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ACT EDUCATOR TERM 4

HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING We talk to Lauren Wells about the transition from elite athlete to teacher

WE, THE ALTERNATIVE Jeff Sparrow on how unions have always championed social progress

2018

TRUTH TELLING AT GARMA Sally Richardson on her experience at the 2018 Garma Festival


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

INSIDE ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE | TERM 4 | 2018

ON THE COVER Narrabundah Early Childhood School teacher Tahlia Bruce was our 2018 Bill Book Program recipient.

OUR STORIES OUR LOG OF CLAIMS: DIGITAL DISRUPTION 10

RETURNING TEACHING TO THE LAND

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As we gear up for bargaining the school Mainstream schooling is leaving teachers agreement, we take a closer Indigenous kids without a cultural look at some of our claims and why they education, writes Dr Laurie Bamblett. matter so much. WE (STILL) NEED TO TALK ABOUT NAPLAN 12

It's been a rough year for NAPLAN. HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING

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We talk to Lauren Wells about the transition from elite athlete to new educator. TRUTH TELLING AT GARMA

THEIR STRUGGLE IS OUR STRUGGLE

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Jeff Sparrow explains how unions have always championed social progress.

THE REGULARS PRESIDENT’S REPORT 5 UPCOMING EVENTS 6 SECRETARY'S REPORT 8

DISCLAIMER: The assertions and opinions expressed in articles reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the AEU. We do, however, think that these issues are worthy of discussion in our union.

AEU ACT BRANCH

BEHIND THE CURTAIN

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2018 Bill Book Program recipient Tahlia Bruce tells us about her week in the AEU office.

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Consultation is a key component to a harmonious workplace.

UnionsACT Anna Stewart interns continue to fight the good fight for women in the workplace.

AEU ACT member Sally Richardson attended this year's Garma Festival. Read about the truths she learned there. WE, THE ALTERNATIVE

THE DUTY TO CONSULT

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HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING

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TRUTH TELLING AT GARMA

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WE, THE ALTERNATIVE

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BEHIND THE CURTAIN

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AEU ACT BRANCH


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AEU ACT BRANCH

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE


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PRESIDENT’S REPORT

O

ver the past two terms I have been seconded to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Section within the Education Support Office. During this time, I've interacted with hundreds of teachers that I do not usually have

the opportunity to meet. It is not uncommon for these interactions to commence with, ‘You look familiar...’ to which I reply, ‘Hopefully that’s because you are an AEU member!’

To date, everyone with whom I’ve had this exchange has said yes, and then the penny drops. I know the odds are with me. With 3600 members, we are at an all-time membership high for our branch. This is in no small part due to our exceptional Branch Secretary, Glenn Fowler, and his team of equally exceptional staff. But, as these staff remind me, they are a small team. Yes, they are experts at signing up members, but our recruitment success is increasingly due to the commitment of all of us in initiating conversations with our colleagues. Invite colleagues to join us. Most do. One of the challenges our Executive team is currently considering is how to keep members engaged – bringing the ‘value add’ of our membership to the fore and recognising the dayto-day benefits rather than the 'insurance policy' aspect of being there for that rainy day. To me, our union is an extended family. We don’t judge, we look out for each other, we share a drink, a joke and, if needed, we offer a shoulder to cry on. We might have divergent views on some matters, but we come together in our absolute commitment to public education and public educators. This creates a powerful connection. I live in an area with a decidedly older demographic. I’m amazed at how many great yarns I have with retired teachers who maintain their affiliation with the union. People who, at first, I hardly know - some from the ACT, others from interstate, even overseas. In no time, we are sharing stories and laughs because of our connection to the union. It’s a great feeling. There are so many benefits to being an AEU member. In the coming months, you will notice us promoting more opportunities to get together and get involved with other AEU members. As our Enterprise Agreement negotiations progress and become more acutely focused on pay and conditions, I find it heartening to also remember some of the intangible benefits my union membership brings. I hope you do too. Enjoy term 4 and the well-deserved holiday that follows.

Angela Burroughs AEU ACT President

AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

2018 TERM 4 Upcoming Events RSVP at aeuact.org.au/get-involved/events WEEK 1 BRANCH EXECUTIVE Wednesday 17 October 5.00pm - 8.30pm AEU Office, 40 Brisbane Ave, Barton

WEEK 2 WOMEN'S NETWORK MEETING Wednesday 24 October 4.00pm - 5.00pm AEU Office, 40 Brisbane Ave, Barton BRANCH COUNCIL Saturday 27 October 9.00am - 12.00pm J Block Theatre, CIT

WEEK 3 NEW EDUCATOR NETWORK MEETING Wednesday 31 October 4.15pm - 6.00pm Kingston Hotel Function Room AEU REPRESENTATIVE TRAINING DAY Thursday 1 November 9.00am - 4.00pm Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centre

AEU ACT BRANCH

WEEK 5 BRANCH EXECUTIVE Wednesday 14 November 5.00pm - 8.30pm AEU Office, 40 Brisbane Ave, Barton

