small city located on the Thai–Burmese border. Dominated by huge garment manufacturing factories, Mae Sot is one of the main crossing points for refugees and economic migrants fleeing the Burmese military dictatorship. The BLSO school is the only one in the province that holds its lessons in Burmese. Students learn Thai and English as second languages. As it is “condoned but not sanctioned” by the Thai Government, it relies on the goodwill of locals and international donors for funding and resources. “This school stands alone because it’s a union school,” says Morgana. “Its teachers are prodemocracy members. They want to be independent, but this means they miss out on a lot of funding.” Most parents work seven days a week, leaving children responsible for running the home. The school ensures its students get one meal a day, but many suffer from a lack of nutrition, as well as from trauma and illness. “Mae Sot certainly had
an emotional impact [on us]; there was so much obvious need and so much corruption in the street,” says Rob. Horrific sights — such as child trafficking and a zoo transformed into an overcrowded gaol — made them even more determined.
The BLSO School in Mae Sot is desperately raising funds to buy the land it occupies, on sale for AUD$25–28,000. If you can help, please contact Jamie Parker of the Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma on 0418 428 089 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. “Many there would rather risk the oppression and uncertainty of life as an economic migrant in Thailand than face the real risk of starvation and war in Burma,” he says. The school consists of one large room where students sit at benches along the floor. Older kids sharpen the younger ones’ pencils with razor blades, and books and paper are scarce. On one day, Morgana helped a child correct his work before returning to the head of the class. Turning around, she saw that all the children were staring at her and the child she had helped was close to tears. When she asked what was wrong, another student explained that she had walked off with his classmate’s eraser. Tears were not the norm, however. “There was no electricity but a lot of laughter and a lot of joy,” says Rob. Rob and Morgana’s main role was to help the teachers deliver a new activities-based English curriculum for K–4 students, in line with Thai education requirements. After editing the document — which had been
translated from the American original into Thai then Burmese and back into English — they started equipping the teachers with practical ways of interpreting and delivering the curriculum. They quickly realised they were introducing the school to whole new ways of doing things. “They were using the traditional rote learning, not activities-based teaching methodologies,” explains Rob. Morgana says they were confronted at first. “When we paired them up or did small group work, the kids didn’t know how to cope with it. We were breaking with convention, but they came to love it.” As secondary and higher education teachers, Rob and Morgana say the school now needs a funded primary teacher with ESL and curriculum experience to take over the project for several months. They are encouraging fellow AEU members to consider visiting the school or make donations to the BLSO school through APHEDA. Donors can specify that they want their donation to go to the school or to the general activities of the BLSO. ◆
Join theAEU INTERNATIONAL NETWORK
OULD you like to receive regular news and updates on national and international campaigns for peace, social justice and the environment? The AEU International committee is inviting members to sign up for a regular email bulletin about organisations that promote environmental, peace, social justice and solidarity issues. To join the email list, contact Julie Lynch at the AEU on email@example.com or call her on (03) 9417 2822 during office hours. ◆
Morgana Chantagit making books with students at the BLSO school
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Book a free in-school super seminar today ESSSuper provides a number of free services to help members* understand all their options and plan for the future they want. Talk to the people who run your fund, find out the facts about your super and take control of your future. After all, we’re here to help you.
In-school seminars We’re available to attend your school to provide the latest information about your defined benefit fund, answer all your questions and help you start planning for a comfortable and secure future. We can also discuss our range of products, such as our Accumulation Plan, that can supplement your defined benefit fund, help maximise your super nest egg and allow you to stay with us throughout retirement.
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From mediation to creating his own safety devices, health and safety rep Noel Xuereb’s passion for his role is undimmed. Cynthia Karena learns about the art of managing risk.
OEL Xuereb understands risk. Sometimes he’s out in the middle of an ocean in a little plastic boat, or dangling on rock cliffs by bits of rope, or skiing down steep mountains. “I understand risk and planning on a very personal level,” he says. “I was doing high-risk adventure activities — wreck diving, rock climbing, skiing moguls, and solo ocean kayaking. They are all risky activities that require planning and analysis.” These high-risk activities made Noel Xuereb, a mild-mannered technology teacher during the week, a natural candidate for occupational health and safety representative (HSR) at Northcote High School. “At the beginning I wore t-shirts with ‘OH&S Rep’ so that there was a visual reminder — here I am, contact me if you need to. “My emphasis has been on promoting and educating staff, and increasing the number of forums where staff can raise their concerns.” But Noel has gone further than the normal duties associated with HSR and invented a safety device (pictured) that enables students to cut wood safely with a plunge saw (a handheld saw where the blade is partially encased). “I designed a jig to allow students to use the saw in class so that they don’t have to go to the machine room to get it cut for them. Now students can use the plunge saw with the jig.” Noel has taught at Northcote High for 25 years, and even after around 10 yearsAlanasReidHSR, he still loves the job. “I’m passionate. How do you explain passion? I’m a people person. I have the ability to communicate and not make people feel at fault. No blame, but consulting so both parties reach agreement. “It’s a bit like being the good cop, the friendly traffic officer, where people slow down when they see you.” The most common safety issues in the school are “slips, trips and falls”, he says. Manual handling
is another issue, but the school now has proper lifting equipment, for example for library or IT staff
to unload equipment. “Old buildings in the school built in the 1920s present a hazard, as they are not designed for the numbers of people we have here now. The corridors are narrow and the external doors at the end of the corridor open inward. They need to open outwards in case of fire (so people don’t get The most important thing I take into the crushed when exiting).” classroom every day is… Coloured whiteboard Stress due to workload is a common issue these markers. days, he says. “I sometimes play a mediation role between staff and can be a bit of a counsellor. My best trick for coping with staff meetings “I’ve learnt that I’m a good listener. My commuis… Doodling on the agenda. nication techniques never appear threatening, (for The best piece of advice I ever received example) to the principal. It’s important not to was… Have a sensational super plan as you can’t count on this generation or the government in power lay the blame, and that’s why we have got great outcomes.” to support you in retirement. Noel has two periods off a week for his OH&S My advice to a beginning teacher is… Be aware role. Is that enough? “God, no!” he says. “The of taking on too much and burning out. Know how to Education Department needs to give OH&S reps a balance work and home life. time allowance; not all reps get it. The most important thing the AEU does for “It was through union support that my time its members is... Provide legal and professional allowance was created, and increased from one to advice. two periods as the school has grown.” Noel joined the union as a graduate over The most inspirational figure in my life is… 25 years ago. “I joined because I’m from a My father. He is mostly independent in spite of working-class background. My father and older being blind and he manages to be a caregiver to my brothers were in the union, and I could see the disabled mother. value and support it gives (to teachers) and it is In my other life, I am… A seeker of adventure: interested in what is best for students.” ocean kayaking, skiing, climbing, diving. He wants to see the Education Department My favourite teacher at school was… Ruth Lyon, provide funding for OH&S. “It needs to make OH&S an inspirational teacher who was a great mentor and a line item; that means providing funds specifically taught me to question, analyse and always stand up for that so it doesn’t come out of general funding, for what I believed in. which could be spent on curriculum.” If I met Schools Minister Bronwyn Pike I’d His advice to schools is to promote health and tell her… Work intensification will cripple teaching. safety to staff “so they have a sense of ownership VELS, 5Es, My School, and the national curriculum will where they control the situation. It’s not someone be nothing more than window-dressing if you don’t else’s responsibility, it’s theirs. There are lots of resource all schools properly. Schools only function on things they can do rather than expect someone else the goodwill of teachers and it would be nice if that to do it.” ◆ were acknowledged.
