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victorian branch

AEU NEWS v o l u m e 15 I i s s u e 4 I j u n e 2 0 0 9

Our

40,000th member Budget round-up Inside special schools Preschools victory AEU

t:03 9417 2822 f:1300 658 078 w : w w w. a e u v i c . a s n . a u


AEU Victorian Branch Branch president: Mary Bluett Branch secretary: Brian Henderson

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 melbourne@aeuvic.asn.au

country offices B allarat (03) 5331 1155 | Benalla (03) 5762 2714 Bendigo (03) 5442 2666 | Gippsland (03) 5134 8844 Geelong (03) 5222 6633

cover story

Our 40,000th member The AEU’s record-breaking growth has seen it reach a new landmark with the signing up of 40,000th member Shobashini Doraisingam.

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features

18

13

14

2009 Budget round-up

The longest strike

Government protests that it doesn’t support simplistic league tables start to ring hollow.

This year’s budgets reveal a delicate power game between federal and state governments.

Teachers today owe many of their rights to the battles for public education of the 1970s.

Tabloids turn the tables

AEU Federal WOMEN’S CONFERENCE Expressions of interest are invited from women members of the AEU Victorian Branch for five(5) delegates to attend the AEU Federal Women’s Conference to be held in Melbourne on Saturday 3 October and Sunday 4 October 2009. The delegates will include at least one represenative from each of the four sectors of the union (Primary, Secondary, Early Childhood, and TAFE and Adult Provision). Expressions of interest in writing should be mailed, hand-delivered, faxed or emailed to me by Friday 7 August 2009. Background details to support your nomination may also be submitted. Branch Council will determine the delegation if necessary at its August meeting. David Tydeman, Returning Officer, AEU Victorian Branch PO Box 363, 112 Trenerry Crescent, Abbotsford VIC 3067 Fax: (03) 9417 6198 Email: john.cassidy@aeuvic.asn.au

COVER IMAGE: Peter Lambropoulos

Special care needed

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Education support staff in our special schools undertake difficult, demanding and even dangerous work. But what does it really involve?

regulars 3 4 11 23 25

president’s report letters christina adams women’s focus on the phones

27 28 29 30 31

safety matters classifieds international culture giveaways

contacts

editorial enquiries Nic Barnard

AEU Vic Branch Council

Vacancies

A number of vacancies exist for sector councillors on AEU branch council. The deadline for nominations in June 18. For full details, see the notice under Council Vacancies at www.aeuvic.asn.au/about.

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aeu news | june 2009

tel (03) 9418 4841 fax (03) 9415 8975 email nic.barnard@aeuvic.asn.au

advertising enquiries Lyn Baird tel (03) 9418 4879 fax (03) 9415 8975 email lyn.baird@aeuvic.asn.au

AEU News is produced by the AEU Publications Unit: editor Nic Barnard | designers Lyn Baird, Peter Lambropoulos, Kim Fleming journalist Rachel Power | editorial assistant Helen Prytherch PrintPost Approved: 349181/00616 ISSN: 1442—1321. Printed in Australia by GEON 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.

Printed on Re Art matte 100% recycled paper

AEU NEWS

Contents


president’s report

League tables? No way Inflammatory speeches by Julia Gillard and Bronwyn Pike mean we have a new fight on our hands — to prevent league tables which will damage our schools and our children’s futures.

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approved “heads of agreement” with AEU federal executive on May 31 UBLIC education and the teaching nationally comparable information our employers — or else the funding determined to continue to campaign on all schools”, including the 2008 profession in Australia face yet underpinning any pay increases would including targeting next year’s NAPLAN results and contextual data. another major challenge. drop from 3.25% to 2.5%. NAPLAN tests unless measures are They went on: “(This) will enable Using threats to funding reminisOur challenge was enormous. As introduced to prevent the further cent of the Howard era, Deputy Prime comparison of each school with with schools and TAFE, negotiations creation of simplistic league tables. other schools serving similar student Minister Julia Gillard has pressured had been protracted and difficult. In populations around the nation and state and territory ministers to sign addition, given the schools outcome, Preschool salary justice at last up to a “Transparency Agenda” which with the best-performing school in the bridge to cross to reach parity The AEU has negotiated an historic each cohort of like schools.” itself owes much to the previous agreement for our preschool members with school teachers had grown to While ministers maintain “governgovernment. 29% at the top of the scale. — historic for three reasons. ments will not themselves devise To judge by Bronwyn Pike’s highly In the end, additional funding from Firstly, it was negotiated in the simplistic league tables or rankings”, inflammatory speech at Melbourne government was provided and we most difficult of financial circumthis is nonsense. As John Graham University on June 3, it is an agenda delivered pay parity for preschool stances. Secondly, despite this,PROVIDERS it this state government has seized with reports (page 13), the data will be AEU PREFERRED teachers, a professional pay scale for delivers pay parity for preschool used by our more sensationalist enthusiasm. assistants and improvements in other teachers at both the beginning and media outlets to devise just that — It is an agenda which must, and top of the incremental scale. Thirdly, it conditions (see page 12). simplistic tables without any context. will, be opposed. The successful schools and is the first to include our newest AEU John’s article also details the Last month, our Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 campaigns, and the readiness — preschool negative experience of league tables students sat the NAPLAN tests. Retirement Victoria advisersmembers are acknowledged expertsassistants. in State Super andTAFE have assisted hundreds of AEU members of preschool members to do On March 27, State Treasurer in the UK. The damage to curriculum National tests created before a likewise, facilitated an outcome John Lenders and Industrial Relations provision, students and entire school national curriculum; national tests which we can all celebrate. ◆ Minister Martin Pakula called public communities isand wellsocial documented in created in the absence of a common security systems. sector unions to an urgent meeting to international research. They create school starting age among states. Cooper, Geoff Allen & Staff announce a change to their pay policy greater inequality and increased On Alan April 17, education ministers Level 3/432 St Kilda Road, 3004 as a result of shifts as a result of the global financial crisis. announced that “in a major stepMelbournesegregation Alan Cooper, Geoff Allenand & Staff are Authorised Retirement and are the AEU’s preferred providers of retirement planning We Representatives were told weof had untilVictoria midday in student enrolment patterns forward a shared transparency Visitfor us at www.retirevic.com.au and services to AEU members. Retirement Victoria Partnership ABN 13 409 340 986 AFSL 273316. on May 4 to reach a governmentagenda” they would publish “relevant, “middle-class flight”. AEU Vic branch president

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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 aeunews@aeuvic.asn.au. 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: 15 July, 2009.

AEU News issue 3

BYLINES were unfortunately omitted from three stories in the May issue of AEU News. Jeremy Bannister took the photograph of Jo Fogarty (Profile, p15). Teacher librarians Rob Castles and Kate Marquard were photographed by Katie Langmore (Feature, p16). And the National Union of Teachers conference (International, p29) was caught by British photographer Martin Jenkinson. Apologies to all.◆

stark contrast to the end of 2007 when 11 people left the school. There are a number of blatant inaccuracies in the articles in the papers and the letter from the Action Group. We are concerned about the constant reports that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development responded to an anonymous letter. We have confirmed that they would never respond to an anonymous letter. Martin Dixon commented in Parliament that “it has disrupted the education of the children”. This is not true. The children’s learning has never been in jeopardy. Our standards in reading, writing and mathematics were higher in 2008 than in 2007. It is important to say that in February last year Marg U’ren retired, intending to reapply for the principal position. She is currently not on any kind of leave, nor is she employed by DEECD. Therefore she would certainly not be receiving any remuneration from them. — Hurstbridge PS AEU sub-branch and CPSU members

Sins of commission A RECENT newspaper article in Wealth made the following comments about commissions paid to financial planners: “Commissions are one of the most insidious and prone-to-abuse elements of financial planning, and remain a major stumbling block for an industry that has otherwise taken significant steps towards true professionalism.” The article went on to say: “The Financial Planners Association of Australia has proposed that from July 1, 2012, financial planners who are members of the FPA and who subscribe and adhere to the association’s codes of conduct, practice and ethics, will no longer be allowed to accept commission payments from the manufacturers of financial products they recommend.” Does the AEU’s preferred adviser for retirement and financial planning, Retirement Victoria, back this proposal? — Peter Ryan Box Hill Institute

NOT A MEMBER? Joining couldn’t be easier.

Speak to your local rep, call (03) 9417 2822, or email melbourne@aeuvic.asn.au Membership forms also available from AEU country offices.

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Keep up to date with the latest news about AEU campaigns and events, plus news from the union and social justice movement — and special giveaways — in the AEU’s f­ortnightly e-newletter. To sign up, go to

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ES

numbers COUNT!

RECRUIT a new EDUCATION SUPPORT member for your CHANCE TO WIN a $1000 gift voucher VISIT www.aeuvic.asn.au FOR DETAILS ES_recruit-poster.indd 1

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aeu news | june 2009

#1193

Hurstbridge teachers speak STAFF in the AEU sub-branch at Hurstbridge Primary School and colleagues in the Community and Public Sector Union have been upset to read articles in the local newspapers and The Age about the inquiry in relation to former principal Marg U’ren and particularly distressed to see members of the Action Group [of her supporters] handing out leaflets to the community before school. We respect their dedication to their cause and share their concern regarding the length of time the inquiry has taken. However, their continued actions are creating high levels of distress for the staff. This has come at a time when the school has been travelling particularly well. The first two terms have been very happy with the children most settled and working extremely well. The staff are happier than for many years. We are taking on new educational challenges and are more fully involved in the life of the school than for a long time. This, of course, translates to the wellbeing of the children. Staff retention from 2008 to 2009 was excellent, in

27/03/09 3:29 PM


news

40,000 strong

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hobashini Doraisingam couldn’t have been more surprised when champagne corks started popping and streamers fell from the ceiling the moment she handed over her AEU membership application form… Well, almost. The AEU was excited about signing up its 40,000th member when she attended a graduate teachers’ conference last month. “I’d actually been meaning to join for ages, and my friend said to me ‘Do it now or you’re never going to’,” says Shobie, first-year teacher at Thomastown Secondary College. “As I was leaving they asked me to wait a moment and then said ‘Congratulations!’ I thought: ‘For doing the workshops? That’s nice.’” Then branch president Mary Bluett broke the news to the conference,

presenting Shobie with a certificate and prizes: an AEU satchel, a trip to the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Lodge up to the value of $1000 sponsored by Retirement Victoria, and a $200 sunglasses voucher from Teachers Federation Health. Since 2001, AEU Victorian membership has increased by over 50%. Over three quarters of state school teachers and principals are now AEU members. And federally, the AEU is now Australia’s second largest union. “This reflects the campaigns of the union and our role in advocating for public education and the profession,” says Ms Bluett. “We have gone against the trend. Where there has been a general decline in union membership, we’ve been growing at a great rate. And it’s

not showing any sign of slowing down.” The AEU had around 26,000 members at the point of merger with the TTUV, VTU and Kindergarten Teachers in 1996. The success of AEU’s recent campaigns — the Schools Agreement, the TAFE Stop the Rip Off campaign and the ES Agreement — have all resulted in mass increases in membership. Over 1000 education support (ES) workers joined the AEU during their Agreement campaign. While the Victorian branch’s TAFE recruitment drive raised membership in the sector by 67%. “More and more education workers are recognising the benefits of a united voice,” says Bluett. ◆

Shobie Doraisingam with graduates organiser James Rankin and branch president Mary Bluett

RECRUIT AND WIN

Our current ES Numbers Count competition closes on the last day of Term 3. One lucky member who recruits a new ES member will win a $1000 Coles Myer gift voucher. For further information please contact julie.lynch@aeuvic.asn.au.

Balwyn’s ton up B

HOL 527 signs AEU Dan Brewster up Ad02

3/7/06

alwyn High School has joined the select group of AEU sub-branches with more than 100 members after a function for graduate teachers. 0nly four schools in Victoria have broken the ton. First-year drama teacher Daniel Brewster got Balwyn over the line, signing the application form to make the school the secondlargest sub-branch in the state. He said he’d been meaning to join the 1:25 1 teaching. But union PM since Page he started he already had first-hand experience

of what unions could do. “When I was a kid, I got a scholarship through (shopworkers’ union) the SDA. It was a $7–8000 scholarship to be an exchange student, and since then I’ve always been part of the union.” As head of drama — in a department of one — Dan has been thrown in the deep end, but is enjoying the work. Sub-branch rep Kerry Biddington said she was impressed to hear the

school had reached the landmark. “My aim now is to get the lapsed ones back,” she said. “It is challenging running such a big sub-branch — it’s very hard to arrange meetings,” Kerry added. “This is such a big school, but being in the union gives you a voice and a chance to express your concerns.” Northcote High School is the largest school sub-branch in Victoria, with 111 members. ◆

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news

TAFE’s contract abuse ended T

EACHERS at an eastern metropolitan TAFE college have received tens of thousands of dollars in back pay and benefits after the AEU put an end to a rort by their managers to keep staff off the payroll. At least 20 casual teachers at Box Hill TAFE had been persuaded by their managers to become “independent contractors”, each forming their own business and acquiring an ABN, so they could bust the then 320-hour annual limit on sessional work at the institute. With so much work available, the college should have been putting more teachers on contract or creating ongoing positions.