WEEK 6 BRANCH COUNCIL Saturday 24 November 9.00am - 12.00pm J Block Theatre, CIT

WEEK 7 SCHOOL ASSISTANT NETWORK MEETING Wednesday 28 November 4.15pm AEU Office, 40 Brisbane Ave, Barton

WEEK 9 UNIONSACT END OF YEAR DRINKS Friday 7 December Save the date and keep an eye out for details! BRANCH EXECUTIVE Wednesday 12 December 5.00pm - 8.30pm AEU Office, 40 Brisbane Ave, Barton


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The right support and advice to help you

feel future ready

1300 650 873 AEU ACT BRANCH

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SECRETARY’S REPORT

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

For the past four years, teachers have received a union-won pay rise of 1.5% every six months (a little over 3% per annum), which, once again, more than accounts for union fees. If at any point a person can’t afford those fees of less than 1%, you would think a 1.5% pay increase on a six-monthly basis would prompt an immediate decision to reconsider union membership. The benefits we have won and continue to seek in terms of superannuation will have a lifetime benefit for union members. The insurance that comes with legal support, workplace support and journey cover are worth the membership alone. Throughout their careers, people experience periods of economic hardship, but you can’t be in and out of your union based on how you’re travelling economically at any one point in time. That's a decision you make about gym memberships and wine clubs, not about being part of your union.

"I can't afford to be a member of the union." If you're in the habit of asking non-member colleagues to join the AEU, you've probably heard this more than once. I've heard it too many times. It's simply not an excuse any of us should be prepared to accept. When someone says this, the implication is that they’re the only ones doing it tough. Consider the cleaners who work in our schools. Underpaid, and often underappreciated, they typically earn between $40-45k a year - and they are highly unionised. They know the power of collective strength when it comes to improving their conditions, and the support their union can provide if things go wrong in the workplace. The fees that members pay to join our union less than 1% of their salary - are more than offset by the benefits of membership. In Australia, unionised workers on average earn up to 18% more than non-unionised workers. The bottom line is union members earn more. They make a sacrifice financially, and that comes back to them in spades in terms of salary increases, which are well above the national average. Teacher salary increases - negotiated by the union - have a '3' in front of them, whereas the rest of the workforce has salary increases on average of 2.1%. That alone more than accounts for union fees.

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When you earn a salary, it should be expected that some things will simply be paid as a matter of course. You will pay tax, and you’ll pay for insurance to protect yourself, such as home and contents and car insurance. And unionism is just another investment – a modest investment - in having a decent life. It's time to consider the equity of some educators making the economic sacrifice that gives us so many benefits and others not making that sacrifice while receiving those same benefits. Your colleagues who have made the decision not to join the AEU are saying they are happy for you to bear the cost of their union-won conditions, while they simply sit back and enjoy them. Too often, our members are reluctant to address this matter with their colleagues. They talk about union membership using terms like “personal preference”, or “choice”, rather than what it really is: a moral imperative or obligation that binds all people in a profession to do the best for each other.

@GlennFowlerAEU


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Fight for the rights of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander CDP workers Join the fight

fnwa.ORG.au 15

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

OUR LOG OF CLAIMS: A CLOSER LOOK

DIGITAL DISRUPTION

M

oderating the impact of digital communications

in educators' lives is on the agenda while we bargain the new Teaching Staff Enterprise Agreement.

You're an educator. You get to work at about 9am, you spend six hours in a classroom, give or take, then you go home. Maybe you pour a glass of wine, run a bath, watch a movie. You switch off and forget about work until 9am rolls around again. Right? It's a nice fantasy. But we know that, despite what some may think, this is not the reality of being an educator. The truth is that there are never enough hours in your day. Aside from the obvious afterhours tasks like marking or lesson-planning, a more insidious time thief has crept into the lives of educators. We now live in a world where we are almost eternally contactable. Our work emails are accessible from any device with an internet connection, and consequently our home computers, tablets and smartphones have become mobile offices. Suddenly, you might find that checking your work emails is the last thing you do before you go to sleep at night. “I have my phone set up such that my personal emails and my work emails all download into my mail application,” one member told us. “Whenever a new email comes through, I get an alert. I get work related emails

AEU ACT BRANCH

from parents and colleagues often in the evening and on weekends. I also get them when I am on holidays in far-away places.” Educators are typically dedicated and committed professionals. Many of our members tell us they check work emails after hours because they’re concerned they may have missed something during their busy day. A number of members told us they go through their emails every night at home, as they feel there is never enough time at work. This includes responding to emails from students' parents. The answer may seem obvious: just don’t check your emails after work. But there’s also the worry an after-hours email may contain vital information about the following day. "I check emails on Sunday night also, as there are usually a few parent and other emails that need to be read to address issues that will be present first thing on Monday morning,” said a member. Another told us, “I consistently receive emails over the weekend, but I don’t check them until Monday. Sometimes this causes issues, especially as I’m unable to act on the email until later in the day, as I teach all morning without a break on Mondays.”