Department officials didn’t like the latest teacher supply figures — so they kept them under wraps for six months. Research officer John Graham relays the bad news.
TATISTICS can be lies, damned lies or, like the Education Department’s Teacher Supply and Demand Report, just very inconvenient. The department publishes this useful report every year. Its data is far richer than anything published by the other states and territories and the Victorian Government should be commended for this.
❛Schools should ask if they too can avoid inconvenient data “transparency” like NAPLAN results by delaying their release❜ However in 2009 there was a problem. The 2008 report, which should have been released between February and May 2009, was held back until November. The issue was that the data on teacher shortages and contract teaching were trending the wrong way — upwards. The data revealed that teacher shortages rose sharply during 2008. Some 60% of government secondary schools reported recruitment difficulties, up 10 points from 50% in 2007 and 46% in 2006. Schools designated as primary/secondary showed a similar pattern — 57% reported supply difficulties in 2008, up from 50% in 2007 and 39% in 2006. The number of primary schools experiencing supply problems almost doubled, but from a much lower base (6% in 2007 to 11% in 2008). The second set of politically inconvenient statistics concerned the proportion of teachers on fixed term contracts. At over 19%, it was the highest for a June quarter since this type of employment was introduced by the Kennett Government in the 1990s. The department’s political fall-out management strategy was to hold back the report in the hope that preliminary data for 2009 would reveal a better set of figures. The official reason for the delay was the need “to carry out further investigations” into the reasons why the trends were heading in the wrong direction.
aeu news | march 2010
When the report was finally released in November it included a June 2009 figure for contract employment which showed a decrease to 18%. Similarly, beneath a graph showing a spike in “difficult-to-fill vacancies” in 2008, the report contains a statement that “preliminary figures for 2009 show a sharp decrease”. With this precedent, schools should now ask the department if they too can avoid inconvenient data “transparency” (such as one year’s NAPLAN results) by delaying release until some more positive stats arrive.
by Victorian universities are matched against the demand for teachers in government and nongovernment Victorian schools, there is a surplus in primary and a considerable shortage in secondary. The report estimates a shortfall on average of 470 secondary graduate teachers each year to 2012. These teachers will have to be found from interstate and overseas and from qualified teachers in Victoria no longer teaching. If the primary student enrolment forecasts are roughly accurate, real pressure may be placed on the supply of primary graduates as well. One area of increasing need the report does not address is among early childhood teachers. With the growth in the age group and new State and Commonwealth regulations and funding, it is estimated that Victoria will need up to 1000 additional early childhood teachers over the next five years. At present the total number of teachers in this sector is only 2,200. A generally accepted benchmark for quality in our school system is a fully qualified teacher in every classroom. The real message of the 2008 Teacher Supply and Demand Report is that this benchmark will come under threat in the near future without concerted action from the State Government and its education bureaucracy. The focus must be on new and improved strategies to attract and retain qualified teachers, rather than wasting time on data management. ◆
New age profile There has been a significant change in the age profile of government school teachers. In 1998, 21% of all teachers were aged 50 or over. By 2008 this had grown to 38%. At the other end of the age spectrum, 9% of teachers in 1998 were under 30; by 2008 this had doubled to 19%. The report also highlights the ageing leadership in government schools. In 1998, 8% of principals and assistant principals were aged 55 or over. By 2008 this had tripled to 26%. Unlike teachers, there has been no influx of younger principals — the under-40s remain at 5%. More teachers are women — up from 65% of all teachers and principals in 1998 to 70%. The growth in female leading teachers (up 9 percentage points to 65%) and principal class members (up 18 points to 52%) has outstripped the growth in female classroom teachers (up 3 points). Level of graduate supply to meet secondary teacher demand (gov & non-gov)
Warning: shortages ahead Projections of enrolments in government schools over the next five years show a substantial rise in primary students and a substantial fall in secondary students. (These projections can be misleading, particularly for primary; the 2006 report for example predicted falling rolls, but numbers have in fact risen.) When the numbers of graduates being produced
inside the AEU
RAISING THE (rest of the) ROOF
VER 200 dynamic women squeezed into the AEU function room to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day dinner. Guest speaker, author Monica Dux, entertained diners with stories of her antics as a young campus feminist during the 1990s, hanging out in the “Wimmin’s Room” and wearing “I Love My C**t” t-shirts to her father’s birthday party. Dux, co-author of The Great Feminist Denial, addressed the question of why — with all that feminism has achieved — women feel more pressured than ever.
“Feminism has in some senses become a victim of its own success,” she said, with some now blaming second-wave feminists for promoting the idea that women could “have it all”. As for feminism’s future, Dux called on younger women to continue the struggle for women’s rights. “If you build half the roof, the rain will get in and the floor will rot, but that’s not a reason to abandon the house; it's a reason to finish building it sooner rather than later.”