The teachers missed out on the full range of entitlements, including sick leave, annual leave, superannuation contributions, leave loading and more. Most were teaching in the automotive, transport and engineering department. The ruse also broke the TAFE Agreement which says all teachers must be employed on the same terms and conditions. Some teachers have now received up to $40,000 in back pay to cover their lost entitlements. A number have also received contracts or ongoing positions. The institute has also agreed to review and tighten up its practices

Six years’ wait over

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FTER six years, a disability instructor and AEU member has won an apology and compensation from her employer over a letter that ended her career. Helen Rush turned to the union in 2003 after discovering a letter to the centre’s management committee had been posted in the foyer of her workplace, making a number of unfounded allegations against her. Signed by her supervisor, the CEO of the service and a number of her colleagues, it questioned her commitment and attitudes to people with disabilities. The former teacher worked with adults with intellectual disabilities, helping them to live independently in their own accommodation. She was shocked by the accusations, which have never been backed up. She felt she couldn’t continue to work in that atmosphere and, turning to the AEU, lodged a WorkCover claim. But she was determined to redress the injustice. “My conscience couldn’t let me walk away from that,” says Helen. “I loved my job and I cared about the people I looked after and the people I worked with.” She lived on WorkCover at 75% of her salary for six years, until

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she qualified for the aged pension. Throughout this time, the AEU sought to return Helen safely to work, and she praises the support she received from organiser David Bunn. “He didn’t give it away through all those years,” she says. But management refused to meet either her or Bunn, or to offer a meaningful apology or take steps to prevent any repetition. Finally, Helen’s long ordeal ended in March, with a new committee now in charge of her workplace. The former CEO and Helen’s direct manager are no longer employed. The chair of the new committee, the treasurer and the acting CEO have given Helen a full apology on behalf of the organisation and reasonable compensation. She was also thanked and farewelled in the organisation newsletter. Helen says her experience is a good warning about the importance of union membership. “It doesn’t matter what rung you’re on, if you have an issue, the union’s there for you. “The day the union rang me to say the committee was going to offer me an apology and that small amount of money, it was liking winning the lottery — to think, after all those years, that they would say sorry.” ◆

around employing casual staff — although it continues to argue the agreement does not prohibit the use of independent contractors for teaching work. The practice was spotted by AEU sub-branch rep Fergus Hudson and followed up by AEU lawyers. AEU TAFE deputy vice president Rob Stewart said: “This practice got the institute out of employing the

correct number of staff, and other people missed out on jobs. They also used it to get round the conversion process to contract or ongoing positions, because it was cheaper.” Box Hill is not believed to be the only offender. Other institutes should consider themselves warned. ◆ — Nic Barnard

TAFE 4 All steps up he AEU will step up its battle against the Victorian Government’s skills reforms with a public awareness campaign for secondary schools — the students who will be hardest by the plans to ramp up TAFE fees and introduce loans. Leaflets will be distributed to schools shortly to let students know who is bearing the cost of Brumby’s reforms. ◆

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New faces

at the AEU AEU members have two new organisers providing direct support in schools and workplaces. ROSEMARY Crowe is the union’s new organiser in Geelong, covering the Barwon south-west region. A teacher at Gordon TAFE since 2000, she has also been a primary and secondary teacher, and jokes that her four days as an early childhood CRT means she has had a taste of everything, except disability. A councillor for almost five years, Rosemary says she started getting more involved in the union after joining the Gordon where “Gillian Robertson and Mark Hyde [then president and VP respectively] created a really good, strong sub-branch.” It’s a model she now wants to help other workplaces develop. “It means taking responsibility for your own workplace and that’s a very positive experience.”

Peter Hendrickson is the new statewide principal class organiser. The Sunbury College principal has been involved with teacher unions since joining the VSTA in 1976. He is most looking forward to working with and supporting other principals in doing what is a “tough job”. He says the biggest issues facing principals are workload — especially given the current mass building programs — and “league tables, which is just the silliest idea I’ve heard in a long time, and will not improve the learning outcomes of one kid.” Speaking of kids, they are what he’ll miss most in leaving his current job at Sunbury College. “The best part of this job is talking and dealing with kids, and I will miss that.” ◆


news

Hard words in Brisbane Unions met for the first ACTU congress under Rudd’s Labor to find much work still needs to be done despite friendlier faces in Canberra. Justin Mullaly deputy vice president, secondary

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F UNIONS left the ACTU Congress with a renewed sense that the movement has the vision to see the country through the current financial crisis, they also left with plenty of unfinished business. After a confrontational speech by Education and Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard, delegates were clear they couldn’t ease up on a supposedly friendly government. Not least among the unfinished business was the continuation of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, whose officers have the power to interrogate building workers about union activities and threaten those who refuse with six months’ jail. Congress, with delegates wearing t-shirts calling for the ABCC’s abolition,

demanded that government abandon this element of Howard’s IR legacy. Addressing delegates, Deputy Prime Minister Gillard argued it was fair and reasonable to have one law for one group of workers and another for the rest, and accused building workers of thuggery. It is clear now that we should consider the ABCC a beast of the Rudd Government, not a fossil of the Howard years. Delegates from all unions voted to push Labor’s replacement for WorkChoices, the Fair Work Act, to the limit, and importantly put the Government on notice that members expect a new wave of legislation to make workplaces fairer, safer and more equitable. While the Government’s changes go some way to repealing the worst aspects of WorkChoices, especially by putting union-negotiated collective

agreements at the heart of industrial relations, more is needed. As one delegate put it: “It’s the role of Labor in government to make the lot of workers better and better.” It seems the Government needs to be dragged screaming and kicking in this direction. The AEU, now Australia’s second biggest union, sponsored a key resolution calling in part on Canberra to enhance the new Act by incorporating the right to conciliation and arbitration when workers and their unions are in dispute with employers. Other key debates included the need to increase recruitment (especially among young workers), improvements to occupational health and safety, and funding increases for early childhood education and care, schools, TAFEs and universities. The education policy calls on the Government to address the funding

model which delivers non-government schools buckets of money far in excess of the relative numbers they enrol. It emphasised that government has a responsibility to provide high quality, free, secular and universal education to all and must provide adequate resources to support the highest of student outcomes. Not surprisingly, Gillard, in her address, continued to champion the need for greater transparency in schools and for league tables. Her destructive and badly informed myopia on this issue will likely lead to schools being ranked on the basis of crude data that fails to take into account the socio-economic backgrounds of students and their families. Unions also supported a comprehensive climate change policy which urges the Government to develop the green sector of the economy. ◆

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news

Meeting the future head-on Rachel Power AEU News

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MAGINE a world 20 years from now if nothing is done about global warming. That is the challenge posed by Living in 2030: An Experiment in Survival, a curriculum developed by Williamstown High School, which then calls on students to develop solutions. The curriculum and its classroom resources are now being offered to schools around Australia by the Global Green Plan Foundation, with sponsorship from Fuji Xerox. The program was launched at Williamstown HS last month by Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, patron of the foundation. Principal Steve Cook says his students are well aware of climate change but that the program gives

them a chance to think proactively. “It gives them an in-depth understanding of the challenges of climate change,” he says. “But then they go on to contrast what the world would look like if nothing changed with the chance to envision making a difference.” Steve says the project encourages kids to drive change within their families. Some students have measured the energy and waste produced in their household and set out to halve it. Others have come up with marketing campaigns or designed

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch with Williamstown HS students at the launch of the curriculum photo courtesy of Williamstown High School

a future green home. The curriculum’s origins lie four years ago, when a team of Williamstown teachers devised the initial concept for upper middleyears students, to fit the environmental theme of the school’s Bayview campus. Since then, Steve has selected a revolving group of teachers each year from various disciplines to run the course. Every Year 9 student at Williamstown HS takes part in the program. All students decide on a rich task and create a visual diary of their

project in hard copy or digital form. The curriculum can be structured in four different ways, as suits the school, Steve says. Some teachers choose to suspend normal curriculum and run it as an intensive, full-time fortnight; others make three periods available per week for the program for example. Fuji Xerox has supported the initial roll-out of the curriculum to five other schools across Australia, which includes professional development for teachers. So far about 10 other schools in Melbourne have expressed an interest in the curriculum. ◆

The truth about pupil-free days Brian Henderson branch secretary

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HE Education Department seems to be practising the age-old adage that if you tell a lie often enough people will believe it is the truth. Take the recent circular to schools under the name of Jim Miles, acting executive director for resources and infrastructure, on the “Pupil-free day on 12 June 2009 and contract school bus services”. The circular begins: “The recently negotiated Victorian Government Schools Agreement determined that Friday, 12 June 2009 is to be a pupil-free day.” I have read the agreement from cover to cover and cannot find the clause that says that. What he may be referring to is the memorandum of understanding that arose out of the negotiations, which states:

“The parties recognise that only the employer … determines the timing of the existing four pupil-free days, provided not more than three days will occur prior to the day the students commence each school year.” The MOU goes on to allow the employer to move one of those three days to meet the needs of schools. The minister and the department have not only been ridiculously inflexible in the application of pupil-free days to the great disadvantage of schools, but they have also disadvantaged students and parents by applying this clause to parent teacher interviews which were never discussed in the negotiations over the VGSA 2008. The AEU has written to the department pointing out the error in the circular and suggesting that it stop blaming the AEU for its own bad management decisions. ◆

Scholarships for vets’ kids

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he Australian Veterans’ Children’s Assistance Trust (AVCAT) is offering scholarships to up to 65 children and grandchildren of ex-service personnel, to attend university, college or TAFE. There are a number of schemes,

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aeu news | june 2009

ranging from $3000 to $5000 per year, including one for Indigenous students. All are for courses lasting at least one year. Applicants must be aged under 25. Call 1800 620 361 or go to www.accsoft. com.au/~vvt. ◆

Odd odour about tables Was the Brisbane Courier Mail sending a subliminal message when it ran its school league tables special last month? “How Schools Rate”, trumpeted the front page of the CuriousSmell (as it is unaffectionately known) over a picture of three perky (private school) kids, pointing to a spread and lift-out inside. The headline below seemed to offer its own verdict in 96-point type: “Hopeless”. Admittedly it was a story about water quality, but the juxtaposition was striking. As for the tables themselves, they seemed an oddly half-hearted affair — out-of-date data (from 2007) trawled from public records, with plenty of missing gaps and little attempt to rank. Its true significance was as a statement of intent. Expect a lot more of this when real data is available, and much closer to home. Because you’re worth it Meanwhile back in Victoria, the Herald Sun had its own scoop — more than half of the Brumby Government’s increased spending on education has gone on … your wages. “Of the $1.7 billion schools boost pledged in the state budget, $1.17bn involves the cost of rising wages and added classroom support for Victoria’s 40,000 public teachers,” the paper reported. Actually that makes it more than two-thirds, not half. Only in the world of the Hun would paying more to reward workers in our most important profession seem like a waste of money. But Press Watch imagines our staffrooms are too awash with champagne for teachers to care much about the slur. ◆


news

AEU members in the red

How did you mark National Public Education Day? Nic Barnard AEU News

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EAR red went the call from the AEU and wear red you did, to mark the union’s national public education day on May 21. Members across the state turned up for work in the AEU colours to show their pride in the public system and their role within it. Few will have been redder than Bellfield Primary School in West Ivanhoe, where the AEU sponsored a morning tea and where staff had decided to mark the day by inviting grandparents in to see the work of the school. Just to help, the school uniform is red too. Bellfield, which has 100% AEU membership, is a good example of what there is to celebrate in public education. Generations of kids have passed through the school since it opened after the Second World War to cater for the baby boom and returned service families and Bellfield is known for its strong community feel. Today the school is part of the La Trobe regeneration project, which will see a brand new P-12 school built. Principal Mary Ryan said: “We’re very excited. It will be a great opportunity for the children of West Heidelberg. We can give them greater opportunities

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and access to things like state-of-the-art computers. The buildings are designed with flexible learning spaces. “It’s about giving kids a first-class public education.” Loretta Wise, sub-branch president “for nearing 100 years” (actually about 15), says she is proud the school is 100% union. “The fact that we are going into the regeneration, I think it was very important for people to understand their rights and have that union backing,” she says. The morning tea was joined by AEU president Mary Bluett, who congratulated staff on “the great work that the teachers and principal class and our education support do every day, and the difference they make in the school.” Also there were Heather and Trevor Davison, down from Maryborough to see their granddaughter Ahnyca’s school. “Public education is something we should all be proud of,” Trevor said. “Where are we without education? Nowhere. And the majority of kids need the public education system.” Many branches used their sub-branch funds to put on morning teas or luncheons — at Rangeview Primary School support staffer Sabrina Dowell even baked biscuits and cakes in AEU colours. ◆

Carraragarmungee PS

Bellfield PS photo: trevor davison

Rangeview PS

hard to reach a local agreement for the school. “We didn’t succeed last year and that meant our arrangements were very flexible at the start of the year and nobody knew where they stood. “A local agreement is really important.” Organiser John Handley nominated Debra for rep of the month, saying: “Taking a grievance is a big step. She’s also managed almost from scratch to get this local agreement and recruit new members. “She’s a quality teacher as well.” ◆

EBRA Fischer, sub-branch president at Mornington Secondary College, is June’s AEU Rep of the Month, for her persistence in seeking out official data for the school consultative committee. The current Schools Agreement sets out more clearly than before the type of information that should be available to committees and to sub-branches, to allow them to play an active part in consultations on important school workforce decisions. But Debra was forced to successfully take out a grievance to obtain the

information at her school in what has proved a landmark ruling for Victoria. “It was a bit scary,” Debra admits. “You don’t want your workplace to be one of conflict, but there’s a line in the sand that you can’t cross.” Her courage was the greater given the union’s relatively low density at the school — around 50% of staff. “It’s hard when you haven’t got full membership,” Debra says. “You don’t have as much force in the school.” Debra, rep for seven years, says she tries to make colleagues more aware of their rights, and is working

Nominate your REP!