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It's not just emails. Most of us now carry a mobile phone with us everywhere we go; maybe you even sleep with yours beside your bed. How many colleagues and parents have your personal phone number? One member said, “I’ve had parents berate me for not giving them my personal phone number and for not contacting them on the weekends after they didn’t answer their phones during the week.” Another told us, “I have parents contact me as early as 5am and as late as 10pm via text and phone call. I once had a parent message me after 9pm on a Friday night asking me to call them ASAP, and when I did, it was just to inform me that the student would have a different transport home on the Monday.” So what is the impact of this inability to disconnect? Our members tell us they have

lost sleep over emails they’ve received last thing at night, and that they feel they “can never really get away from work”, knowing a parent may be in touch at any time. This is a cyclical problem. How many of us are guilty of sending an email to a colleague after work hours? When there isn't a spare moment in your own work day, it might be the only chance you've had to do so. Maybe we don't intend for our colleague to read or respond before they get to work the next day, but, just like you, they feel pressure to fit these tasks in when they’re ‘off the clock’. While we may not be able to control the actions of others, especially those outside of the profession like parents, some school leaders are trying to manage this issue. "I have counselled teachers who have felt that they should respond

to work communication at all hours and this has caused them anxiety," said one school leader. "I recommend my staff only respond to communication within work hours and to never give their personal phone number." However, with a problem that is so pervasive and widespread, there should be clear and enforceable guidelines in the Enterprise Agreement to protect educators and their work/life balance. We are seeking a clause in the EA that sets out reasonable parameters for the nature and timing of work-related digital communications. Educators may be dedicated, and they may love their work, but they must have the opportunity to switch off from it in their personal lives.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

WE (STILL) NEED TO TALK ABOUT NAPLAN

I

t's been a rough year for NAPLAN. The voices speaking out against it are growing in

number and volume.

Earlier this year, we asked our school teacher members to tell us about their experiences with NAPLAN and their thoughts about the future of the national testing regime. The results were clear. More than 500 members, including teachers and school leaders at all levels, responded to our survey, and, overwhelmingly, they indicated that NAPLAN was not supported by the profession. Members told us that the test was "high-stakes", causing stress and anxiety for their students and for themselves. They told us they didn't find the results from the test useful in their teaching, and that the pressure to achieve high marks meant valuable teaching time was instead being spent on NAPLAN preparation. AEU ACT BRANCH

Nationally, AEU members have returned the same damning results to this survey. Some policy-makers are listening to the profession. The ACT Government has pushed for a nationwide review of NAPLAN, and this has the support of the Labor Party federally. In March, ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry wrote an opinion piece for the Canberra Times questioning the future of NAPLAN testing, saying: "The more I get to know Canberra school leaders and teachers, the more I think our approach to NAPLAN gets in the way of schools and teachers getting on with their job and educating children without an army of overnight experts looking over their shoulder."


Parent and community groups, principals groups and education academics have joined the calls for a review, if not the outright scrapping, of the program. Experts have also condemned it, with internationally-renowned curriculum expert Les Perelman calling the NAPLAN writing test "by far the most absurd and the least valid of any test that I have seen". But despite the number of voices rising up against it, NAPLAN goes on. In May, around one million students participated in NAPLAN, with almost 200,000 of them completing the test online for the first time. Then Education Minister Simon Birmingham described the online trials as "a roaring success". Following the testing, the release of the data was delayed, amid concerns that the inclusion of online test results essentially rendered the data completely unusable, as

it could not be compared with results from the traditional paper tests. Online results were significantly higher in some domains and significantly lower in others. ACARA finally released interim data a few weeks later, saying it had assurances from experts that the results were comparable. Other international assessment experts strongly disagreed, saying the online and paper results were "inherently incompatible" and "should be discarded". At a meeting of the Education Council in June, ministers had agreed to look into the way NAPLAN was published on the My School website and how teachers and school leader used this data to inform teaching practices. At the time, Minister Berry said she was glad other ministers had responded, but this was not the broad review that many were hoping for.

13 The debacle over the results from online NAPLAN tests forced the Education Council at their September meeting to decide this year's results would not be published to the My School website unless the review process determined that the website provides "valid" data. We would argue that NAPLAN results published on the My School website have never been "valid" in any real sense. Every year, the work of educators is reduced to a set of numbers, and this year that set of numbers has been totally corrupted. These should be the death throes of NAPLAN. The AEU continues to call for a comprehensive review of the test. It should be replaced with a new assessment landscape that has the support of, and is developed in consultation with, the profession.

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING

A

fter a hugely successful Can you tell us about your athletic background? 16 year career in

I started Little Athletics when I was five years old. I really Lauren Wells has embarked on a enjoyed trying all the different events and spending time with whole new challenge, taking up my friends. I never thought it would develop into a 16 year a teaching position at Giralang career!

athletics, Olympian

with her to find out how the

My main event was the 400m hurdles and some of my achievements include:

transition from elite athlete to

11 time Australian 400m hurdle champion

4 time Commonwealth Games representative

4 time World Championship representative

2 time Olympic Games representative

Part of the athletics team leadership group

Voted ‘team member of the year’ in 2014 by my fellow teammates

Primary School. We sat down

Year One teacher was going.