Barbara Jennings women’s officer
ATURDAY May 15 is the AEU Victorian Women’s Conference. Our theme is www — world wide women. We will be taking a look at issues for women around the world with a keynote address from Sharan Burrow. Sharan is likely to stand down this year as president of the ACTU — and therefore the leader of Australia’s 2 million unionists — to become secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which represents 148m workers in 231 affiliated organisations across 150 countries. It is highly likely that this will be one of the last chances to hear this amazing woman talk about her time at the ACTU. Sharan has been a key force in advances for working women. On her watch we have seen women’s issues placed at the forefront of union concerns and, among other wins, the (eventual) introduction of federal paid parental leave and the initiation of a national pay equity test case. She was previously the federal president of our own union and started her working life as a teacher. She is a passionate, generous and inspiring woman and we are very proud of her and thrilled that she has found the time to honour us and share her thoughts and ideas with us. We are also inviting Amara Hamid of the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition to talk about the reality of being a migrant or refugee in Australia today.
While young women might not identify with the feminist “label”, most agree with core feminist values, she said. “We need to dispel the myth that to be a feminist requires being ‘qualified’ to speak up, rather than just being able to identify an unjust situation and stand up for yourself.” ◆ — Rachel Power
Wide world of women This year’s AEU Women’s Conference promises an international flavour.
We will have speakers and displays from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and our beaded lanyards will be made by women in the Philippines for Trading Circle, the fair trade project which helps women earn their way out of poverty. These will make a great necklace after the conference! One of our workshops will focus on climate change and what you can do. Others will help you build your resilience and deal with negative people (yes, Red Deb is back by popular demand), thrive through the selection process, and take control of your finances and future. If all this sounds too serious we will have a laugh at lunchtime with Melbourne comedian Nelly Thomas as she channels a right-wing evangelical telemarketer, a left-wing academic snob and a plant rights activist. Please contact us for your copy of the program — or check www.aeuvic.asn/women. There will be champagne at the beginning and end of the day and food from Mary and Steve. Come along with a woman (or two) from your school or workplace! ◆
ONFERENCE highlight Nelly Thomas unveils a new show at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival. I Coulda Been A Sailor is her hilarious homage to a public school teacher who changed her life. Nelly grew up in rural WA in the 1980s when positive role models were as rare as decaf skinny lattes. But one teacher, Mrs McCook, stood out from the crowd. Mrs McCook was bright, enthusiastic, wore lipstick during the day ... and most importantly, told Nelly she could be “anything she wanted”. This was a foreign concept to Nelly. Mrs McCook planted a seed of hope in her 9-yearold mind and made her believe she could choose any path. I Coulda Been a Sailor is on at Melbourne Town Hall from March 25 to April 17. Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au. ◆ www.aeuvic.asn.au
inside the AEU
AEU TRAINING & PD Kim Daly and Rowena Matcott training officers
HE AEU training calendar seems to grow every year. Term 2 sees no fewer than nine AEU Active courses across the state as well as the first of our conferences — two ES regional conferences and our student and graduate teacher events. We have already run two very successful two-day courses at Kooringal Golf Club and here at the AEU office in Abbotsford. It was interesting to see that few of the members at Kooringal were currently the rep or on the AEU executive at their sub-branch. This is very positive — many reps have already undertaken training and are now encouraging other
members to attend. In fact many sub-branches regularly send members, which means that more people are informed and active. It’s even more important at the moment for members to attend training. Many schools have had changes in leadership or are undergoing a building program, regeneration or amalgamation. Members need a chance to discuss the industrial and professional implications of these events and to talk to other members about their experiences. And then of course there are state and federal elections coming up — and it’s almost time for the
next teacher and ES agreements! Training tailored for you We also offer a range of training sessions which we can deliver after school or on pupil-free days. These include consultation, legal liability, occupational health and safety and organisational well-being. For more details or to book a session, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 9417 2822. ◆
AEU TRAINING CALENDAR
All events are held at the AEU Office in Abbotsford, and run all day — unless indicated. To book, call Rhonda Webley (03) 9417 2822 or 1800 013 379. AEU ACTIVE April 22–23.......................................... Warrnambool April 28–29.......................................AEU head office May 4–5.........................................................Benalla May 4–5...................................Mornington Golf Club May 12........................One day AEU Active, Wodonga May 25–26.........Croydon Golf Club, Yering Meadows May 25–26....................................................Geelong June 1–2............................................Western Region June 1–2.....................AEU Active for special schools MEMBER FORUMS June 3, 4.30–6pm...................Know Your Agreement
PD IN THE PUB Survival Kit for New Teachers: Glen Pearsall’s second series of workshops for graduates and student teachers tours Victoria from April 19 to May 18. Full details at www.aeuvic.asn.au/ new_educators under What’s On. April 19 .................................Morang, Olympic Hotel April 20................................. Traralgon, Morwell Club April 21..................................Melbourne, Trades Hall April 22..........................Pakenham, Pakenham Hotel April 27............................Frankston, Sand Belt Hotel April 28.....................Croydon, Dorset Gardens Hotel May 4...............................Wodonga, Commercial Club May 5................................Caroline Springs, The Club
May 6................................ Ballarat, The Bridge Hotel May 11................................Mildura, The Grand Hotel May 12....................................... Geelong, Beav's Bar May 13...........................Bendigo, The National Hotel May 18..................... Warrnambool, The Flying Horse CONFERENCES April 9............................ Student teacher conference April 30........Graduate teacher conference (primary) May 12..................ES regional conference, Wodonga May 21.... Graduate teacher conference (secondary) June 23..... ES regional conference, Maryborough or Shepparton
Thursdays with TLN
Applying for Leadership