Does your school or workplace AEU Rep deserve special recognition? Email aeunews@aeuvic.asn.au telling us who you’re nominating and why. The Rep of the Month receives a limited edition AEU leather briefcase.

Debra Fischer

Mornington Secondary College

www.aeuvic.asn.au

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news

Excellent alternative Rachel Power AEU News

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HIS year’s Victorian Education Excellence Awards have recognised the success of an alternative education program in creating a high-achieving environment for disengaged adolescents. Teacher and AEU member Brendan Murray is a co-ordinator of the Pavilion School, an alternative school attached to Banksia-La Trobe Secondary College, but located off site in a community setting in West Heidelberg. He has been awarded the 2009 mecu Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year for his achievements in reintegrating marginalised kids into the education system. Hot on its heels has come a federal Closing the Gap award, presented by Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, for the school’s Indigenous curriculum. It is the first of the national awards to be given out. Brendan said the mecu award was significant because it acknowledged that the Pavilion is delivering an education comparable in quality to

Melbourne’s most selective schools. He said the Pavilion would not be possible if it wasn’t for the AEU. “We now employ three teachers, Brendan Murray three social workers and two ES staff members. All of us are in different sectors and different awards. “It’s all very well to say that you’ve got 132 kids back at school — but that wouldn’t be possible if the union wasn’t negotiating the wages and conditions on our behalf. As a co-ordinator, I wouldn’t be teaching and we wouldn’t be able to recruit all these staff members if the union wasn’t doing the rest.” The Pavilion is a northern region transition centre for up to 60 young people aged 14-20 who have been out of school for at least three months. It attempts to reconnect them with their schools while providing an alternative education. The school’s comparatively large Indigenous population tends to be those disconnected from stronger Koorie communities. Other students include those under child protection orders, those recently

out of prison, young mothers and homeless youth. “We have a therapeutic alliance with the kids. They know we’re on the same team, and that we want to give them the best possible education.” Brendan said he wished there could be equal recognition for his fellow co-ordinator and social worker Josie Howie, with whom he established the school in 2007, based on their experience working in the field and international research. ◆

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HE AEU congratulates our other winners in the Victorian Education Excellence Awards: Catherine Russo, Colin Simpson, Tracey Smith, Huong Thi Tran and members at Ballarat SC, Bendigo Senior SC, Buninyong PS, Courtenay Gardens PS and Wallan PS. ◆

Funding call for alt settings he AEU is calling for an urgent increase in funding for special programs for vulnerable students, in its submission to the Victorian Government’s review of alternative education settings. The union has also called for more early intervention programs in primary schools, to head off the risk of students becoming disengaged later. The submission warns against pulling back on alternative education programs (AEPs) without adequately funding mainstream schools to provide the support that students need. Justin Mullaly, AEU secondary sector deputy vice president, said the union’s goal was a comprehensive education system that met the needs of every child. “But if that’s not going to happen, let’s adequately resource those programs that do cater for the needs of these kids,” he said. “The Government needs to increase funding to support programs that re-engage students and students who are at risk of being disengaged, and they shouldn’t undermine existing programs that are successful. “There are no easy solutions, but the reality is that supporting these kids costs money.”

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The AEU paper says that alternative settings should be a priority in the Government’s Building Futures program, saying high quality programs need appropriate facilities. “Commonly, (programs) are housed in portable classrooms which inadequately cater for the programs that operate,” it says. Access to

programs for rural students is also raised as a concern. The AEU also calls for a review of staffing levels if programs are successfully to move students back into the mainstream. Intervention requires intensive staffing and opportunities to collaborate, not only while students are in alternative settings,

but before and after. The union also supports greater diversity of programs, saying: “It goes without saying that one size does not fit all.” ◆ — Nic Barnard The AEU submission can be found at www.aeuvic.asn.au/professional.

Cartoon © Pope/The Canberra Times

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news

No-one escapes the Y9 Inquisition South Australia Over 40 preschools and schools in the Spencer Gulf region have been targeted for closure or amalgamation as part of the State Government's Education Works Stage II program. The AEUSA has not been consulted over members’ rights regarding these closures. Public meetings held by the union around the state have found limited consultation generally, despite the SA Government’s insistence that “closures were voluntary and a community decision”. The AEUSA has lodged a grievance about the lack of consultation, and a Freedom of Information request for documentation on the proposals. The matter will likely be referred to the Industrial Relations Commission. New South Wales NSW Teachers Federation offered a salary settlement that limits changes to conditions but funds salary increases above 2.5% in the 2009-11 Award. But the Government refused the proposal, seeking to increase the teaching load by 57 hours per year without compensation, remove current limits on weekly teaching hours, and abolish time for PD. Tasmania Opposition MP Sue Napier has compared the Tasmanian Premier to a communist dictator over the Public Education Day “Portrait of the Premier” competition. The joint initiative between AEU Tasmania and the Education Department aimed to raise the profile of the day and came up with two competitions: writing about being Premier for a Day, and portraits of the Premier. “The Opposition is, in effect, using Public Education Day as an opportunity to ‘stick the boots into’ the Premier,” says AEU branch president Leanne Wright.

N

OTHING goes unnoticed by the astoundingly observant 9B. “Is that a new shirt, Miss?” “You look so tired today, Miss.” “Didn’t you wear that jumper yesterday, Miss … and the day before?” They are my daily judging panel, keen to point out any faults and issues with my wardrobe and offer helpful advice. “Why are you wearing those earrings, Miss? They look like something you would buy at a craft market because you felt sorry for the person who made them. No offence.” 9B is also astoundingly astute when it comes to reading my moods/level of tiredness/level of enthusiasm each lesson. “It doesn’t look like you got any sleep at all last night, Miss. Is that why you bought a coffee to class?” “You look like you’re counting down the days until the break, Miss. Are you sick of us already?” “Have you made us work in silence because you’ve got a headache, Miss, or because you want to finish all of your marking before the weekend?” The students of 9B are also fantastic at spreading rumours and passing on their versions of happenings around the school — the less accurate, the better. “Did you know Mrs Howell and Mr Pearce had an enormous fight over who had booked the data projector for this lesson? I saw them in the library and Mr Pearce tried to grab the data projector and run with it, but Mrs Howell was hanging onto the electrical cord and screaming at him. Miss Simpson got so freaked out she

rang the office and Mr Dickson had to come in to break it up.” “It’s so obvious Miss James and Mr Little are together. They keep looking at each other in assembly and, the other day, I saw them walking to the staff room together after class. I swear the only reason Mr Little volunteered to help out with the production is because Miss James is directing it. She could do so much better though. I reckon she should go out with Mr Dyson. He is way funnier than Mr Little and he has cool hair.” “Miss Simpson, in the library, has really bad B.O. I’m serious. You know when you walk in, past her desk, you always get that really full-on stink in your nose. I used to think it was just the smell of the books in the library or the Year 7s, but I swear it’s her. She should get some better deodorant.” Given their candid honesty and exaggeration of fairly minor events, I always wonder what they say about me behind my back. Recently I had reason to drop in on them in Maths and, before I was noticed standing in the doorway, overheard a few little snippets. “She’s just really tired at the moment. She’s not usually that grumpy.” “Maybe she would feel better if she bought some new clothes.” “…Or went out more.” I organised to do both and, I’ve got to hand it to 9B — sometimes, they can be spot on. ◆ This season, teacher and comedian Christina Adams is being dressed by Target and St Vincent.

AEU OHS and preschool conferences

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wo key AEU events — the occupational health & safety and early childhood conferences — are coming up. The first-ever OHS conference, on August 14, brings together members from all sectors to discuss OHS issues and share practice. The theme is “Occupational Violence and Bullying”, and will explore preventative systems.

To find out more, contact janet.marshall@aeuvic.asn.au. The AEU early childhood conference will be held on September 5 and is free for teacher and assistant members of the AEU. This year’s conference will focus particularly on curriculum issues and offer a variety of workshops to inspire and challenge participants.

Keynote speakers include Dr Patricia Edgar on the role of TV and digital media in children’s learning, and Sandra Cheeseman from Macquarie University on the new Early Years Learning Framework. Contact martel.menz@aeuvic. asn.au for further information, or go to www.aeuvic.asn.au for more on both conferences. ◆

www.aeuvic.asn.au

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feature

Preschool

victory at last

Preschool teachers have pay parity with the schools sector for the first time, and assistants have new recognition of their skills. Nic Barnard reports on the sudden breakthrough in the Early Childhood Agreement negotiations.

Clockwise from top right: Nicole Bourke of Ascot Vale Kindergarten with Georgina Dearnaley and Dianne O’Dwyer of St Brendan’s Kindergarten celebrate a win that is not filled with hot air

H

ISTORIC can be an overused word, but the agreement that early childhood teachers and assistants are now voting on seems to fit the bill. The proposed deal is the first that will give teachers parity with their primary school colleagues — both on entry into the profession and at the top of the scale. It’s also the first to cover education assistants, who became part of the AEU only in 2006, and gives them a career structure and new recognition of their skills and shared role in educating children — as well as benefits such as maternity leave for the first time. It’s also the template for what looks likely to be a first multi-business agreement for council-run preschools. The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has signed up to the same “heads of agreement” — setting out the key features of the deal — and although negotiations are continuing and a separate agreement will be the result, the majority of people working in early childhood will for the first time be covered by the same or similar terms, conditions and salaries. All this gives early childhood professionals the recognition and respect they have been demanding for decades. And at a time of huge change both in government funding and in the EC sector. The change to the Government’s wages policy created a pressure cooker for reaching a deal after negotiations with Kindergarten Parents

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Victoria (KPV) had meandered for over a year. Ministers declared before Easter that the global financial crisis meant they could no longer support a wages policy of 3.25% a year. From May 4, it would be cut to 2.5%. Any outstanding negotiations for government-funded services must be wrapped up by then. The deadline brought all parties to the table — including MAV and, importantly, government officials who until then had stood on the sidelines. But even without that deadline, the pressure had been on. Both federal and state governments have embarked on a huge agenda of change, with a new curriculum, new transition plans linking preschools to primary schools, and — crucially — a pledge of 15 hours’ preschool per week for every four-year-old. Quite simply, that would not be deliverable if teachers were not paid enough. AEU sector vice president Shayne Quinn says: “There was going to be a clear chasm between the policy agenda and the capacity to provide it. All of that agenda is reliant on there being a qualified and skilled workforce to deliver it. This agreement recognises that.” Part of the problem is that many early childhood teachers leave university with dual qualifications — qualified to teach in either primary or preschool. Looking at their debts, house prices and the relative salaries in the two sectors, the choice for

many has been simple if regrettable. “I think this will give the profession a second life,” Quinn says. “There will be teachers who feel encouraged to continue where they might have considered leaving. And there will be students in universities who will now see that their preference for early childhood is a rewarding one. It’s now a realistic option.” The four-year agreement means pay rises for teachers of between 26% and 44%, including increments, with top-of-the-scale teachers earning $81,806 by 2012. At the same time, teachers will move next year from a 40-hour week to 38 hours. And by 2012, to help accommodate the Government’s 15-hour preschool policy, teaching time will rise from a maximum 24 hours per week to a limit of 25.5 hours. Assistants will be able to work up to two hours a week extra to pick up some of the teachers’ non-teaching duties. Importantly, these will not simply be administrative or tidying up, but will include shared responsibilities such as program planning and evaluation, purchasing of equipment and communication with parents. “It reflects that they work as a team,” Quinn says. Sector deputy vice president Martel Menz adds: “Assistants have been doing so many additional duties in their own time, because they want to offer quality programs. This is about formally recognising the work that they’re doing.”

The agreement also includes a salary structure for activity group leaders, qualified childcare workers working in unfunded activity groups. Ratifying the agreement has meant a huge amount of work on all sides, including ensuring that all community and council preschools are covered by the new agreements. But the outcome also has a serious message for government, AEU branch president Mary Bluett says. “Where the government funds the service but isn’t the direct employer — as in TAFE and early childhood — for far too long they hide behind this argument that it’s nothing to do with them. And that’s just not true. “You’ve got employers who are trying to second or third guess what the government agenda might be in terms of productivity or restructuring, and only the government knows that. “You end up with protracted negotiations, deteriorating relationships between employers and members, and the Government saying, ‘It’s not our fault’, when in fact that’s exactly where most of the fault lies.” An employee ballot is underway and closes on June 19. The deadline for finalising an agreement with MAV is the end of July. ◆

Early

Childhood agreement

More details at www.aeuvic.asn.au — click on the Early Childhood Agreement logo.

Early Childhood agr EEm Ent


study

Tabloids turn the

TABLES

It seemed obvious that the Government’s transparency agenda would lead to school league tables — but no-one forecast how quickly. Research officer John Graham reports on how the media seized the agenda and the fall-out for schools.