I'm very fortunate to have experienced so many wonderful competitions and to have travelled to some amazing places around the world. AEU ACT BRANCH

As a child, I never dreamt of becoming an Olympic athlete, but once I started having some success from around the age of 14, I just made the most of every opportunity that came my way and never took anything for granted.

What led you to become an educator? What was your pathway into teaching? I remember when I was in year one, we had a dress up day where the theme was ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ I went dressed as a teacher! However, as my athletics career took off and I followed those dreams, I never really thought that a teaching degree would fit in with my training schedule. I studied psychology as my first degree at the University of Canberra, but after I finished that, I focused on my athletics and decided to see what would eventuate. I started working at before and after school care and really enjoyed that, and then I was offered a job as a Learning Support Assistant at Majura Primary School.

Photo


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Photo: Matt Beckenham

I didn’t have any experience with students with special needs, but I thought it would be interesting to do and found that I quite liked being in the classroom. After a year at Majura, I moved on to Giralang Primary School and worked there as an LSA for three and a half years. I fell in love with the culture at Giralang and absolutely loved being amongst the staff and students there. I was fortunate enough to assist some amazing teachers and they inspired me to take that leap and study teaching for myself. Due to my sporting commitments with the Olympic Games in 2016 and World Championships in 2017, I completed a postgraduate Primary Education degree in two and a half years. I competed at the Commonwealth Games on the

Gold Coast in April of this year and then went on my final six week professional experience block to complete my degree. I finished that in the last week of term two and was offered a full time teaching job on a year one class at Giralang Primary. It has certainly been a whirlwind transition from elite athlete to full time teacher, but both careers are demanding in different ways. There are certainly a lot of life lessons I have learnt through sport that can transfer into teaching, which is great!

Tell us a bit about the role you’re in now. How are you finding it? I have a class of 22 year one students and they are great! I knew a lot of the students from working in their kindergarten class last year, so it was nice to have the opportunity to reconnect with them this year.

Their teacher went on maternity leave while I was finishing my professional experience, so we had a quick handover, and I came in during the holidays to get my head around the teaching space, what was in my classroom and how I wanted my class to run. It is certainly a work in progress and I'm always looking for ways to improve my teaching craft. The staff at Giralang have been incredibly supportive and are always willing to lend a hand or give me some positive feedback. I have had to ‘hit the ground running’, so to speak, as my students have already spent half a year together, with the same teacher, so it has been a bit of a challenge to establish my own expectations with them without changing too many things at once.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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After about week 4, I started to feel like I was in a good routine and was happy with how most of my teaching blocks were running.

What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards in teaching so far? How does it compare to your career in athletics? One of the biggest challenges I have found so far is that as a beginning teacher, I don’t feel like I know very much! Even though my students are

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

been a challenge but not too overwhelming. I am a bit of a perfectionist and always expect the best of myself so I have taken that attitude into my classroom. I have high expectations of my students, but at the same time I must remember they are only six and seven years old! It's always rewarding to see students understand a concept and have that moment of realisation. I was given some good advice regarding my

"In athletics you always know how you are going, because your results are instantaneous. With teaching, this won't always be the case, and it is good for me to remember that." in year one, you still need to really know the content before teaching it to them, so that is always an interesting exercise. One skill that really transfers across from my athletics career into teaching is time management. There are always lists of things I need to do in preparation for the next day or week, so being able to manage and prioritise everything has

AEU ACT BRANCH

teaching expectations and it is something I will have to adjust to; in athletics you always know how you are going, because your results are instantaneous. With teaching, this won’t always be the case and it is good for me to remember that. Athletics is a physically and mentally demanding sport, and teaching is not too dissimilar. I am always thinking about

lessons for the next day and walk rather briskly around the school to get everything done! I am equally passionate and dedicated to teaching as I was with my athletics, and it is exciting for me to have something I can throw all of my efforts into now.

You’ve recently become an AEU member congratulations! Why did you decide to join the AEU? I joined the AEU because I think it's important for school staff to be supported, especially beginning teachers. It is reassuring to know that not only do the staff at Giralang support me, but I have the AEU support as well. Teachers in Australia are certainly undervalued, and having the AEU constantly campaign on our behalf can only be beneficial for us and our teaching future. The staff from AEU that I have come across are all very passionate about their job and that makes me feel confident that they have our best interests at heart.


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TRUTH-TELLING AT GARMA Sally Richardson

O

nce a year, people from all over the country gather to share

knowledge and culture at the Garma Festival. AEU ACT member Sally Richardson tells us about her experience there.

Garma is a festival that celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. It brings together Indigenous and nonIndigenous people from all over the country to share knowledge and culture, and to discuss issues relevant to our nation. This year was the 20th anniversary of the Garma festival, and I was the fortunate member funded by the ACT branch of our union to attend. The theme for Garma this year was 'Truth Telling', or ‘Yuwalk Lakaranja’ in Yolgnu language. Issues discussed in relation to truth telling included constitutional recognition, health, education and Indigenous disadvantage. Fairness and equality is union business, as is reconciliation. Attending Garma was an amazing opportunity provided by our union in its commitment to reconciliation and to ensuring that non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers have an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.