HURSDAYS with TLN is a new program for 2010 — a weekly series of innovative new workshops from 4.30–7pm at the AEU building in Abbotsford. They offer teachers an opportunity to hear new ideas and update their skills and knowledge. Come along, have a coffee and a light snack and still be home in time for dinner. Sessions are $85 each for anyone in a TLN member school (call (03) 9418 4992 to check your membership status). To find out more or book online, go to www.tln.org.au. April 22: Teaching in the new school architecture with John Davidson. A look at working in the open shared spaces that are
aeu news | march 2010
part of the new architecture of schools. April 29: Classroom Coaching with Glen Pearsall. Whether coaching or coached, what does a classroom coaching conversation look like and what tools can you use? May 6: Multimedia for early years and primary with Michael Miller. One for the beginners — Michael will instil the confidence to try new things with your students. May 13: Webbed: a drama-based approach to cyber-bullying with Nick Mawson. This will be fabulous. Nick has written a play, based on his research, that he and his company will perform, followed by a short workshop. ◆
velc victorian educational leadership consortium
ELC — the Victorian Educational Leadership Consortium — is running a series of one-day workshops on applying for leading teacher and principal class positions. Both workshops will help applicants to develop their application writing and interview skills, but are tailored to the particular characteristics of these roles. Applying for principal class positions: This workshop will help serving and aspiring school leaders to articulate a personal view of leadership with particular regard to the recently revised selection criteria for principal class positions. It covers leadership styles, nurturing change, building the capacity of school leadership and emotional intelligence. Dates: April 21, July 21, September 1, October 20. Applying for leading teacher positions: This workshop will help applicants understand the model of leading teacher and make links with their own practice. This is an opportunity to establish a foundation for demonstrating leadership capacity. Dates: March 24, June 23, July 28, September 08, October 27. Each workshop costs $150 and is led by VELC manager Ross Dean. Workshops run from 9.30am–4.30pm at the AEU office in Abbotsford. More from Mary O’Hagen at VELC on (03) 9418 4967 or go to www.velc.org.au. ◆
inside the AEU
On the PHONES Membership Services Unit — 1800 013 379
How much should I be paid? W
Effective from Classification and subdivision
E SOMETIMES get calls from teacher members who are confused about the correct pay rates at various classifications levels. The chart on this page sets out the pay structure and salary levels of the current Schools Agreement. Most teachers will move up an increment on the scale each year on May 1. However, if you’re on contract, have taken unpaid leave or are new to the profession, your circumstances may be different — call us if you have any questions. More details can also be found in the Schools Agreement Implementation Guide. Download a copy at www.aeuvic.asn.au/industrial. ◆ Do you have an issue you’d like to see covered in
On the Phones?
Email email@example.com or call the MSU on (03) 9417 2822 or 1800 013 379.
11 May 2008
4 Jan 2009
3 Jan 2010
2 Jan 2011
Classroom Teacher Expert
We can help you plan for the future you want. Do you know where you are going and how to get there? There are important questions you need to ask yourself if you are to achieve the level of security you want in retirement. Will you have sufficient funds to live the lifestyle you want? At what age should you retire? Should you consider taking the 54/11 resignation option? The fact is super can be complex and everybody’s situation is different. But who can you turn to for reliable information? Luckily ESSSuper can help you find the answers. We provide a number of free services to help our members* understand all their options and plan for the future they want.
We can conduct in-school seminars or one-on-one appointments If you have a number of ESSSuper members at your school, we can visit you to provide the latest information about your defined benefit fund, answer all your questions and help you start planning for a comfortable and secure future.
If you have already attended a seminar, why not make your free personal appointment with one of our Member Education Consultants.
Did you know ESSSuper is now the only super fund you need? Whether you are working full-time, making the transition to semi-retirement via part-time work, or you’re planning to permanently retire, we can help you make the most of every stage. Talk to the people who run your fund, find out the facts about your super and take control of your financial future.
Book your free session today by calling our Member Contact Centre on 1300 655 476.
Or if you would prefer to come to us, we hold regular seminars throughout the year at our office. Check the schedule under the ‘Retirement’ section at www.esssuper.com.au
*Members include teachers who commenced employment prior to 1994.
inside the AEU
New rights at work Workers have new protections against discrimination under the new Fair Work Act. Fiona Knowles and Sally Vines of AEU lawyers Holding Redlich explain.
S WELL as abolishing WorkChoices, the Fair Work Act 2009 created an extra protection for employees from discrimination, in addition to those that already exist under the various state and federal discrimination laws. What does this mean for education workers? The new law protects teachers and school employees from “adverse action” by their employer on the basis of a “workplace right”. A person has a workplace right if they are: • Entitled to the benefit of, or have a role or responsibility under, a workplace law, workplace instrument or order made by an industrial body; or • Able to initiate, or participate in, a process or proceedings under a workplace law or workplace instrument; or • Able to make a complaint or inquiry to a person or body having the capacity under a workplace law to seek compliance with that law or a workplace instrument; or — if the person is an employee — in relation to his or her employment. In addition, teachers and school employees are protected from adverse action on the basis of their race, religion, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, nationality or social origin.
Adverse action is defined by the new law to include: • Dismissal • Injury to the employee in his or her employment • Alteration of the employee’s position to the employee’s detriment • Discrimination between the employee and other employees. The protection also applies to prospective employees, including where an employer either refuses to employ the prospective employee, or discriminates against the prospective employee in the terms and conditions on which they are offered employment. Adverse action will include a threat to take the above action or organising such action. What are the exceptions? Treating someone differently does not always amount to unlawful discrimination; for example, discrimination against an employee on the basis of the inherent requirements of the employee’s position is not unlawful. In addition, exceptions to protection from discrimination will continue to apply on the basis of a need to comply with other laws. A further exception under the Fair Work Act is the permission to discriminate against employees or prospective employees of religious schools where the school has acted in good faith and in accordance with the school’s religious beliefs. See the boxes below for examples of how the new laws can work in practice.