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ITH a nod and a wink from the Federal Government, school league tables have spread like a virus across the country. They arrived with a bang in Tasmania on May 6 when the Hobart Mercury published a league table of the state’s high schools using 2008 NAPLAN results. On May 23 the Courier Mail, another News Limited tabloid, did the same for Queensland’s primary schools using 2007 standardised testing data. The Courier Mail created its table by collating information from 1,300 annual reports from school websites. Under the editorial headline “Number’s up for secret school tests”, the newspaper claimed the exercise took them two months “and consumed a large part of our resources”. The Hobart Mercury’s league table was a lot easier to compile and was derived from data provided by the Tasmanian Education Department on its own website. The departmental data did not rank schools and included a range of information. That didn’t deter the Mercury: the newspaper did its own ranking, selecting the data which suited its news priorities. In the Mercury’s league table, a school’s ranking was determined, very scientifically, by averaging the percentages of students achieving the national minimum standard in NAPLAN literacy and numeracy tests. For most schools, this meant their Year 7 and 9 results. However, schools with a primary component had their Year 3 and 5 results added to the Year 7 and 9 results! This strange brew was presented to the newspaper’s readership as a completely valid ranking of the state’s high schools from best to worst. Beside the literacy, numeracy and “average” columns was

an attendance figure for each school. At the top of the rankings was Wynyard High, with a 97.5% average for literacy and numeracy and 91.6% for attendance, and at the bottom of the list was Bridgewater High with 73.2% and 71.2%. No contextual or background information was provided about any of the schools in the table — not the fact that the department website said the rate of progress made by Wynyard students in literacy was declining and parental dissatisfaction was high, and not even the fact that Bridgewater

❛The reality for schools is a future where testing and league tables will increasingly shape their curriculum programs.❜ High is currently in temporary accommodation after a major fire destroyed the school barely six months before the tests took place. The Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett, while mildly critical of the newspaper’s actions in creating a league table, was more interested in promoting the state as being “way ahead of other states in transparency, and therefore accountability”. The events in Tasmania and Queensland are a harbinger of things to come when the Federal Government’s “transparency” website goes live

at the end of this year. In April the states agreed to Julia Gillard’s proposal for a site which will allow parents to compare a school with others in its area and with those elsewhere with comparable student populations. The present plan is for the website to show a school’s NAPLAN results for each year level (3, 5, 7 and 9), with comparisons to “like schools”, to schools in the local area and to the national average. The April press release from the state and federal ministers of education justified the publication of school comparison data by claiming, against the evidence, that it would “lift educational outcomes across all schools”. They also asserted that “these reforms (were) not about simplistic league tables which rank schools according to raw test scores”. The ministers however, gave no indication that they would introduce a legislative prohibition to stop the media from doing this. News Limited, which owns the Hobart Mercury and the Courier-Mail (and the Herald Sun in Victoria), has already demonstrated its intentions and capacity to misuse such data even before it becomes nationally available. The Tasmanian tables prompted the AEU, Victorian Council of Social Service, Parents Victoria and the VIEU to write a joint letter to the Victorian Minister for Education, Bronwyn Pike, calling on her to take legislative action to prohibit the creation and publication of league tables by third parties such as the media. In her reply, the minister said that she believed the DEECD would be able to persuade the media continued on page 20 ➠

www.aeuvic.asn.au

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study

Swan’s fingers in the pies What a difference a year makes. AEU research officer Justin Bowd finds the first state and federal budgets of the recession awash with cash, but Canberra and Spring Street vying to control how it gets spent.

S

TATE and federal budgets last year were both firsts for John Brumby and Kevin Rudd as leaders; both budgets were produced when the Global Economic Crisis was still lurking just over the horizon. This year’s models reflect the current political and economic environments but, apart from that, don’t deviate much from the programs set out in previous budgets and policy announcements. One example is the third instalment of funding for the Victorian Schools Plan (VSP) in the state budget. With $402 million announced in May’s speech, the State Government is well over three-quarters of the way to delivering on its promise of $1.9 billion to rebuild, renovate or extend every government school in Victoria by 2017. However, even the Victorian Schools Plan is dwarfed by the Federal Government’s Building the Education Revolution (BER) funding which promises to deliver around $2bn by the end of the 2010-11 financial year for infrastructure in Victorian primary and special schools, as well as $150m for language and science centres in secondary schools. Capital spending aside, the Federal Government is also conspicuous in the

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Output Initiatives in Victoria’s Budget Paper No.3; the first thing one notices here is just how many items carry this footnote: (a) These initiatives are funded by the Commonwealth. For the coming financial year, over half of the money spent on output initiatives is for federal programs, many of which were first announced in the previous federal budget. There are almost no new output initiatives for schools or preschools in this year’s federal budget. The increased profile of the Federal Government in the state budget is a result of two factors. The first, and the factor accounting for the largest amount of money in this budget, is the Global Economic Crisis. Buildings and infrastructure are politically the safest forms of spending to break the cycle of recession; the generations who will pay for some of this expenditure will also reap benefits. The same is true for spending on human capital — education and training programs — (although this is a little more controversial with regards to the ratio of public to private benefits), so what could be a better investment than schools? As a result, capital expenditure for education in Victoria is set to triple the current (2009-10) level; the percentage

of state operational and capital expenditure allocated to education will increase from 26% to 30% over the same period. In a year when the state tax contribution to revenue is down 3% in real terms (and even more when population growth — currently at 1.8% — is taken into account) the federal stimulus money is most welcome. More may be required if or when budget-forecast unemployment levels of nearly 8% are attained in 2010-11. State debt levels in Victoria are still fairly low by historical and international standards. The second factor contributing to the prominence of Federal Government programs in state education spending is the National Education Agreement reached late last year by the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG). The agreement and the National Partnerships it produced became the vehicles by which Canberra could deliver on its promises to improve literacy and numeracy results, teacher quality, access to preschools, and to support low socio-economic status school communities. For example, the National Partnership on Early Childhood Education requires that the Commonwealth and states share

responsibility for removing: … barriers to participation in a preschool program, including ensuring cost is not a barrier (especially for Indigenous and disadvantaged children, including remote Indigenous children) and provision is in a form that is convenient for all families, including the needs of working families. National partnerships also tie states to accepting measures like public reporting of school achievement levels, possibly an unsavoury performance pay model and novel pathways into teaching. The receipt of full funding under National Partnership Agreements is contingent on meeting and reporting performance benchmarks. With increasing unemployment and more stringent requirements attached to welfare benefits, the federal budget has a lot to say about TAFE and the delivery of vocational education and training (VET). However, the detailed mechanics of funding and implementation of federal initiatives in Victoria are often opaque. For example, the additional 15,000 purchased places appearing in the state budget (5000 in 2009 and 10,000 in 2010) are funded under the Commonwealth’s


The following list is not exhaustive. A complete list can be found on the state and federal budget websites.

Early Childhood State budget • $210.6m over five years for the National Partnership on Early Childhood Education which aims to provide universal access to 15 hours of weekly preschool education for four-year-olds by 2013 • $13.7m for meeting increased demand for preschool places due to recent growth in the birth rate ($8m was already provided in 2008-09) • $8.3m over four years for the Autism State Plan, including $4.1m for professional development and other measures to support preschool children with autism spectrum disorders.

Productivity Places Program. In a media release earlier this year, the Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development stated: The Victorian Government has reached an agreement with the Commonwealth Government that, rather than run a separate Productivity Places Program in Victoria, this funding will be incorporated into existing arrangements. Victoria’s eligibility criteria for students accessing government-supported training places will now be stricter than that imposed by the Commonwealth on recipients of Productivity Places support (usually job-seekers registered with an employment services provider). Commonwealth criteria do not require students to enroll in a higher-level qualification than they already possess, and all fees are paid either by the Commonwealth or jointly with states. The Productivity Places National Partnership includes diplomalevel courses but it is also not clear whether the Victorian Government is receiving Productivity Places funding and using it to support places that will attract income-contingent loans for these diplomas. The state budget has announced $7.8m over four years for TAFE fee

waivers for job-seekers; maybe this is so some will be able to access Productivity Places on the same basis as other eligible Australians (ie, without requiring a higher-level qualification and for free). The Skills to Transition program announced in the state budget “will create 6,431 demand driven places for targeted groups to undertake training at Certificate I to IV level” from 2010. It is not clear what eligibility criteria or fees will apply to these places either. With TAFE, Victoria seems to be bucking the general trend of policy being dictated by the superior funding power of the Commonwealth. Here, the Commonwealth has actually spent money to accommodate the Victorian policy by allowing Victorian diplomalevel TAFE students broader access to VET fee help. The increased involvement of the Federal Government in public education is a mixed blessing in some ways; opinions may differ around various policies but in times like these the extra money is hard to refuse. ◆ Full details of the state and Commonwealth budgets are at www.budget.vic.gov.au and www.budget.gov.au. Page 20: Federal budget pledges paid parental leave

Schools

State budget • $275.3m over seven years for the National Partnership on Low Socio-Economic Status School Communities. Includes increased “flexibility for principals (and strengthened) school accountability” • $26.8m over two years for the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy • $24m over four years for the National Partnership on Improving Teacher Quality which includes the development and implementation of a National Professional, Teacher Standards Framework and certification/accreditation process for teachers and school leaders • $15.2m over two years for VET in Schools to increase the number of Victorians completing Year 12 or equivalent • $402m for the rebuilding, renovating and extending schools under the Victorian Schools Plan. For a list of schools benefiting go to: tinyurl.com/m2mhf6. Federal budget • $26m to extend federal drought relief funding (up to $10,000 for government and non-government schools) for another year.

TAFE, vocational and adult provision State budget • $66.9m for TAFE institutes’ Student Management Solution, to help with administrative tasks and student/funding tracking during the implementation of the Securing Jobs for Your Future reforms • $25m to extend the Apprenticeship/Traineeship Completion Bonus for another year • $49.8m over three years to “purchase” an additional 15,000 places under the Commonwealth’s Productivity Places Program • $13.8m over two for the Skills to Transition program for the training of up to 6,400 Victorian Workers. Federal budget • $28.2m over three years to provide 5,888 additional language, literacy and numeracy training places for adults aged 25 years and over, including 1,500 Workplace English Language and Literacy places • $33.7m over three years to fund an additional 5,500 training places in 2009–10 for vulnerable young job seekers as part of an enhanced Australian Apprenticeships Access Program • $81.9m over three years (including $40.5 million in 2008–09) to provide the infrastructure to support a vocational education broadband network.

www.aeuvic.asn.au

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study profile

Key budget initiatives


feature

Special care needed

Sue Le Cerf by the hydrotherapy pool at Belmore School

Support staff in special schools do a difficult and demanding job that often seems to go unrecognised. Cynthia Karena reports on the work they do and how the new Education Support Agreement makes a difference.

What is medical intervention? MI procedures include: • Maintenance of mechanical ventilation • Maintenance of oxygen supply • Tracheostomy care (a tube inserted into the opening of a windpipe to assist breathing) • Suction procedures • Tube feeding (nasogastric or gastrostomy feeding via a surgical opening into the nose or stomach) • Ostomy management (various openings that allow for emptying of urine or faecal content) • Management of faecal output.

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aeu news | june 2009

“I

T IS not uncommon to be urinated on or smeared with a hand covered in faeces,” says Jane Hanafie of her daily work as an education support officer at Mornington Special Developmental School. “A lot of students require toileting and some are still in nappies at adult size. One student always spits on his hand and wipes it on whatever or whoever is closest. Sometimes in the process of feeding students our fingers get bitten.” The job of an ES worker in a special school can be difficult, demanding and occasionally dangerous. ES members often feel that most people in education don’t understand what they do, and as a consequence believe their pay doesn’t reflect the skills, responsibilities and dangers of the job. Hanafie used to work in mainstream schools, and says that what she and other education support staff do is enormously different to the

normal responsibilities of mainstream aides in the classroom. All special school ES staff receive an “intensive care” allowance; but it is worth just $300 pro rata per year, to recognise the personal care that they provide to the students in their care. Students with specific medical conditions may require more specialised care, known as medical intervention (MI). A new payment was negotiated last December as part of the ES Agreement in light of the extra skills and responsibilities required of those undertaking these duties. The funding system for schools was also changed to match. From this year, schools with students who require medical intervention can apply for the new Medical Intervention Support Program of $10,000 per student per year. And ES members who carry out medical intervention are now placed in Level 1 Range 2 of the ES scale — most were previously in Range 1, but


feature

received an annual medical intervention allowance of $599. The move adds more than $10,000 to their annual salary at the top of the range. So what does medical intervention involve? Belmore School, for example, has five students requiring medical intervention in its Home and Community Care program, which allows children with acute medical needs to come to school, access school curriculum programs, and lead a relatively normal life. Some students are permanently on oxygen; one has a tracheostomy (a surgical procedure to cut an opening into the windpipe so that a tube can be inserted to help with breathing); some require suction machines; and others depend on their nutrition via gastrostomy feeding, that is, via a surgical opening into the stomach. Sue Le Cerf, an ES at Belmore School, says the program also allows students to go on school excursions, or take time out from their wheelchairs