Garma is held in Northeast Arnhem Land, which is undeniably beautiful as well as being one of Australia’s last strongholds of traditional Aboriginal culture. During the four day festival, I camped on site at Gulkula, a ceremonial meeting ground overlooking the Gulf of Carpentaria. I was on Yolgnu land, where Yolgnu law and Yolgnu protocols determined behaviour. It was an alcohol and drug-free event, and participants were requested to exercise patience, follow dress standards and photography protocols, and treat the old people with the greatest respect (they hold the knowledge and power). After finding a tent that ticked the shade and privacy boxes, I went exploring and found myself on an informal tour led by Marcia Langton. She knew everyone along the way, and I quickly discovered Garma is also about making connections.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

We visited the Youth Forum, the open air art gallery and the Purple House, amongst other places. The Purple House is a mobile dialysis van that treats remote patients with kidney failure and on this occasion enabled them to attend the four-day event. The presence of the Purple House at Garma highlighted the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost four times as likely to die with chronic kidney disease than nonIndigenous Australians. There was so much to see and do at Garma, from tai chi with Jack Thompson in the mornings to Bunggul (Arnhem Land traditional dance) in the evenings. There were forums, ceremonies, cultural activities, language lessons, astronomy and music. At the education forum on the first day, I heard Yolgnu leaders and Aboriginal educators talk about their work, visions for education and day to day challenges. They all acknowledged and promoted the value of learning on country, the importance of including Aboriginal and Torres Strait people in decision making and focusing on Aboriginal students' existing skills and cultural knowledge as opposed to their deficits. One of many moving moments at Garma for me was attending a Dawn Crying Ceremony. It was held at 5.30 in the morning, as the sky lightened from black. It was a women’s only ceremony, where the Aboriginal elders cried for their land and their people. We sat in darkness and silence, surrounded by the stringybark forest, listening to the women’s song. At the end, the elders told us to be still and silent and wait for the bird to sing, and one minute later it did.

AEU ACT BRANCH

IMAGE: Sally and AEU ACT Secretary Glenn Fowler


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Listening to the Uluru Statement from the Heart being read in Yolgnu Matha by Yalmay Yunupingu and then in English by Jack Thompson was another moving moment for me. I am very proud to be a member of our union, knowing that at a national level the AEU has thrown its full support behind the goals expressed in this statement. One of the most heartbreaking stories I heard at Garma was shared at the key forum.

It was the story told by a gentle and highly-respected man of Arrernte descent, who was one of the Stolen Generation. He was taken from his family and placed in a mission, and consequently had no sense of belonging in his own country, which had also been taken away from him. It was truth telling, it was heartbreaking and it challenged the audience in a calm, sad and respectful way.

As an educator, I believe it is important to acknowledge and teach a true collective history of our nation, one that is inclusive of Indigenous Australians and their experiences. Attending Garma was an amazing experience that has strengthened my commitment to reconciliation and to promoting constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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Branch Executive

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Women’s Network meeting

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School Assistant Network & National Week

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FAC E B OO K . CO M / A E UAC T

T W I T T E R . CO M / A E UAC T

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(02) 6272 7900

w. www.aeuact.org.au

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For events held during working hours, you are eligible to apply for industrial leave. If you’d like more information about industrial leave, speak to your sub-branch reps or contact the AEU Office .

New Educator Conference & Network

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TERM 3

40 Brisbane Ave Barton ACT 2600

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

WE, THE ALTERNATIVE Jeff Sparrow

A

ustralia's extreme anti-union laws are not just a way to limit

industrial disputes but to also repress the broader social movements for which unions are vital champions.

In a famous response to John Howard, Paul Keating once described the fifties as an era in which "Australia was injected with a near-lethal dose of fogeyism by the conservative parties... when they put the country into neutral and where we very gently ground to a halt." Robert Menzies, the prime minister of the time, achieved the 'fogeyism' that Howard so admired in part through his legislative bans on trade unionism - bans not so dissimilar to those in place today. In 1951, the government bolstered the so-called 'Penal Powers' to enable massive fines against unions that breached 'no strike' orders. With the workers' movement thus shackled, the remarkable radicalism of the late 1940s faltered, enabling Menzies to buttress the traditional racial, gender and familial hierarchies that had been shaken by the Second World War. There's an obvious parallel with where we're at today. The academic Andrew Stewart describes Australian laws as now "so restrictive on the right to strike that they are way out of step with the laws of just about every other developed country." A recent study by the Australia Institute reveals a remarkable 97% decline in the frequency