Where can you go for help? If you have been subjected to adverse action on the basis of a workplace right or a protected attribute, you can apply to Fair Work Australia to have the matter dealt with as a “general protections dispute”. This means that FWA will usually attempt to resolve the matter through conciliation or mediation. If the matter cannot be resolved this way, you may refer the matter to court for final determination. If the employer is found to be in breach of the adverse action provisions, it may face penalties, an order to remedy the situation, or an order to pay compensation to the affected employee. If you think that adverse action has been taken against you, call your AEU organiser. Fair Work Australia runs an information line on 13 13 94. ◆
Case study: Return from maternity leave
Case study: Requirements of the job
SARAH, an English teacher at a primary school, who had taught Grades 5 and 6 for many years, has returned to work after maternity leave. The school’s principal tells her he is very happy with the teacher who took her classes during her leave but there is a position available for her to teach maths to Grades 1 and 2, which will also require some after school tutorials for children of different levels. Sarah objects, saying that her interest and her background are in English not maths, that she has progressed over time to teach more senior grade levels and that she will have difficulty giving after school classes due to her carer’s responsibilities. The principal maintains there is no other job for her at the school. If Sarah’s principal alters her position to her detriment on her return from maternity leave or injures in her employment on the basis of her carer’s responsibilities, he is likely to have unlawfully discriminated against Sarah on the basis of her pregnancy and/or family/carer’s responsibility. He will have breached the parental leave protections of the Fair Work Act.
TIM has an eye impairment which means that he has never been able to get his driver’s licence. Recently, he applied for a position which involved driving students to various activities on the school’s bus. Although the job advertisement states that a driver’s licence is an inherent requirement of the position, Tim decides to apply anyway. He eventually receives a letter from the Education Department stating that he does not meet the requirements of the position because he does not have a driver’s licence and will not be considered for an interview. Tim is unlikely to have been unlawfully discriminated against because a driver’s licence is an inherent requirement of the particular position.
aeu news | march 2010
Andrew Cassidy graduate teacher organiser
Your duty to care
Legal issues can get forgotten in the rush of your first term. But every teacher needs to know about the duty of care.
IRSTLY, congratulations on making it through Term 1. No matter how long you teach, getting to the end of the term is always a wonderful achievement. By now most of you will have a solid understanding of your students’ strengths and weaknesses and a good idea of how the school runs. But with so many things to do, are we all aware of the legal issues that teachers face? I want to take a look at duty of care. This is a term you will hear at least half a million times throughout your career. Duty of care is best described as an obligation that a sensible person would have in the circumstances when acting toward others and the public. If the actions of a person are not made with care, attention, caution and prudence, their actions are considered negligent. A duty of care exists for teachers where a relationship between a student and teacher exists. It is up to you guys, the fantastic teachers out there, to ensure the safety of all students within your control. For example, when completing group work in the classroom, you have a duty of care. When you’re out on yard duty and supervising in a particular area, you have a duty of care. When you are out on an excursion, you have a duty of care. Recently, I was speaking to a group of new teachers and one of them asked about leaving school at the end of the day. A group of students from his school was acting dangerously on the road. Did he have a duty of care even though school had finished and they were off the school site? The answer is that the teacher should act as a “reasonable teacher” would be expected to act in these circumstances. It would be sensible for a teacher to intervene because they know the students involved and have an authority over them that would be reasonable to use. These are just a few examples of how duty of care needs to be taken into account when working as a teacher. An excellent resource that explains the subject in detail is Teachers, Students and the Law, a booklet co-produced by the Victorian Law Foundation and the AEU. Teachers, Students and the Law is available free from the AEU. If you’d like a copy, just call the union on (03) 9417 2822 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The AEU has lots of wonderful presenters who are able to visit your school and give professional development sessions on the topic of legal liability. Contact the AEU on (03) 9417 2822 to find out more or check our training and PD page at www.aeuvic.asn.au/training. Enjoy a well earned break! ◆
inside the AEU
New Educators NETWORK
Janet Marshall OHS organiser
The missing links
Incident and hazard reporting statistics can be hard to come by. But good data is the key to preventing workplace injuries.
ITH all the current concerns about the use and misuse of NAPLAN test results in schools, it’s timely to ask about another set of data that doesn’t tell the whole story — the data collected about workplace hazards incidents and injuries. We often raise issues with WorkSafe or employers only to be told the data doesn’t support our concerns, and therefore the problem cannot be acted upon. There are two sides to OHS data: before and after the injury. Accident reports and WorkCover claims give us the stats after the fact. This data is skewed because not all injuries are reported or lead to claims — particularly psychological injuries where employees often claim only as a last resort. This failure comes because firstly there is a reluctance to disclose stress and anxiety injuries and secondly there is often a systemic reluctance or failure to accept that the workplace causes or contributes to this. Disturbingly, recent legislation changes will compound the difficulties faced by employees making WorkCover claims for stress injuries — which means we must focus even greater attention on the prevention of injuries. But what data do we need to collect before an injury occurs — both to prevent and support, or to access WorkCover rights and protections? Incident and hazard reporting are ways to proactively prevent injuries. This is how we alert employers and managers so they can act to eliminate or control hazards. This includes psychological hazards and incidents and, while we’re not used to reporting in this way, some examples may be: • A student or client’s increasingly challenging behaviour • Background noise from an open-plan classroom that makes it necessary to use your voice differently and makes thinking clearly difficult • Growing conflict between staff over role definitions. Early intervention Psychological hazards are the same as physical hazards; early and local intervention is required to meet legislative obligations and is crucial for good outcomes. A psychological hazard left unaddressed doesn’t go away — it festers and grows. Reporting systems vary enormously. Staff in schools can report online using the eduSafe system. This has been taken up inconsistently so far but it will be a requirement for all schools eventually. It provides crucial information both locally and systemically. Further information can be found at www.education.vic.gov.au — DEECD employees can log in using their edumail details. Other workplaces have an injury and/or maintenance book. Is this the best way to capture information about hazards? Do all staff have a shared understanding that good OHS outcomes require good systems, information and management? We urge all workplaces to examine their reporting systems and to have a whole staff discussion about the need to report and the benefits of reporting before an injury occurs. A reminder too that in making decisions about these measures, the management must consult with the employees likely to be affected by the measures. For more information please contact me or Bob Maguire at the AEU. ◆
TRAVEL AUSTRALIA AIREY’S INLET HOLIDAY RENTAL Holiday rental, 3 bdrms, 2 living, large decks, 1 acre garden, bbq, woodfire. Phone 0416 234 808. AIREY’S INLET SATIS BEACH HOUSE Stylish and comfortable 3 bdrm house for six on the beach side of Great Ocean Road. Paddle our canoe on the inlet, walk to the lighthouse, cliff walk and beaches. Phone (03) 5380 8228 or email email@example.com. BEACH HOUSE - AIREYS INLET Available Easter, School holidays, other weeks or weekends $570 off peak per week ($140 additional nights). Suitable for four tenants (negotiable) half a block from ocean and cliff walk. 2 bedrms, large living/kitchen area. Contact Kate: firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 9486 2222 or 0412 522 725 HOLIDAY HOUSE PHILLIP ISLAND, VENTNOR Two bdrm sleeps 6, available weekends and holidays. Jane (03) 9387 9397 or 0431 471 611 or Louise (03) 9343 6030 or 0413 040 237.