to swim in the pool. “Two students, still attached to their oxygen tanks, are so happy when they are swimming in the pool,” she says. They really enjoy the feeling of freedom and movement in the water. “One hundred per cent of our time at school is spent with the students. There is never a time when a student is left unattended. You do need to be on high alert at all times.” She adds: “This is an incredibly rewarding job.” Katrina Tenson, an ES at Broadmeadows SDS agrees. Often it is students’ smallest achievements that make the work so satisfying. “You have input to make their lives better, and also help them get on in society. Mainstream kids pick this up normally, but it is a lot more difficult for our kids.” Hanafie, who performs MI duties at Mornington SDS, says she and her colleagues have students with epilepsy, Down’s syndrome, autism and intellectual disabilities, and others who are completely immobile. “You get really close to them and care about the kids. You wouldn’t do the job otherwise.” But the work is challenging. “We deal with 18-year-olds who hit you. The first time it happened to me I couldn’t believe it. A student had me by the hair, kicked me and spat at me. I cried for half an hour in the staff room. It’s emotionally hard; every day we suffer physical and emotional abuse.” Members have asked questions about how they will progress to the new range, whether they will receive back pay if they have already been doing the job but have yet to complete the training, and whether their new salary level will be permanent. Tenson, an AEU councillor, worries about how the new agreement is being put into practice. “It seems like some principals are confused on how it should be administered,” she says. AEU deputy vice president Carolyn Clancy says that if people were doing a medical intervention job already and have done the training, they can apply for range review even if they haven’t got the certificate. “However, some people may have to update their training in order to get the allowance.” In fact, staff who were receiving the old MI allowance will have translated

automatically to Range 2 when the agreement came into effect last December. And for them, the move to Range 2 will be permanent. The problem seems to be that not everybody was receiving the allowance. Under the old system, schools realised that staff would be better off if they applied for the intensive care allowance instead, as the rules said they could then also receive the first aid allowance — which added up to more. The Education Department is understood to have been taken by surprise at the number of applications by schools to have students designated as requiring medical intervention. For those who have only just taken on MI duties, or were doing them already but without receiving the MI allowance, the AEU is pressing the department for clarification on training and back pay. However, these staff could lose their Range 2 salary if they stop caring for students with MI needs. Some have questioned whether this is fair. “It seems unfair that once an ES has gained these skills that they should then drop down the scale when the student leaves or circumstances change,” Tenson says. Lynette Bangay, ES at Monash SDS agrees. “As soon as I stop caring for a student then am I back to a lower pay rate, even though I still have the new skills I have learnt? It’s confusing.” In that, however, the situation won’t be much different from leading teachers, who can also be range reviewed down if their higher duties end. However, as Clancy says, there will be local discretion. “If you are a new MI who hasn’t done it before, then you will go back to your old pay level if the student leaves. But if the student has been with you for three years and they leave, then it is a local school decision to see what extra tasks can be done in order to keep you at the same pay level. This extra work does not need to be MI-related — for example (it could be) co-ordinating other aides.” The department is currently reviewing the support needed for students with complex medical needs and unstable health conditions, as well as clarifying the guidelines in administering resources. ◆

Danger money? Staff at Mornington SDS on the risks of working in a special school. “The first week I started, I was bitten on the inner thigh by an autistic child. The bite was severe enough to require medical attention and a tetanus shot. I was in shock afterwards.” — Keryl Edwards “I was hit over the head and had to be covered by WorkCover for a back and neck injury. I have also been hit in the face.” — Judith Beggs “I was stabbed in the back of the head with closed scissors. Luckily no damage was done. I have also been punched in the back of the head with a closed fist.” — Julie Pinch “I had my sternum fractured when a student threw his head back against my chest. Another student smeared and ate his own faeces. He had it all over his clothes, hands, in his teeth and when I started to clean him up I ended up covered in it as well.” — Judy Humphries

www.aeuvic.asn.au

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feature

The long

The inside story B

ILL Hannan was persuaded to write The Best of Times after it struck him that the period of “the Great Expansion”, as it is known, had not been written about from the point of view of those involved at the time. The result is the inside story of a time of turmoil, a union, social and educational history by a writer who spent years close to the action as the editor of the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association magazine, The Secondary Teacher. The catalyst for events was the huge increase in students enrolling in schools in the post-war years or staying on to Year 10 or 12 — an influx that took the Victorian Government by surprise. Although teachers and the department responded enthusiastically and with great idealism, the Bolte Government’s response was inadequate. Many students ended up taught in shelter sheds by unqualified teachers. Hannan says graduates don’t get much educational history nowadays, and that it “really surprises younger people or people who aren’t teachers” to learn that untrained teachers were employed as late as the 1970s. “For those of us who were experienced, it meant taking your own class and controlling the class next door ,” he says. “Everybody washed their hands of it.” Teacher unions were forced into unprecedented action — including strikes which would be illegal under today’s restrictive legislation. Hannan was an official of the VSTA, which helped lead the push for reforms for a system of free, secular education with trained, qualified teachers at the helm. Hannan says The Best of Times has been affirming for those who contributed to the campaign, many of whom suffered from the “internal psychological pressure” of going out on extended strikes. He hopes the book will give younger teachers “faith that industrial action can work if you’ve got the right motives and target. Faith that if things are bad, you can take it into your own hands and change things.” ◆

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aeu news | june 2009

Between 1969 and 1971, the AEU’s predecessor the VSTA organised more strikes than probably any teachers’ union in history. In this extract from his new book, Bill Hannan remembers the long battle for teachers’ rights and free, secular education for all.

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ECORDS do not show exactly how many strikes, great and small, were held by the VSTA from 1969 to 1971, but estimates suggest an average of about one strike a week. The period began with campaigns to control teachers’ qualifications and conditions, and continued with campaigns to have acceptable conditions for teaching and to get rid of inspection. These campaigns worked in stages, escalating from negotiation through stopworks to prolonged strikes. All three campaigns were also linked to reform of the Teachers Tribunal, which was eventually abolished. As in warfare so in industrial confrontations, engagements with the enemy can be stirring or demoralising. Stopworks especially are stirring events. Helen Howells came back to teaching in 1968 and started as a part-timer at Braybrook High School. “I remember,” she wrote, “going to a strike meeting and shocking my non-teaching friends because I said I had found the occasion inspiring. It seemed to me that teachers were saying that they were professionals. There was a common pride in the fact that we were not striking for money but rather to improve the education and chances for the students we taught.” This romance, of course, dies quickly. Typically after a stopwork, or even a series of them, nothing is won. Striking is a required sacrifice, a sign that you are serious about an issue. It’s a scare tactic, and it is invariably resisted. The strike leaders know this and plan direct action as a show of support for a much longer process of negotiation. Many members see this too, but they also want to think that there will be immediate results and are disappointed when they don’t arrive. Mass stopworks last a day, or perhaps only half a day. Strikes lasting for weeks, or even stopworks within a single school, are another matter altogether. Effective or not — and they usually have no immediate pay-off — they can be very demoralising. Strikers continue to feel

ambiguously about them decades later. They had to do it, they say, but the cost was immense. School strikes invert many of the features and feelings of mass stopworks. There are no crowds, just twenty or so individuals who may slowly fall apart as the strike wears on. The cause of the many colleagues and students around the state is being served but one’s own students are being neglected. Quite a few colleagues disapprove, some vocally, of what you are doing. Solidarity is found not in mass meetings and oratory but in small gatherings to plan how to fill the days constructively. y the end of June 1971, one first-year teacher at Maribyrnong had spent more days striking than she had teaching. She was one of 24 teachers there who went out on 19 April, in protest against unqualified staff being put on teaching. Maribyrnong was not the only striking school by a long chalk, but by staying out for 11 weeks, it became the longest of all school strikes in Victoria. The issue was the VSTA’s campaign to control teachers’ qualifications, known as “Control of Entry”. People today simply do not believe that a government would employ teachers without qualifications. In fact, during the 1960s they employed thousands and obstinately refused to consider realistic alternatives. In 1970 the Government had proposed a Registration Board but had ensured it would be stacked against teachers. The department had declared a “present intention” not to employ unqualified teachers, but continued to send them to schools. This was going on in 1971 in spite of numerous half-day and one-day stoppages over Control of Entry and longer ones at Lilydale, Murrumbeena and Glenroy; and in spite of the depth of support for the VSTA that Melbourne Boys’ High had demonstrated over Tribunal Reform. In 2007 I chatted with three of the 1971 strikers — Sue Bolton, David Holland and Meg Lee. The new school, as they remembered it, was in good shape. Rather too noisy but good to

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feature

est strike FROM THE SECONDARY TEACHER, MARCH 1971: Victorian Premier Henry Bolte could never be regarded as the teacher’s friend

This article is adapted from The Best of Times: The story of the great secondary schooling expansion (Lexis) by Bill Hannan. Copies are available, price $40 plus P&P, from the AEU on (03) 9417 2822 or email jeanette.mccarthy@aeuvic.asn.au.

work in. The students were docile with many, they thought, “outstanding”. The staff was fairly young. The principal saw himself as running a tight ship. Proper observance of the rules for girls’ uniform was his epitome of good order. He sent women teachers home to change if they turned up in trousers. In the conflict over Control of Entry and related teaching conditions this was the sort of principal the department needed. Although the department was in fact leaving principals to decide whether to put unqualified people on teaching, he would tell the public that he agreed with the VSTA in principle but his hands were tied. Yet, if teachers refused, as part of the Control of Entry program, to take extras beyond the VSTA limit, he would say, “You will obey a lawful instruction from your principal”, and report everyone who didn’t. The strike was about three unqualified teachers whom the principal insisted on putting in front of classes. The VSTA branch tried to change his mind but could not. Moreover, the unqualified teachers were also recalcitrant. They could have had provisional registration if they’d agreed to take up training courses, but they refused.

Years later, the strikers I talked to still felt very strongly on the issue. They were absolutely convinced that the Control of Entry was a just cause, and they were particularly resentful that unqualified teachers should be in a school where the students were mainly of working-class background and many from a nearby migrant hostel. They did not see the VSTA as a conventional union, but one that was struggling, like them, to improve the system for the sake of the kids. Reports of long strikes emphasise that the group has to be very well organised or it will fragment and gradually drift back to work. This is not because of money — the VSTA strike fund covered salaries for long-term strikers — but to sustain morale. The Maribyrnong strikers met every weekday for a couple of hours, rotating around their various

houses. How to approach and what to say to parents and the media, how to distribute material, how to organise picket lines — between the tram and the school gate and on a human chain to slow cars down — made up the spine of their meeting’s agendas. Underlying every meeting, however, was an emotional agenda. The strike had split the staff of about 50 in half. Parents formed an Action Committee that appealed to government to sack all 24 strikers. They rang strikers (constantly “at unacceptable hours”, said the branch), trying to get some to go back. Some mothers volunteered to baby-sit classes. The Action Committee wrote to VSTA branches around the state asking them to intervene. Strike-breakers from other schools were imported to teach some classes after hours. The kids studying for HSC were the main worry for the strikers. No one wanted to let them down, but you had to live with the thought that you possibly were. Towards the end of the strike, quite a few teachers were wavering. As it happened, the school did very well that year in the HSC. Meg Lee says she did not get over the emotional strains of the strike for a good while. Well into the following year, she would wake up at night thinking about it. It was devastating that the strike showed no immediate gains. The strikers went back without any agreement not to employ unqualified teachers. Many strikers moved or were transferred to new schools for the next year. Nonetheless, their own experience convinced them that in such situations, one must act, and the ultimate success of the Control of Entry campaign confirmed that conviction. The day the strike was over, Sue Bolton was back in her usual class. They cheered. After 11 weeks away, David Holland stood again in front of his Year 12 physics class. “Now, where were we?” he said. ◆

Bill Hannan was an official of the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association and editor of the union’s magazine The Secondary Teacher.

www.aeuvic.asn.au

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feature

Victoria washes its hands - again

The Brumby Government has followed in Kennett’s footsteps in referring its IR powers to Canberra — but this time, the outcome could actually be better for AEU members. Branch secretary Brian Henderson explains.