AEU ACT BRANCH

of industrial disputes since the 1970s, a period in which, not surprisingly, the gulf between the very rich and the very poor has grown at a dizzying rate. Fairly obviously, anti-union laws serve an important function for conservative regimes, simply by hamstringing the strongest form of resistance. As the recent teachers' strikes spreading across the US - the so-called Red State Rebellion - have been demonstrating, no hashtag campaign or street protest has the same impact as a mass withdrawal of labour. But the curbs on effective unionism also matter for other, less obvious reasons. "There is no such thing as society," Margaret Thatcher once declared. "There are individual men and women and there are families." It's a statement that would have baffled Menzies and an entire earlier generation of conservatives. But since the late seventies, we've seen the emergence of a new Right, one fanatically opposed to any form of collectivism. Today's idealogues identify the free market as the source of all virtue, capable of allocating resources with a wisdom mere mortals cannot comprehend. That undermines their attitude to the state. Government, they think,


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should protect and strengthen markets - and nothing much else. Think of the representatives of IPA, appearing constantly on the ABC... to advocate the privatisation of the ABC. Health, education, social services: in the provision of such matters, the state should get out of the way and let private industry serve those who are willing to pay.

The historian Verity Burgmann notes how the struggles for women's liberation, Indigenous rights and gay liberation all drew succor from the strength of organised labour, so much so that, for many, "the interests of the working class and the concerns of the new social movements were seen to be complementary".

The Right regards trade unionism as a political problem... but they also see it as a philosophical abomination - since, by its nature, the organisation of labour offers an alternative. To those who remain unconvinced, the Right has a second response, summarised by the acronym TINA. Irrespective of what we think, There Is No Alternative - we might not like the market's edicts, but they are the only option available. Hence the Right's hatred for the union movement. The Right regards trade unionism as a political problem, a potential locus of resistance. but they also see it as a philosophical abomination - since, by its nature, the organisation of labour offers an alternative. When in 1969, the legendary Clarrie O'Shea chose jail rather than pay fines levelled at the tramworkers' union, the defeat of Menzies' Penal Powers law facilitated a revival of industrial militancy, which, in turn, dispelled the Liberals' fogeyism.

She describes, for instance, how building workers helped residents save historic Sydney from rapacious developers, with the BLF's 'Green Bans' giving rise to the environmental association with the word 'green'. Equally, in 1973, with homosexuality still illegal, the BLF went out on strike on behalf of Jeremy Fisher, a student expelled from Macquarie University's aptly named Robert Menzies College for being gay. "It's the principle of the thing," explained union leader Bob Pringle. "They shouldn't pick on a bloke because of his sexuality." The anecdote illustrates how the old union slogan "an injury to one is an injury to all" directly contradicts the market imperative to look simply after yourself. In other words, a vibrant union movement makes challenging the logic of the

market - especially through the provision of social services seem natural and normal. It's often forgotten that Gough Whitlam, Labor's great reformer, belonged to the right of the party, not to its radical left. The legislative achievements of his government - paid maternity leave for federal public servants; four weeks annual leave; the 36-and-a-quarter hour week; single parent pensions; free tertiary education; Medibank and so on - were placed onto the agenda not by Whitlam himself but by vibrant, grassroots campaigns, in which unionists played important (indeed, often central) roles. The experience of solidarity encourages the extension of collectivity outside the narrow confines of the workplace in ways that alter the terms of the politically possible. That's why the Change the Rules campaign matters. It's not simply that we need strong unions to push back against cutbacks, job losses and underfunding. It's also that, in an era of deep cynicism about the political class and the political process, we need to rediscover the power of hope. Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor and broadcaster, and an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University. He is the author of several books, including Radical Melbourne: A Secret History (with sister Jill Sparrow) and his latest, No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson. AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

BEHIND THE CURTAIN Tahlia Bruce

O

nce a year, the Bill Book Program gives an AEU ACT Branch member

the chance to spend a week in the office to gain industrial experience and see how the office works for our members.

As a new educator, it can be difficult to find your place within the directorate, but I have found my 'home' with the AEU. In my first year of teaching, I was introduced to the union by a passionate coworker. I knew nothing about the union movement, its causes or triumphs, but after attending Branch Council and talking to our representatives, it became clear just how powerful our union and its people are. I strive to be one of the voices pushing for change in our world, and our union has given me that opportunity.

When expressions of interest for the 2018 Bill Book Program were opened last term, I was excited by the chance to experience a different side of the AEU, and I was incredibly fortunate to be the recipient of this year's program. As a result, I had the opportunity to spend a week in the office on Brisbane Avenue and got an insider’s look at how the team operates behind the curtain. From debating the quality of new Wagon Wheels to calling special Council meetings, the experience is one from which I have learnt a great deal. On my first day in the office, I got some valuable one-on-one time with Branch Secretary Glenn Fowler. What you might not know about the office is that Mondays are Puppy Mondays, so as Glenn sat cuddled up with one of his gorgeous pooches, we discussed the finer details of how the office runs and the ways he negotiates for our members at an executive level.

RIGHT IMAGE: Mondays are Puppy Mondays in the AEU ACT Office.

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Later that afternoon, North Side Organiser Sean van der Heide and I were off to a sub-branch meeting at a nearby school.