OCEAN GROVE Lovely modern 3 bdrm hol home for 6, immaculately furnished and fitted. Beaches, pelican landings, boat ramps, great views. Handy to shops, golf club, restaurant, coffee shop & 5min walk to surf beach. Stunning location, close to all the Bellarine Peninsula has to offer. Relax on front verandah, enjoy a glass of wine while watching sensational sunsets. Phone (03) 5254 3263 for bookings. WILSONS PROM/WARATAH BAY Cosy 3 bdrm SC cottage. Wood fire; verandas; sunsets; myriad native birds, fauna & flora; scenic walks, beaches. www.promclose.com WYE RIVER “Wye Eyrie”: 3 bdrm house, all facilities, woodfire, balcony. Superb panorama: ocean, rockpools, surf, river, path to beach. (03) 9714 8425; email@example.com TRAVEL INTERNATIONAL CARS IN EUROPE Renault Citroen Peugeot driveEUROPE 2010 EARLYBIRD'S OUT NOW Our 36th Year of Service to the European traveller. Email : enquiries@ driveeurope.org Web: www.drive europe.org (02) 9437 4900
LAKE HOUSE HEALESVILLE Is the perfect place to relax and revitalise. Boutique-styled home, suitable for one or two couples. Nestled in a FRANCE — LANGUEDOC very quiet location and is blessed with Two renovated stone houses in tranquil picturesque rural views and a village near Carcassone, sleep four Created onoverlooks 30/12/2009 14:20:00 beautiful lake with abundant birdlife. or eight, from $600 a week. See Contact Joan 0427 960 738 website at www.frenchrentalhouses. www.lakehousehealesville.com bigpondhosting.com; or phone (02) 4757 1019; 0414 968 397; email LORNE COTTAGE firstname.lastname@example.org Sleeps 4, panoramic views, 5 mins beach and shops. Available December FRANCE — PROVENCE and January. Phone (03) 9387 4329. Restored 17th-century house in mediaeval fortified village of Entrevaux. Spectacular location, close to Côte Deadline AEU News Edition 3 d’Azur and Italy. Contact owners (03) 5258 2798 or (02) 9948 2980. www.provencehousestay.com.
FRANCE — SOUTH WEST Renov 17thC 2 bdrm apart in elegant Figeac,“centre ville”, or cottage in Lauzerte, 12thC hilltop village. Low cost. www.flickr.com/photos/ clermont-figeac/ www.flickr.com/ photos/les-chouettes/ Ph teacher owner (03) 9877 7513 or email email@example.com for brochure. ITALY — FLORENCE Beautiful fully furnished apartment in historic centre. Sleeps 2-6, $1,700 pw, telephone 0419 025 996 or www.convivioapartment.com. ITALY — UMBRIA Apartment. Beautiful sunny 2 bdrm. Historic Centre Citta Di Castello €625pw 2p, €675 3-4p. 0414 562 659 firstname.lastname@example.org PROVENCE — LANGUEDOC Large village house. Luxury plus location. Suitable for up to eight adults. (03) 5444 1023 www.houserentalfrance.com.au. ROME Studio apartment, Piazza Bologna, beautifully appointed, sleeps 2, opens onto garden courtyard, $1100 pw, telephone 0419 488 865 or www.ninoapartmentrome.com. SOUTH OF FRANCE — LANGUEDOC 2 charming newly renovated traditional stone houses with outside terraces. Sleeps 4 or 6. Market town, Capital of Minervois, wine growing region, close to lake, Canal Midi, Mediterranean beaches, historic towns. From $460 per week. Visit, Web: www.languedocgites.com Email: email@example.com. SOUTH OF FRANCE Lovely village house in the "heart of a wine growing region." www.myfrenchhome.com.au Julie 0403 314 928
VILLA TUSCANY 3 bdm classic tuscan country house, stone construction, external shutters, terracotta floors, fully equipped kitchen, lge outdoor terrace, panoramic views, complete privacy, 5mins to shops/services, direct bus service to Florence $1500AUD/week www.italyallover.com firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTICES BRIGHTON HS REUNION Did you teach at Brighton HS in 1974-79? The class of ’79 is holding a reunion on June 5 and is inviting former staff. Visit the website http://members.ozemail. com.au/~jcurrie/index.html or Email email@example.com for details. PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR CASUAL RELIEF TEACHERS IN VICTORIA Detailed information for beginners. $24.95 included postage www.vjsales.com.au
RETIREMENT VICTORIA Visit us at www.retirevic.com.au. RETIRING SOON? Volunteers for Isolated Students’ Education recruits retired teachers to assist families with their Distance Education Program. Travel and accommodation provided in return for six weeks teaching. Register at www.vise.org.au or George Murdoch (03) 9017 5439 Ken Weeks (03) 9876 2680. VISAS IMMIGRATION For the professional advice you need — contact Ray Brown. Phone (03) 5792 4056 or 0409 169 147. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Migration Agents Registration No. 0213358.
VCE TUTORS WANTED www.tutormelbourne.com.au (Language Champs Pty Ltd) is seeking current VCE teachers for casual tutoring assignments. Tutors are required for all VCE subjects across Melbourne and the suburbs. Please visit www.tutormelbourne.com.au to register or call (03) 9005 8116.