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HE Victorian Government has introduced legislation into Parliament which again refers its industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth, following the Rudd Government’s introduction of reforms to the IR system. The new Victorian referral, which replaces the Kennett Government’s previous referral of 1996, was necessary in light of the Fair Work Act, the Rudd Government’s replacement for Howard’s WorkChoices laws. It is based on the “corporations power” set out in the Australian Constitution (the Kennett referral was based on the “arbitration power”). It means that all employers in Victoria, whether or not they are a corporation in the eyes of the constitution, will come under the new federal IR laws. In effect, all Victorian workers will again be covered by the federal system — just as they were after the Kennett referral. In particular, this includes all public servants

– and all AEU members. Indeed the referral is more far-reaching than it was under WorkChoices and Howard. The Kennett Government’s referral excluded a number of industrial issues following its High Court challenge to the making of federal awards, in the case “re-AEU”. The High Court found that there were certain implied limitations in the constitution that allowed state governments to function without impairment from Commonwealth laws. These included the number, identity and qualifications of employees that could be engaged by the state, the number of employees that could be made redundant, and the terms and conditions for executive employees and officials. Kennett also excluded public sector discipline as an issue referred to the Federal laws. This meant that the AEU could not include disciplinary matters in our industrial agreements — which is why we have a Merit Protection Board and Discipline

Maternity leave win Barb Jennings women’s officer

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OST AEU members are already entitled to paid maternity leave but the AEU was still pleased to see the historic introduction of a universal, governmentfunded scheme in the federal budget, covering the majority of Australian women and their families. Until this announcement, Australia and the USA were the only countries in the OECD without such a scheme. The AEU has played a key role in the 30-year struggle for PML. Victorian school teachers won 12 weeks’ PML in 1976 after a battle (since raised to 14 weeks after further AEU campaigning). We were market leaders then and remain so even after this announcement. The federal scheme will be introduced in 2011. It can be more properly called paid parental leave as both parents can access parts of the leave. Funding will come from the Federal Government and people will be paid at the federal minimum wage (57% of Australian women currently earn

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aeu news | june 2009

under this amount). There will be no superannuation payments, and no separate paid leave for the other parent. Importantly, the scheme will cover hundreds of thousands of women in lower paid jobs with poor job security, especially in hospitality and retail where there has been very limited access to paid maternity leave. Existing entitlements will remain. For AEU members — including early childhood teachers and assistants, who have just won 14 weeks PML in their new agreement — the 18 weeks at minimum wage will be in addition to our 14 weeks at full wage. The Federal Government has said that this scheme will mean that some Australian women can meet the WHO recommendation of 26 weeks of PML for child and maternal health. Educators will be among this fortunate group. It is worth remembering that most other countries have far more generous schemes than this one. In Europe it is common to have at least six months leave at full pay. ◆

Appeals Board. Both were established under state legislation. The new referral does not exclude public sector discipline, which means that it is now an industrial matter that can be dealt with through negotiations with the employer. Given the problems with the current discipline process, particularly the time taken to deal with disciplinary matters, the new referral may give us the chance to actually negotiate a better system. The new referral also means that existing federal awards for school teachers and education support staff will continue, and that teachers and ES staff can maintain award conditions without having to be overtaken by the new Modern Awards process. At the time of writing, the legislation was still to pass through both houses of Parliament. Hopefully the current Liberal Opposition will not adopt the position of the Kennett Government and seek to amend the legislation in the Upper House. u

Tabloids turn the tables continued from page 13 “to ensure that protocols for publishing are followed”. The reality for schools is a future where testing and school league tables will increasingly shape their curriculum programs to the disadvantage of their students. Even before the new national website goes live, its influence is being felt in all states and territories across Australia. NAPLAN is turning into the sort of “high stakes” testing program prevalent in the UK and USA which disrupts individual schools, rattles the cages of school systems and ends up selling short the very students politicians claim it was set up to help. The pressure to perform in NAPLAN tests has seen education authorities around Australia in a low grade state of panic, placing demands on principals and teachers to use classroom time to train up their students. In Western Australia for example, the Education Department provided schools with a 13 week pre-test NAPLAN improvement program. In Victoria, the head of the Education Department, Peter Dawkins, sent out a memo in April calling on schools to use class time to prepare students for NAPLAN. This was followed up with pressure and persuasion from the department’s foot soldiers in the regions. The commercial sector has sniffed the wind and is now offering schools a range of increasingly popular programs and services which are “guaranteed” to improve test performance. In Melbourne on May 21, Julia Gillard gave her major post-Budget speech on education. When she turned to the school transparency agenda, the emotion was ratcheted up. It was being introduced, she intoned, so that students “will not be left marooned in an under-performing school while no-one knew or everyone averted their eyes”. Awash in such populist rhetoric, Australia is fast following the struggling education systems in the UK and USA down a slippery slope where the illusion of improvement masks a transfer of effort from learning to accountability. ◆


profile

Master of the wild things Max Grarock is a TV star in his own kindergarten. The AEU preschool councillor tells Amy Walker how technology is helping give kids a better start in education and why this is an exciting time to work in the early childhood sector.

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NNOVATIVE teacher Max Grarock has discovered technology can ease children into early childhood classrooms. Last summer the 30-year-old director of Russell Court Kindergarten in Altona Meadows produced a Play School-inspired DVD for incoming students. “Part of the reason we decided to do this is because if a child talks about TV, they talk about it like it is real and they ‘know’ someone they saw on a program,” Max says. “I thought the DVD might make them feel like they had met me, and it was something they would watch over and over. “Parents have told me they got sick of the children watching it, so I think it has worked. It is funny how many children call me by name and ask me about things in the video,” Max says. Despite the DVD, early childhood education is quickly shedding the Play School tag. This year, Victoria is blazing a trail for national reforms which will bring new rigour to the sector, including an early years learning framework or curriculum, and transition plans for every child to ease the move into primary. The Rudd and Brumby Governments have both pledged 15 hours’ preschool a week for all four-year-olds. As if to underline this, the AEU’s proposed Early Childhood Agreement for the first time gives community and local authority preschool teachers parity at the top of the scale with primary teachers. And all this under the still relatively new Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Max is a good example of preschool members seizing the chance to drive forward the agenda. His decision to heighten technology in the classroom and inform parents of up-to-date

research stems from his current study for a Masters of Education Leadership at Deakin University. “I try not to bash parents over the head but

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show tell The most important thing I take into the classroom every day is ... A digital voice recorder. My best trick for coping with staff meetings is ... Not to have any. The best piece of advice I ever received was ... Don’t live too close to work or it makes grocery shopping difficult. My one piece of advice to a beginning preschool teacher would be ... Don’t beat yourself up too much. The most important thing the AEU does is ... Lobby government. The most inspirational figure in my life is ... Batman, because he’s cool. In my other life, I am ... A computer programmer who hates his job. The film that changed my life was ... Fight Club. My favourite teacher at school was ... Mr Dennis, at Naracoote High School in country South Australia, because he didn’t take it too seriously but at the same time knew his stuff. If I had a private meeting with children’s minister Maxine Morand, I’d tell her ... A lot of problems could be solved if the Government employed preschool teachers directly.

introduce them to ideas,” he says. “It can be easy for a centre to just go along with conventional wisdom and give out childcarerelated brochures, but I find many have advertisements in them, which can be misleading to parents.” Max encourages parents to openly discuss ideas with him and to become active in their child’s learning through reading, outdoor play and exploration of the environment. It is a challenging field, and Max says qualified teachers — who usually work alone or in small groups — can often feel isolated and under-appreciated, despite research showing their major impact in a child’s later life. The move to the DEECD, and even receiving the department’s magazine, Shine, have made preschool staff feel part of a larger system and given them a psychological boost, he says. “Ultimately, it’s about creating communities where early childhood is valued. The issue was becoming an attraction and retention one where teachers weren’t wanting to work in early childhood education when they could make more money in primary schools,” Max says. The AEU has also helped him stay grounded and gain a clearer understanding of how the educational system fits together. He has been following the development of the new preschool curriulum with interest. “For too long there have been no clear guidelines, and curriculum has just been accepted among academics as good practice. From what I have seen of the drafts, it will work well, as freedom will be valued in the classroom,” he says. Max originally pursued an Arts Degree at Ballarat Uni, which led to a series of “crappy jobs”, before gaining an early childhood education diploma at RMIT. “One thing I thought about through those crappy jobs is that all I was doing was making money for someone,” he says. “Now, no matter how bad a day I may be having, I know I’m making a difference in a child’s life.” As for succeeding in a traditionally female role, Max believes a gender-balanced workplace is healthy. “When I first started teaching I was aware of how families reacted to me, but after five years I’ve stopped thinking about it.” ◆

www.aeuvic.asn.au

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inside the AEU

Education Support

CRTs

Kathryn Lewis ES organiser

Peter Steele vice president, primary

Who’s in charge here?

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RTICLES on supervision in our recent primary, secondary and ES newsletters have sparked many questions. Some schools are concerned about their current practices and the responsibilities placed on ES staff, but are also keen to ensure their great educational programs continue. It is possible to do both. Teachers need to acknowledge their responsibility in development, delivery and assessment of educational programs; they have the training and skills to do so. ES staff provide valuable and at times high-level support, particularly with practical and technical skills such as horticulture and IT. But responsibility for programs and the supervision of students always remains clearly with teachers. We are confident that our schools can work out how to manage their programs in a way that meets the requirements of the Act. It’s a responsibility the school has always had — the new ES Agreement has simply highlighted it. Time in lieu Time in lieu (TIL) is one of the most contentious issues for ES staff, and schools are struggling to manage it in a way that is fair and equitable for everybody. It is important to understand the purpose of TIL. It is meant to discourage the employer from asking employees to work more than a 38-hour week. Our 38-hour week was hard fought for by unions and we must not allow it to slip away — a growing battle as workload and demands on our schools grow. Having a good policy on TIL for all staff is the best way to strike a balance. ◆

Tackling class splitting

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NE dilemma for casual relief teachers is the fear that if they raise questions about having extra children placed in their class for the day, the school will overlook them when the next opportunity for work at the school arises. This anonymous comment was received by one employment agency recently: “Only this very week I have had ‘extra’ children in the class. You can’t teach them … there is no roll count … you don’t even know where they have come from. They are just dumped there. It’s really poor. This in schools where there are principals and APs … just floating round.” There are a number of reasons for this. Primary schools, rather than hiring three CRTs for a day, will hire two and split the third class between them. Another practice is to cancel specialist programs (such as music, art, physical education and LOTE) and have those specialists take the absent teacher’s classes. The AEU views this with extreme concern. The union understands that in some circumstances CRTs are not available. The solution for this would be to increase the daily rate for our CRTs, who are still the lowest paid in the country. This would attract more teachers, and it would certainly help if CRTs knew that the classes were not carrying extra children for the day. The CRT Association has been discussing this issue and is drafting some sample letters to send home to parents with a view to having the practice of splitting classes stop. These letters will be available on our website’s CRT page — go to www.aeuvic.asn.au/crt. ◆

Early Childhood

TAFE

Rob Stewart deputy vice president, TAP

Martel Menz deputy vice president, early childhood

TAFE teachers say Yes

New regulations now in force

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embers will be aware that the Children’s Services Regulations have been under review by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The new regulations came into effect on May 25. It is important that members become familiar with them and ensure their services are compliant. A couple of changes will have a particular impact. All staff will need to have a minimum Certificate III by January 2014. This will not apply to existing staff members continuously employed for the previous five years full-time or 10 years part-time who complete a professional development course by 2012. We will be pursuing the DEECD on two issues: what will be regarded as a PD course? What is regarded as full-time? Many assistant members already possess a Certificate III or higher and have worked in the sector for many years. However, for those who are relatively new to the profession, our advice is to investigate this ASAP. Changes to the TAFE system in around 18 months will see the cost of the qualification rise significantly. The DEECD is currently offering scholarships for existing workers to attain a Certificate III — details at tinyurl.com/cccmam. Another key change is that all standard licensed services will need to employ a degree-qualified EC teacher by January 2014. This means every childcare centre will have to employ a teacher who must care for or educate children for 50% of the operating hours of the service, or 20 hours per week. Attracting and retaining teachers in the childcare sector will be a critical issue and one which we hope will be addressed through the new agreement. The new regulations can be found at tinyurl.com/or5a7b. ◆

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aeu news | june 2009

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HE ballot to endorse the new TAFE Agreement has concluded across the state and members will most likely have already received their pay rise and back pay by the time they read this. The vote was overwhelmingly in support of the agreement: 4,155 teachers voted yes, just 103 voting against — 98% approval. The agreement has even more significance in light of the economic downturn and the financial crisis which has had a dramatic impact on the bottom line of both the federal and state governments. The AEU has already started work helping members to implement the agreement n the ground. Many sub-branches are organising on-site workshops and even department in-service sessions with the AEU organising team to learn about the details of the agreement, and their new rights. Members who wish to attend these sessions should contact your organiser. The next task for the AEU TAFE sector is to continue to grow the membership to prepare for the next round of agreements. The campaign to achieve this outcome is directly related to the skills and ability of the union and its sub-branches to deliver a well co-ordinated and professional campaign. You too can help as a member; encourage your colleagues who have not yet joined to do so. Remind them where their salary increases have come from. Enjoy your victory and in particular the financial reward. ◆


Kerry Maher disability services organiser

Our claim for a new agreement

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he Disability Services draft agreement is now completed and will be served on the employer bodies with a view to starting negotiations as soon as possible. All items from the log of claims have been incorporated along with some additional items including: • Additional increment at top of pay scale and removal of Band 1 Level 1 • Eight weeks’ annual leave • Paid maternity leave of 14 weeks • One week paid partner leave • Improved consultation requirements • Portability of leave entitlements • Additional personal leave for new employees • Infectious diseases leave • Access to pro-rata long service leave after five years • Industrial relations leave • Allowances to cover medical intervention, nausea, laundry and working with violent clients • Employer to pay for mandatory training and time outside of normal hours. We will continue to hold Disability Services Committee meetings in alternative locations in order to give our members the opportunity to meet us to plan the next stage of our campaign. To date we have held meetings in the eastern and western metropolitan regions. Both have been well attended and have given members a chance to become active in our campaign and to network with others in their area. All members are welcome to attend these meetings regardless of where you live or work. Milparinka set to pay Following contact from this organiser, a series of meetings has been held with the CEO of Milparinka disability centre and employers’ group VHIA to discuss back pay and higher wages for our members at the centre. This back pay would bring their wages into line with other employees in the sector whose services have a current AEU agreement. The vast majority of employers have adopted current AEU agreements and the union has been persistent in negotiating for the same wages to be provided in cases where the current agreement has not been adopted. ◆

inside the AEU

Women’s FOCUS

Disability

Barb Jennings women’s officer

In for a shilling The fund that led to the founding of Victoria’s first women’s hospital is still raising money for women’s causes.