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We maintain a strong subbranch at my school, knowing our voice makes a difference, so I've been a part of many sub-branch meetings, but the experience was entirely different from this new perspective. As I sat and observed the way the sub-branch meeting progressed, I had a new sense of respect for the way Sean expertly responded to members and ensured everyone felt heard and inspired to take an active role. Sean and I then spent some time going over the presentation he was set to deliver over the following two days as part of the Fundamentals and Advanced AEU training sessions. In the sunny AEU board room,

"I believe we owe it to our new educators to provide them with quality mentoring, support and information to help make the rocky journey of teaching that little bit easier." Sean talked me through the slides and asked for my opinion and changes as if I had been on staff for years. I was offered the opportunity to present during the Fundamentals training session - a daunting task, but one I jumped at. Over the next two days, I worked closely with Sean, CIT Organiser Gerard Dwyer and Lead Organiser Vince McDevitt to run the training days. As anyone who attended the training would report, it was fantastic to see such passionate and informed people supporting a range of educators to build their capacity as AEU members. These sessions allowed me to hear from a number of members about their experiences in

schools and build on my knowledge of what our members value - what makes them tick. Back at the office on Thursday, I worked on creating some materials for our new educators. As a teacher who is just seeing the light at the end of my first three years, this topic is one of special interest to me. I believe we owe it to our new educators to provide them with quality mentoring, support and information to help make the rocky journey of teaching that little bit easier. It’s inspiring to see the support the AEU puts behind our new educators, such as the New Educator Conference and New Educator Network.

Without these networks, it is all too easy to get lost in the realm of your own classroom. On my final day in the office, I was given opportunities to liaise with members and continue my work on the new educator materials. Looking back on the week, I am taking away a whole new set of skills and understanding for just how hard the team in the AEU office works. As I left, I contemplated if I'd be able to sneak back in next week - even just for Puppy Monday - but alas, my school probably expects me to return! The Bill Book Program, named after a former AEU organiser, runs annually. If you'd like the chance to spend a week in the AEU ACT office, keep an eye out for information about next year's program, set to run in Term 3.

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When you join the AEU, you know you're committing to stand up for public education and the rights of you and your colleagues. But as an AEU member, you're also part of something bigger. We are part of local, national and global campaigns to fight inequality and injustice. These are some of the organisations and causes we've been involved with this year.

On June 28 this year, hundreds of union members and supporters rallied at the ExxonMobil (ESSO)/UGL Longford Gasworks to mark the first anniversary of an ongoing industrial dispute affecting offshore workers. A year prior, a picket line was established after maintenance workers refused to sign new workplace agreements that stripped away working wages and conditions. Upon completion of one successful seven year contract and the winning of another, UGL set up a subsidiary company, MTCT Services Pty Ltd. Rather than continuing business as usual, UGL fired their workers and then offered them their jobs back the next day under new contracts, without the conditions that had been built up by the employees over a number of previous years.

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The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of nongovernmental organisations in one hundred countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

AEU ACT has become a signatory to ICAN, which was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and its “ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”. ICAN representatives were kind enough to bring along their Nobel Prize to show AEU ACT office staff when they visited our office earlier this year (right).

Signing up to MTCT Services Pty Ltd would see the workers face a 30-50% drop in wages, cuts to annual leave entitlements and worker's shift loadings, the implementation of a "antifamily' shift rosters (eg. from one week on, one week off to five weeks on, one week off) and the implementation of stand down clauses that could see employees at work but unpaid.

The dispute has now gone on for more than a year - the longest industrial dispute in Australia in more than 40 years. It's taken an emotional and financial toll on the workers and on their families. The AEU ACT Branch made a donation of $3000 so these workers can keep up this important fight for all working people.

ESSO's undercutting of workers' wages and conditions comes despite the fact the company has paid zero corporate tax since the current federal government came to power in 2013.

To add your support or if you would like to make a personal donation, you can go to essouglydispute.com


27 All Australians deserve the opportunity to have a good, steady job and the dignity of work. The government's Community Development Program (CDP) is depriving tens of thousands of people of that opportunity. CDP workers are not actually classified as workers. They receive well below the minimum wage for working for 25 hours per week for non-profit (and now for-profit) businesses. They are not covered by the Fair Work Act. They don't have Federal OHS protections or workers compensation, and they can't take annual leave, sick leave or carer's leave. Those under the CDP are required to work up to three times longer than citybased jobseekers to receive welfare payments.

Since July 2015, less than 3500 Indigenous participants found full-time or part-time work lasting six months or more. CDP workers have 70 times the financial penalties placed on them than nonremote dole workers. Fines for missing activities under CDP - which covers a tiny fraction of the population - account for more than half the total penaties across the welfare system. The union movement is determined to do something about this. Launched in June 2017, the First Nations Workers Alliance is campaigning to end the CDP and replace it with a program that works for Indigenous people rather than oppressing them.

TEN YEARS PRISON AND 74 LASHES - FOR THE CRIME OF TRADE UNIOISM

In August, the AEU ACT Branch signed up with the FNWA, with a pledge of support of $500. For more information and to get involved, visit fnwa.org.au.