Motivating CROSS-CURRICULAR general knowledge class quiz (in teams of four) linked to VELS. ALL MATERIALS SUPPLIED. Each school then invited to have a team from each year level compete in ONLINE semi-final (yrs 3–6) or ONLINE GRAND FINAL (yrs 7–10). GRAND FINAL for Years 3-6 to be held at Monash University. FREE resource kit for use in dealing with epilepsy. FAX TO: 9882 7159
CONTACT: Val Bates 9805 9111 email@example.com
NAME ……………………………………………………………………………POSITION………………………………………… SCHOOL………………………………………………………………………………PH………………………FAX…………………… ADDRESS……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… EMAIL………………………………………………………………………………………Years 3-6 Years 7-10 Both
aeu news | march 2010
For further information, return this slip to Trivia Challenge EFV, 818 Burke Rd., Camberwell 3124
TALKING Paddy Kendler
Tipple tripping T
HERE was a time when winery touring was much about scoring a bargain at clearly below retail prices. That’s not so commonly the case now. It’s more usual to find cellar door prices at about the same as, if not even more than, those in shops. Today, the real value in cellar door visiting — leaving aside gourmet grazing, art gallery gazing and sampling local produce — is the chance to taste and buy wines not usually available via retailers and restaurateurs. Of course, many of Victoria’s 600-plus small wineries fit this bill. They only sell through cellar door; but there are a couple of much larger wineries which offer some genuine gems only available to tasting room visitors and mail-order customers. Brown Brothers operates one of the best cellar doors in Australia. At least a third of the large range on offer is exclusive to the travelling taster. In some cases, these are ongoing experimental wines or small parcels of new grape varieties not yet produced in the quantities required for statewide let alone national distribution. Call in and check out the whites Vermentino and Viognier, the reds Durif, Heathcote Shiraz and Graciano and anything under the Kid You Not label. By the way, while the Spanish red Tempranillo may be more fashionable, its Rioja partner, Graciano is capable of being a better wine. See what you think. Another great value destination is the historic and beloved Tahbilk. By all means, try all the available Marsannes, younger and older. Tahbilk’s signature dry white is as good as it gets anywhere in the world. But also check out the Roussanne, Verdelho and Viognier. Regarding the reds, definitely sample the Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Grenache and Mourvedre at bargain prices, as well as all the wines under the Dalfarras label. And when you’ve finished musing over a savoury snack at the Wetlands Cafe, join Tahbilk’s wine club before you leave. It’s a huge value bet! ◆ Former teacher Paddy Kendlar has written about wine for the Herald Sun and other publications for 30 years.
A portrait of the artist T
HE day of 7B’s first detention was the day of the school photographs. This is a day when girls look for excuses to spend time in the toilets with their hair straighteners and even the boys surreptitiously check out their ’dos in classroom windows. Garry, our new PE teacher, turns up in a suit, even though he is timetabled to teach on the oval all day, and Janet, the spectacularly unfriendly librarian, is wearing bright blue eye shadow. The whole school is looking unnaturally photogenic. 7B and I are in a Science class when our session is heralded over the loudspeaker system. Lip gloss is applied, hair flicked and socks pulled up as we make our way to the photographer. The rest of Year 7 is also waiting for their turn, with Jason, the assistant principal, patrolling the line, advising on buttons that need to be done up, jewellery that needs to be removed and attitudes that need a makeover. The Year 7s bounce and squeal, pointing and preening and looking for excuses to leave their assigned place in the line. Students with “A” surnames develop urgent needs to communicate with “W” surnames, and need constant reminders of their place on the roll. Siblings whose parents indicated on their order forms that they are to be photographed together become uncooperative and sulky, forced to sit with their family member. The photographer looks as though he never wants to see another teenager in a school uniform again as they ignore his requests to “Sit up, turn your knees towards the door, your head this way, chin down, hair back and smile!” His constant grabbing for his drink bottle during stressful encounters makes me wonder whether it’s just water he is slamming down as sweat gathers on his brow and a vein pulses in his forehead. After the photos are taken, Jason directs students back to their classrooms. I arrive back at the portable which charades as a fully fledged
Science laboratory and wait for my class … and wait. I wait so long I begin to doubt I am in the right place, even though I’ve left my books on the front desk. Twenty minutes pass and they begin to straggle in, two by two, four by four. They have taken a very scenic route back to the room and I am furious. “Right, you all have a 20 minute
detention at lunchtime.” At this point, another loudspeaker message comes booming over the airwaves: “Could Miss Adams please return to have her photograph taken.” Shame-faced, I return to the photographer, 7B in tow. He looks less than thrilled to see me and my entourage of 25 glowering students, still up in arms at receiving their first detention. “Sorry, I forgot to have mine done.” I point my knees to the door, drop my chin and smile, fully aware of the sea of loathing behind me. “Cheeeese.” ◆ Comedian and teacher Christina Adams previously made her living as a hand model.