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ICTORIAN women were the first in the world to raise money to open their own hospital. In the 1890s, an amazing group of women decided to do something about the fact that women doctors were not allowed to work in Victoria. Together they started the Shilling Fund, asking the women of the state to donate a shilling (about $35 today) to set up their own hospital. They raised the equivalent of $3 million. With it, the group founded the Queen Victoria Women’s Hospital in a small hall near the Family Court in Little Lonsdale Street. Poor women and children came from all over Victoria. Women were very keen to see a woman doctor as many of them felt that the male doctors of the time were patronising and did not listen to them. The hospital grew over time with more fundraising, and eventually moved to Lonsdale Street. In the 1980s the QVWH was moved to Monash during the hospital amalgamations of the time. Again, the women of Victoria rallied and after sit-ins and demonstrations, they were able to save a small tower of the hospital. This beautiful old tower has now become the vibrant Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. The centre is full of organisations that work for women’s advancement and run many development options for Victorian women and their organisations. And there is now a new Shilling Fund; anyone can make a tax-deductible donation to the QVWC and put the name of a woman who is important to you on the Shilling Wall, which is in the garden around the old tower in Lonsdale Street. These donations are used by the centre to continue its work assisting Victorian women. Current programs include Positive Body Image for Young Women and capacity building for women’s organisations. This year, the AEU International Women’s Day dinner in March honoured the first women presidents of each of the three main past and present teacher unions with a collection towards a Shilling Wall tribute. AEU branch president Mary Bluett, the late Betty Lawson (Stevenson) of the Technical Teachers’ Union of Victoria, and Hetty Gilbert, president of the Victorian Teachers’ Union from 1941-42, will be recognised for their outstanding contributions to the development of the education system and the rights of women teachers. If you have a friend, colleague or mentor you would like to nominate for a Shilling Wall tribute, visit www.qvwc.org.au. ◆

Anna Stewart participants Deborah Robinson (left) and Julie Quinn

Power and passion M

EMBERS Deb Robinson and Julie Quinn spent two weeks with the AEU and at Trades Hall in May as the latest participants in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project (ASMP). Deb, from Benalla 31 Primary School, and Julie, from Brimbank

to be surrounded by powerful, likeminded union-driven women. From the chalkies to the nurses, to the shop floor stewards, we were all passionate College, shadowed AEU leadership and organisers, attended Trades Hall about workers’ rights and working training and meetings and networked conditions. “Through the Anna Stewart with ASMP participants from fellow Memorial Project, knowledge is power unions. At the end of the fortnight, the pair — and power can change workers’ lives for the better. had this to say: “It was exhilarating

“We have come to realise that for the Government to fund excellent public school systems, we need a union voice.” The program remembers journalist and unionist Anna Stewart who died in 1983 aged 35. The next round of the program will be in October and is now open for nominations. Details at www.aeuvic.asn.au/women. ◆

www.aeuvic.asn.au

23


inside the AEU

AEU Training

Member Benefits

Rowena Matcott and Kim Daly training officers

Conference season A

number of annual AEU conferences are held in Term 3: the Education Support Melbourne conference, Principal Class conference, TAFE and Early Childhood (see the calendar below for dates). All of these conferences have a professional focus with an industrial slant. Feedback is always positive and numbers are limited, so please respond quickly. As well as our normal program of AEU Active events, next term we have a focus on consultation in schools. There is a members’ forum and one-day workshop. We are also encouraging schools to invite their organiser or training officers to speak

to the whole staff about the importance of effective consultation. Effective consultation is vital for the full implementation of both the ES and Teacher Agreements. Schools must report to the department as to their Consultation Composition and Operation by September 1. As more schools face building programs and regeneration, we are providing information and PD on OHS issues, legal liability and change management. We have also increased our “How to Get a Job” program, plus September sees our ever-growing Meet the Principals program for student teachers. ◆

TERM 3

A

EU members in all sectors can access major savings on Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. The cost of the white MacBook to members has now been further cut to $1,681.90 with bag and three-year onsite warranty; or $1,438.80 without the bag and warranty. For discounts on a host of other Apple items, including notebooks and desktop computers and accessories, go to www. aeuvic.asn.au/membership and click on the link. These offers are for AEU members only. To log on, type in username AEUmember and password AppleAEU08. Free Apple training for AEU members Get the most out of your MacBook with these exclusive training sessions. Upcoming dates: • Melbourne — July 14: 10am-3pm at AEU Office, Abbotsford • Bendigo — July 20: 3pm-6pm at AEU Bendigo Office • Ballarat — July 22: 3pm-6pm at Ballarat Trades Hall Using the red to stay in the black By now you should have your presidential card, awarding AEU members savings on everything from holidays to home theatres. The union has partnered with Presidential Card and Shoppers Advantage to provide members a huge range of new benefits. To find out more, see www.aeu.presidentialcard.com.au. ◆

Member Forum: Applying For Jobs

15 July 4.30pm

AEU Building

Member Forum: Consultation

21 July 4.30pm

AEU Building

AEU Active

22-23 July

AEU Bendigo office

AEU Active

29-30 July

AEU Building

AEU Branch Conference

1 August

AEU Building

Member Forum: Applying For Jobs

4 August 4.30pm

Bendigo (Venue tba)

Member Forum: Applying For Jobs

5 August 4.30pm

Golden City Hotel 427 Sturt Street, Ballarat

AEU ES Conference

7 August

AEU Building

Member Forum: Applying For Jobs

11 August 4.30pm

Gippsland (Venue tba)

AEU Active

12-13 August

Latrobe Valley (Venue tba)

Member Forum: Applying For Jobs

18 August 4.30pm

Geelong (Venue tba)

AEU Active

18-19 August

The Regal 163-165 Timor Street, Warrnambool

Member Forum: Applying For Jobs

20 August 4.30pm

AEU Building

Consultation One Day Training

21 August

AEU Building

AEU Active

25-26 August

Eastwood Golf Club

AEU Pca Conference

27 August

Venue TBA

Meet The Principals (Primary)

1 September 4.30pm

AEU Building

AEU Active

1-2 September

Sugar Gum Hotel (Sydenham)

Meet The Principals

2 September 4.30pm

Morwell (Venue tba)

Meet The Principals

3 September 4.30pm

Golden City Hotel 427 Sturt Street, Ballarat

Meet The Principals (Secondary)

8 September 4.30pm

AEU Building

Es AEU Active

8-9 September

AEU Building

Explore the range at www.fjords.no www.dsigned.no

Meet The Principals

9 September 4.30pm

Wodonga (Venue tba)

or visit our Showroom

Meet The Principals

10 September 4.30pm

Bendigo (Venue tba)

Member Forum: Applying For Jobs

14 September 4.30pm

AEU Building

Meet The Principals

15 September 4.30pm

Geelong (Venue tba)

Meet The Principals

16 September 4.30pm

Warrnambool (Venue tba)

24

aeu news | june 2009

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inside the AEU

On the PHONES Membership Services Unit — 1800 013 379

How to read the teachers’ pay scale Fiona Sawyer MSU officer

W

E HAVE had many calls from teachers about the process for incrementing and how to work out the correct level they should be on. Under the Schools Agreement (VGSA 2008) all teachers now increment on May 1 each year (subject to a satisfactory review). If you have been at your current pay level for more than four months, you are eligible to move up an increment. This is now done automatically by the Education Department; schools must notify the department if a teacher is ineligible — and notify you in writing by February 1 (for a teacher with six or more months eligible service) or April 1 (under six months) that you have or will not reach the standards expected. The increment is different from the annual pay rise, which all teachers get in the first pay period in January. The pay rise adjusts the rate of pay for each incremental level. To read the salary scale correctly, look at the January 2009 column. The pay scale is listed on the left; find your level for January and then go up to the next level for the increment you receive in May. For anyone concerned that they have spent more

than 12 months on a particular level, remember the department last August compensated teachers who would have incremented between January 1 and April 30 under the old system. Staff whose contracts ended before May 1, and others whom the department could not be certain would still be employed on May 1, did not receive the payment. Instead, they should have received it with their pay rise last month. If it has not been made, you should talk to your school manager. To see whether you received your due, check

your payslips for August 28, 2008 for the lump sum transition payment. Payments around that time included leave loading, the pay rise, the one-off payment and back pay. The following chart shows the payments you might have received and the codes. The last two payments were within the pay period, so the employee would see an increase in their gross payment rather than a discrete line on the payslip. For more information: VGSA 2008, section 16; or www.aeuvic.asn.au/industrial/teachers.html. ◆

Pay

Pay date

Fortnight

Code

Description

Reason

804

14/08/2008

03/08/2008-16/08/208

GSC

Global Salary Change GSC

Back pay to 12/05/2008

805

28/08/2008

17/08/2008-30/08/208

ALS

Agreement Implementation Payment

One-off payment

805

28/08/2008

17/08/2008-30/08/208

PTP

Progression Transition Payment

Compensation for change to increment date

806

11/09/2008

31/08/2008-13/09/2008

SLL

Salary Loading - Teaching

815

15/01/2009

04/01/2009-17/01/2009

Global pay rise (effective 04/01)

823

07/05/2009

26/04/2009-09/05/2009

Salary progression (effective 01/05)

Salary loading

Talk to the people who run your fund Superannuation can be complex and our fund has a wide range of rules across our various schemes. Our Member Education Consultants have a wealth of experience in superannuation and those unique rules. So who better to talk to about your superannuation needs than those who run the fund?

We’re working together with our members

If you’re one of the privileged who joined ESSSuper before it closed to new members*, our Member Education Consultants can assist you with the essential issues you need to consider in planning for retirement and provide you with all the options available to you.

So, whether your goal is to boost your retirement savings, provide financial protection for your family, transition to retirement, or say goodbye to work, ESSSuper can help you achieve your goals.

ESSSuper has also ‘partnered’ with a licensed financial planning organisation to provide you with fee for service (commission free) financial advice.

ESSSuper is the dedicated super fund for emergency services and state employees who previously had their super managed by Emergency Services Super and the Victorian State Super Fund.

To arrange an appointment with an ESSSuper Member Education Consultant call 1300 655 476 Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. * The fund remains open to new emergency services employees.

You can discuss with our Member Education Consultants whether an appointment with a financial adviser is for you. Growing. Together.

www.aeuvic.asn.au

25


inside the AEU

New Educators NETWORk James Rankin graduate teacher organiser

Binge thinking

Hundreds of new teachers turned up for our PD in the Pub. Now to secure that next job.

B

EHAVIOUR management is a significant issue for new teachers — that was the clear message from the AEU’s national New Educators Survey last year. Almost 70% of new teachers said behaviour management was a major concern. To address this issue the AEU arranged a series of PD in the Pub professional development sessions to support new teachers with these critical issues. The sessions have focused on classroom management and, in particular, curriculum solutions to behaviour management issues. We were lucky enough to have the sessions presented by Glen Pearsall from Eltham High School. So far they have attracted over 500 people and participants have been very impressed

and gone back to schools with new strategies to use in the classroom. What’s next? Applying for jobs. Unfortunately for many new members that time of year is approaching when teachers on contract dust off the old application and get ready for the next round of job ads. To support our members in this situation, the AEU has secured Ross Dean to present a series of workshops on applying for jobs. These sessions will be run statewide. These sessions are free to AEU members. For details of dates and venues, see the table on page 24 or go to www. aeuvic.asn.au/new_educators. To book a place, email glenys.vanhooff@aeuvic. asn.au or call (03) 9417 2822. ◆

From the archive... No place for a lady IN OCTOBER 1877, Mary Broad was appointed to an isolated one-teacher school at Roseneath, near Casterton. For the next six years, she tried to secure a transfer to somewhere more suitable. The school was so deep in the bush and so far from other houses that she was afraid to live there alone. Her lodgings were more than five miles from the school, and the locals were selling up and leaving the district so student numbers were going down. In this time of payment by results, this meant that her salary was much reduced. She pleaded with the Education Department: “This is no place for a lady teacher, as it is almost beyond the bounds of civilisation.” Finally, the department relented and moved her to Cohuna in the Mallee. Ironically, the teacher there had applied for a transfer “on account of the long distance I have to ride every day (10 miles)” and the fact that “the farmers in the vicinity have no accommodation for a lady teacher.” After several similar moves, Mary married in January 1891 and, as was necessary at the time, retired. Many years later, her daughter, Doris McRae, became vice president of the Victorian Teachers’ Union and fought tirelessly for the betterment of conditions for teachers, especially women teachers. ◆ — Cheryl Griffin (Source: Public Record Office of Victoria.)