GROWING PAINS Rachel Power AEU News
UTHOR and former teacher Shane Thamm is working hard to convince schools that his new novel, My Private Pectus, is not lewd. The title refers to a chest deformity, pectus excavatum, suffered by around one in 500 men including the book’s main character, Year 12 student Jack McDermott. Thamm uses the deformity as a way to address more general — and increasingly troubling — body image issues faced by teenage boys. “About 20 years ago, in western culture, men’s bodies started being objectified and used as an object of desire,” says Thamm. “Body image concern is no longer a girls-only affair.” After six years working in high-school outdoor education and the outdoor adventure industry, Thamm became fascinated by what makes young men tick. His book is based on his observations as well as his own need, as a young man, to prove his masculinity through outdoor adventure and extreme sport. Shortlisted for the NT Book of the Year Award, OTHERLAND Maria Tumarkin Random House 320pp, RRP $34.95 THERLAND is the story of Maria Tumarkin’s journey with her teenage daughter, Billie, back to Russia and the Ukraine, the world she left behind at 15, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Neither straight memoir nor political essay, Tumarkin’s book instead offers a very personal response to extraordinary events. As with her previous books, Traumascapes and Courage, it is the author’s energy, humour and curiosity that compel the reader through some often heavy territory. Here, the result is both a profound and highly readable book which tracks the unravelling of Tumarkin’s fantasies about rediscovering her birth-country and forging a fearsome bond with her daughter, only to find that the past is not simply another country, but one that no longer exists. ◆ — RP
aeu news | march 2010
the novel's comical and recognisable characters, as well as its realistic take on some hard-hitting themes, mean this “might be the book that gets a few of those boys back row reading,” says Thamm. “Some people tell me it’s a book about boys behaving badly. But really it’s about relationships between boys — the complex father/son relationship and with peers. Some things are out of my own high-school experience and so some of that stuff is pretty real.” Jack — under pressure to find a girlfriend and with an ex-military father who coaches the school rugby league team — is struggling to understand who he is, what he’s meant to look like, and how much he should care about what other people think. For men, says Thamm, “body stuff” is as much about performance as appearance. “Three things are considered important to becoming a man: sporting performance, how much he can drink, and whether he’s got laid — these are the messages
FISH TANK Dir: Andrea Arnold 124 mins, rated M OUL-mouthed and street-smart, Mia (Katie Jarvis) is a 15-year-old living with her younger sister and their single mother in a London housing estate. A loner who has dropped out of school and dreams of becoming a professional hip-hop dancer, Mia’s anger and aggression have driven a wedge between her and the other girls on the estate. When her indifferent mother brings home charming new Irish beau Connor, he offers the only gestures of kindness Mia has experienced for a long time, but his overtures increasingly confuse her. Small interjections of nature present moving, at times almost surreal, contrasts to Mia’s bleak, desperate life — and the potential for escape. Riveting, intense and strikingly shot, Fish Tank is a socialrealist masterpiece reminiscent of Ken Loach's Kes. ◆ — RP
Jack’s taking on. But he’s not really that good at any of them.” Thamm wrote the book while doing a Masters thesis looking at masculinities and the emergence of body image as a key concern for young men. “About 45% of men in western societies are unhappy with their bodies,” he says. “And this figure has tripled in the last 25 years.” Mission Australia’s 2007 National Survey of Young Australians found body image to be the biggest worry for 11–24 year olds — both male and female — with one in three respondents recording it as a major concern. While Thamm wants to highlight this neglected issue in young adult fiction, he doesn’t want to paint himself as an author with answers. “Novels are to be enjoyed and reflected on; it’s not a moralistic or didactic book.” ◆ My Private Pectus is published by Ford Street, RRP $19.95. Teachers’ notes and more information about the author are available at shanethamm.com.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Dir: Niels Arden Oplev 146 mins, rated MA15+ EN who Hate Women is the more accurate translation of the title of this first adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium series, and perhaps gives a better idea of the darkness at the heart of the story. Oplev conjures up a chilly Swedish backdrop to a story of decades-old disappearances and murders among the rich and privileged. Noomi Rapace is a wiry, bristling presence as Lisbeth Salander while Michael Nyqvist is suitably worldweary as journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Oplev sacrifices much of the political intrigue and social commentary to focus on the thriller at the core; what emerges is an intriguing murder mystery which retains a flavour of Larsson’s critique of the degeneracy of the rich, and whose grip only slackens at the end. ◆ — NB
THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS Dir: Grant Heslov 94 mins, rated M RITISH journalist Jon Ronson has such a distinctive voice, it’s hard to imagine his books being filmed — which is exactly the problem with Heslov’s debut. Goats is a gonzoid trip to the weird side of the American military, a secret unit of hippies and warrior monks trying to harness psychic energies for good. It’s full of bizarre ideas, nice lines and entertaining performances from its star-heavy cast — Clooney, Spacey, Bridges. But Ewan McGregor is hopelessly miscast as the journo narrator, whose naïf-like progress through Iraq frames exposition-heavy flashbacks to the origins of the New Earth Army and too much betrays the film’s literary origins. With flashes of Catch 22 and Doctor Strangelove, it’s very funny while somehow being less than the sum of its parts. ◆ — NB
REVIEWS BY RACHEL POWER AND NIC BARNARD
Shane Thamm’s rites-of-passage novel puts the spotlight on the growing trend of body image issues among teenage boys.
AEU NEWS is giving members the opportunity to win a variety of Australian resources for their school libraries from our good friends at Ford Street Publishing, black dog books and Text Publishing. To enter, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org by 10am Monday, April 12. Include your name and school or workplace. Write “Win Teaching Resources” in the subject line. Prizes will be sent directly to the winner’s school or workplace with a special inscription recognising the winner. Good luck!
Norton's Blue Ribbon and Norton Saves the Day by Bernadette Kelly, illustrations by Liz Alger Norton is a naughty pony that loves to eat. His owner, Molly, thinks he is the most perfect pony in the world. Follow Molly and Norton on their next two adventures from riding school to show day.
The Ice-Cream Man by Jenny Mountfield One summer afternoon three boys play a prank on the ice-cream man. This one decision sets into motion a chain of events that will forge a life-long bond, testing each boy as never before. Three boys united by fear and their need for friendship. Three boys united against the ice-cream man.
black dog books, RRP $9.95
Ford Street Publishing, RRP$16.95
The Gimlet Eye by James Roy Much has changed in the sky-city of Quentaris. With the Archon dead, dark forces have come into play. New faces are appearing, familiar ones vanishing, and the horrid Florian has claimed the throne. Plots, intrigue, magic, mystery, high adventure and more — everything that you’ve come to expect from the Quentaris series.
Ford Street Publishing, RRP$16.95
Zero Hour by Leon Davidson When the Australians and New Zealanders arrived at the Western Front in 1916, the fighting had been going for a year and a half and there was no end in sight. The men took their place in a line of trenches that spread through Belgium and France from the North Sea to the Swiss Alps. Beyond the trenches was a no-man’s land filled with the dead and wounded. Beyond that was the German Army. Text Publishing, RRP $19.95
Congratulations to our winners from AEU News issue 1: Battle Boy: Destroy Troy — Ruth Bone, Traralgon South Primary School; Play School Alphabet — Kerry Rooney, Omeo Kindergarten; The Cursed — Lily King, Sunshine College (West Campus); Murderer’s Thumb — Sandrah Lowenthal, Crusoe College.
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NEW TEACHERS get a head start with
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