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aeu news | june 2009

TECAEUVIC 02/09

v


Safety MATTERS

Guy Donovan and Merrin Pertzel Holding Redlich

I

be offered compensation commensurate with the degree of hearing impairment.

f you have worked in noisy conditions, such as close to loud machines while teaching, and now have difficulty with your hearing, you may be entitled to compensation for noise-induced hearing loss. Who is entitled to claim? Your entitlement can depend on your exposure to noise at work. If you are currently working and exposed to loud noise, you need to be able to show a 10% loss of hearing to receive compensation. How to make a claim First, you will need to undergo a hearing test, which can be arranged by the WorkCover team at Holding Redlich, and complete a WorkCover claim form. After lodging the claim, you will be required to see a WorkCover appointed ear, nose and throat specialist. Your claim will then be assessed by WorkCover. If accepted by the insurer, you will

Compensation If you are currently working and have suffered a 10% hearing loss, the compensation can be $16,520. If your hearing loss is higher, you may be entitled to more compensation. For teachers who have stopped work, your compensation may be less depending on when work ended. Once your claim is approved, you may also be entitled to the reasonable cost of hearing aids. Developing hearing loss can be difficult for the sufferer and their family and friends. If an AEU member would like advice regarding a possible hearing loss claim, please call Terry O’Brien or Merrin Pertzel at Holding Redlich on (03) 9321 9988 or email advice@ holdingredlich.com.au. ◆

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inside the AEU

Are you deaf?

Christine Stewart deputy branch secretary

School or building site? Health and safety reps will need to be on their toes as a wave of major building projects sweeps through public schools.

K

EVIN Rudd’s $14.7 billion schools program is a welcome investment. The bulk of it will fund major building projects, with regional project teams managing the works. Works of this scale raise issues of health and safety that will need to be addressed. For instance, how do we manage trucks moving in and out of school grounds? How close will the work be to classrooms and staffrooms? How do we handle the noise and the relocation of staff and students? Consultation at the school on safety issues should begin long before any building commences. For a major project, I suggest the school’s health and safety representative introduce themselves to the building site’s HSR. If the project involves any change to existing structures, make yourself familiar with the asbestos audit. Advice on any issues can be obtained from the OHS/WorkCover advisors in Education Department regional offices or from the department’s OHS advisory service (1300 074 715) — or of course from Janet Marshall, Bob Maguire or myself here at the AEU on (03) 9417 2822. Filing your own hazard report The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development recently launched eduSafe, a new system for reporting and managing incidents, injuries, near misses and hazards. Any staff member can make a report. EduSafe is accessed using your regular DEECD PIN and password. The database provides principals with a tool to manage reported incidents. HSRs will also have access to hazard reports so they can monitor any risk management that is put in place. All forms of incidents and hazards are to be included — physical and psychological. No injury needs to result — just the likelihood that it could have. For example, you trip over a raised carpet but manage to steady yourself, just dropping a few books. Next time, someone might be injured. As usual, physical examples are much more straightforward than psychosocial ones. For example, you are yelled at and put down in a meeting; it leaves you shaken but you shrug it off. A better approach would be to report it — it was an incident and could be a future hazard that needs to be addressed. If all staff do so, then stress-inducing incidents can be managed much more effectively. The administration must know about them to be able to deal with them. So what happens next? The carpet can be quickly addressed, even with a temporary fix. But the yelling needs more consideration. If it is standard long-term behaviour for this person, that needs to be addressed — are they aware they are being aggressive? Perhaps some PD in communication and the difference between assertiveness and aggression is needed. Is it only with one person — is some type of mediation required? Is it only recent behaviour — and if so, is it a sign of stress, the outcome of an earlier risk not managed? Yes, dealing with psychosocial health and risks is not easy, but they are worth addressing early. ◆ www.aeuvic.asn.au

27


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28

aeu news | june 2009

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international

Creative spirits

Alannah and Madeline Foundation founder and teacher Phil West has set his sights on helping child war survivors heal.

P

HIL West is proof that one person can make a big difference. In 1997, the AEU member and casual relief teacher established the Alannah and Madeline Foundation with Walter Mikac, in memory of Walter’s two daughters, killed along with their mother in the Port Arthur massacre. Now, Phil has set up the Renew the Spirit Foundation, running creative arts therapy programs to help children overseas recover from the trauma of war and terrorism. It currently supports projects on the Thai-Burmese border and in Cambodia. Renew the Spirit is the fulfilment of a long-held idea. Phil first conceived of such an organisation during the mid-1990s, while conducting PhD research in El Salvador. “I was seeing kids with their legs blown off who were a similar age to my own kids at the time,” he says. When the Port Arthur massacre occurred a few months after he returned to Australia, Phil felt compelled to respond to “this war-like situation” in his own country. With Princess Mary of Denmark as its international patron, the Alannah and Madeline Foundation has given direct support to hundreds of children affected by violence. It has also reached out to thousands more through its programs such as the anti-bullying campaign, “Buddy Bear”. Its great success “in a sense interrupted the original plan to set up a foundation for child survivors of war,” Phil says. “But I never lost track of that original passion.”

This led him to establish the Renew the Spirit Foundation, launched by Victorian Skills Minister Jacinta Allan in August last year. Programs use dance, music, play and art to help children learn to solve problems using their natural creativity and, over time, to understand that violence is not the answer to all problems. Its newest partnership is with the People Improvement Organisation in Phnom Penh, started by Phymean Noun, who lost her family as a 15-year-old under the Pol Pot regime and was left to care for her infant niece. Phymean now runs education programs in a rubbish tip community, serving 600 children a day. Phil says these programs teach traumatised kids how to relate positively to others. The foundation works on the principle that healing a child can help renew the spirit of an entire community. “We are focussed on long-term healing,” he says. “Even making them feel that there are people out there in the big wide world who care about them is a big boost.” He says the volunteer-run Renew the Spirit Foundation needs support to create further global partnerships and to build Community Healing Centres in communities where no similar organisation exists. He is calling on schools to help “some of the most traumatised children in the world” by hosting a uniform-free, gold coin donation day. Schools that raise $600 or more will receive 20 laminated A3 colour photographs to use as teaching aids. Phil also gives presentations to staff and student leaders about how they can

make a difference in the world. Individual membership of Renew the Spirit is only $10 per year. To get involved, visit www. renewthespirit.org.au or call (03) 9539 3260. ◆ cumminsNitro © VUr 057

Rachel Power AEU News

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After 21 years, environmental education theatre group Vox Bandicoot is going from strength to strength. Rachel Power reports.

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Cam Ven the magic man.

He says the company, which has won numerous environmental, cultural and education awards, works to be the “guide beside, rather than the sage on stage”, asking questions and fostering participation rather than “spooning the answers”. Frank feels that the current global situation makes it vital to approach the subject of climate change and the environment with humour, passion and optimism. He says Vox Bandicoot creates a forum in which people can recognise the state of the planet and move on to an appropriate response. “We create relevant, poignant, cutting-edge, humorous eco-sustainability presentations full of laughs, facts, interactive bits, tips and classic acting skills,” Frank says. “What we are doing

to our planet is chilling. We need to be inspired to improve, we need to laugh, stay relaxed, yet (be) very clear about what we need to do to improve our relationship with this beautiful, delicate blue and green orb whizzing through space.” Vox Bandicoot has performed theatre pieces to at least 200,000 people in its time, and performed for countless more as roving characters during festivals. Over those years it has provided employment to over 100 artists. The company is also responsible for community programs, such as the highly successful “Sustainability Street — It’s a Village Out There” campaign, which has been taken up by councils, resulting in 200 Sustainability Streets now operating across Australia. Vox Bandicoot’s latest in-school program is “WoToDo — Watch One, Try One, Do One”, which promises to

“turn your students into the actors!” The program gives kids a hands-on opportunity to create and own a piece of theatre designed to express their passion to the world, says Frank. Developed around the company’s Street Watch Model — “if we watch the streets, the waterways will remain clean” — the theme can “equally be about energy conservation and climate repair, biodiversity or waste,” he says. WoToDo has three steps: “Watch One” — a Vox Bandicoot performance; “Try One” — workshops to create a skit on an environmental theme; and “Do One”, in which students perform their work to others in the school, to parents and friends at assembly, or to the wider community at a local festival or other venue. ◆ Find out more about Vox Bandicoot at voxbandicoot.com.au.

DOG BOY Eva Hornung Text 304pp, RRP $32.95

Current Art and Australia Dott Publishing 354pp, RRP $120

LEMON TREE Dir: Eran Riklis 106 mins Rated G

DISGRACE Dir: Steve Jacobs Rating TBC, in cinemas June 18

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OMOCHKA is a four-yearold boy whose mother and uncle have disappeared. After a few days, hunger forces him out into a freezing Moscow winter, where he tracks a dog into a basement and joins her four suckling puppies. Eva Hornung (formerly Sallis) has created a visceral and emotionally compelling novel about exile, and the blurred distinction between humans and animals in desperate circumstances. Romochka establishes a place for himself in the dogs’ complex pack dynamic, formed in response to scarcity, the harsh climate and Russia’s social disintegration. A confronting but remarkable book. ◆ — RP

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aeu news | june 2009

URRENT brings together 80 of Australia and New Zealand’s most significant contemporary visual artists in a tome surveying what is happening right here, right now in the visual arts. It contains well written and accessible artist statements as well as essays by some of this region’s most interesting arts writers. An interview between Indigenous curators discussing the position of Indigenous art in the broader visual arts context is a highlight. The production values are impressive, with beautiful reproductions. It is impossible not to get swept up in this current; it would make an impressive addition to any library where visual art is taught. ◆ — PL

IAM Abbass won an Israeli Oscar for her role in this tale of a Palestinian widow fighting the uprooting of her lemon grove after security forces deem it a threat to her new neighbour, the Israeli defence minister. The political allegory is clear enough, but this is a gentle, subtle film about real life on both sides of the divide, with much else woven through — political satire, bourgeois comedy, the twin terrors of unfeeling bureaucracy and attacks from beyond the wall. At its heart is the unspoken bond between the women on either side of the fence — the widow Salma (Abbass) and the minister’s wife (Rona Lipaz-Michael). ◆ — NB

Photos: courtesy Vox Bandicoot

Singing along with Vox Bandicoot.

NVIRONMENTAL drama group Vox Bandicoot is celebrating 21 years of creating community and educational theatre. While environmental education is its main game, the group decided to use theatre because they “love the eventfulness and the excitement it can engender in a room,” says founder and former teacher Frank Ryan. “We also chose theatre because we are dedicated to engagement and empowerment — surely the deepest purpose of education.”

ISGRACE, an Australian adaptation of JM Coetzee’s Booker Prize-winning novel, simmers with the social and political tension of life in post-Apartheid South Africa. David Lurie (John Malkovich) is a professor, dismissed from his job following a one-sided, passionless “affair” with a student (Antoinette Engel). He makes a spontaneous visit to his daughter, Lucy (Jessica Haines), who lives alone on an isolated farm. But their worlds are shattered when three local men attack and rob them at the house. A deceptively simple story about a man and his relationships becomes a chilling but profound meditation on sex, history, pride and redemption. ◆ — RP

Reviews by Rachel Power, peter lambropoulos and NIC BARNARD

culture

Vox popular


Win teaching resources

AEU News is giving members the opportunity to win a variety of Australian resources for their school libraries from our good friends at ABC Books, Text Publishing, Ford Street Publishing and Black Dog Books. To enter, simply email us at giveaways@aeuvic.asn.au by 10am Wednesday July 8. 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!

Salt by Maurice Gee (Volume 1 of the Salt Trilogy) This is a compelling fantasy novel centred around Hari and Pearl’s journey through the badlands towards the notorious mine known as Deep Salt to rescue Hari’s father from slavery. Text Publishing, RRP $19.95 Time Raiders #2: Monsters in the Sand by David Harris There are legends about monsters buried under the sands of the ancient city of Ninevah, and Austen Layard dreams of unearthing the deadly truth. This is the second book in the gripping historical series in the spirit of Indiana Jones. ABC Books, RRP $14.95.

Big and Me by David Miller Big and Small are machines that work together as a team. “But some days Big goes a bit wobbly, and I get a lot worried.” Big malfunctions in a variety of ways and Small tries to help with the assistance of The Boss and Mechanic. The story is a metaphor for a child living with an adult who suffers from mental illness. Big and Me is dramatically illustrated with paper sculpture. Ford Street Publishing, RRP $26.95.

Captain James Cook by Craig Scutt Three times James Cook sailed off the map in search of unchartered territories. With full colour illustrations, maps and breakout boxes, this book brings this fascinating history to a younger audience. Black Dog Books, RRP $14.99. The True History of Stuff by James Valentine illus. Reg Mombassa This book takes you on a hilarious trip through the now forgotten nation of Trapezia, where all ‘stuff’ was invented. In Volume One, James tells the stories of shampoo, peanut butter and the days of the week. ABC Books, RRP $19.95.

Wallace & Gromit Grand Adventures & Glorious Inventions A truly interactive experience packed with ideas for the amateur inventor. All the madcap adventures from the Wallace & Gromit films are brought to life in Wallace’s secret scrapbook. Uncover his very latest eccentric inventions as well as his personal souvenirs in this must have for any Wallace & Gromit fan. ABC Books, RRP $35.00.

Congratulations to our winners from AEU News issue 3: The Thorax ­— Kathy Huddle, Cranbourne South Primary School; Extreme Animals — Meredith Johnston, Boronia Heights Primary School; Rhyming boy and Jolt — Maria Cerra, Greensborough College; Dig 3ft NW and Fire Song — Craig Homberg, Terang College.

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AEU News Vol 15 Issue 4  

The June 2009 edition of the magazine for members of the AEU Victorian Branch, with features on the AEU's 40,000th member, league tables, 20...

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