On 4 August 2018, Iranian teacher trade unionist Mohammed Habibi was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison. The sentence by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Court also included prohibition of social and political activities for two years, a travel ban of two years, and 74 lashes. A member of the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association of Tehran, Habibi is one of many independent trade union members harassed by Iran's public authorities for pursuing their legitimate activities. He was arrested in May during a peaceful protest and has since been held in detention under unbearably harsh conditions. Family members who visited him in prison reported that he had been severely mistreated. Public authorities continue to deny him the urgent medical support he needs. Education International has launched a campaign through LabourStart to petition for Habibi's release. To join us in supporting this cause, visit www.labourstart.org/go/habibi AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

RETURNING TEACHING TO THE LAND Dr Laurie Bamblett Vice Chancellor's Scholar in Indigenous History, Australian National University

I

t's been an age since the colonial shool system, and yet it is clear that

mainstream schools are still assimilating Indigenous children, writes Laurie Bamblett.

Australia celebrates being the home of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures while persisting with a school system designed to wipe out these same ancient cultures. If things keep going the way they are, one day we may all truly regret the loss of Aboriginal cultures. Since the earliest days of the colony, schools have been used to coerce Aborigines to become European. They are the battering rams of assimilation. Special Aboriginal schools were even established to physically and psychologically separate Aboriginal children from their culture, heritage and, importantly, from the land as a source of knowledge, language, and strength. In those early days, Aboriginal parents, grandparents and elders avoided the schools and clung tenaciously to their own ways of teaching and learning. As the colony expanded, it became impossible to live Aboriginal lives. Our people were forced to trade cultural continuity for physical survival.

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We are still doing it. In spite of successful experiments in two-way schooling and the inclusion of content about Aboriginal histories and cultures in the Australian Curriculum, mainstream schools are still assimilating Aborigines. As governments annually track the benefits of Aborigines engaging with the European school system, some of our people keep track of what we lose by ‘coming in’ to the European way of life. They note how each generation moves further and further from our ancestors’ ways. A Wiradjuri grandmother once described it to me as the ‘white man winning’ when she lamented that her grandchildren, while becoming English literate and succeeding in European schools, knew much less of our people’s ways than her parents and grandparents did.

Phot http


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The Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred uses the metaphor of a rock to describe this same process as it happens among his people. He says that earlier generations, who lived distinctly Mohawk lives, were standing on a huge cultural rock. Subsequent generations, whose knowledge and ability to live Mohawk lives has been diminished by colonisation, may soon stand on the smallest piece of cultural rock, barely connected to their ancestors. This happens because the Mohawk people have to trade cultural continuity for physical survival, as do Aborigines in Australia. A better way would be to incorporate a plan for landbased cultural restoration into Aboriginal education policy. It would require a large-scale radical shift in schooling to return teaching to the land and regenerate culture. Alfred’s work to restore cultural practices and end cultural dislocation among his Mohawk people shows that a better existence can be found away

from the mess of colonisation. To do it in Australia would require schools to support an agenda to re-culture our nation. It must go beyond deepening understanding, beyond recognition and reconciliation as it is currently conceived in the Australian Curriculum. A process of acknowledgment alone will not fix the damage caused by colonialism.

This is about people living rather than just learning about Aboriginal culture and history. This is about our people living rather than just learning about Aboriginal culture and history. It is about all sectors of the community, including the school system, supporting Aboriginal people to relearn and live our own ways.

It is a big task to make changes on such a scale, though it’s not without precedent. In the 1950s, policymakers asked all sectors of the community to cooperate in the assimilation of Aborigines. As we know, that dark task was accomplished with the support of the school system. We now need people to back a policy to support Aboriginal people to reconcile more fully with our ancestors. Such a shift will benefit all Australians, because cultural resurgence will mean that colonisation will not be the dominant story of Aboriginal lives. Some who have taken the time to get to know our people and learn our ways describe Aborigines in glowing terms. One observer described Aborigines as the dreamers of humanity and the poets of the universe. Why shouldn’t we all benefit from rebuilding a larger cultural rock and standing on it, a little closer to the poets of the universe?

Photo: 75Law on Flickr https://bit.ly/2MM5cE1

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Specialists in Federal Workers Compensation Claims

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Slater and Gordon is proud to partner with the AEU ACT Branch

GET IN TOUCH Call the AEU on

02 6272 7900

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for a referral to Slater and Gordon slatergordon.com.au

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

If something’s happened to you at work, we’ll guide you through the legal process, every step of the way.


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GONSKI ON LIFE SUPPORT But we can save it. For the Liberals, doling out evermore dollars to private schools is a hard habit to break. While paying lip service to Gonski when legislating new funding arrangements last year, the government continues to cut special deals for its preferred sector. Talk that private schools funded above Gonski's schooling resource standard would be subject to some overdue redistribution has turned out to be just that - talk. Figures obtained by the AEU under Freedom of Information show a $7.1 million 'transition fund' is being used for a cash splash on 102 elite colleges. And there's more. The Turnbull Government set aside $40 million in an 'adjustment assistance fund' with eligibility carefully worded to ensure overfunded private schools can get a cut in coming years.

A further $1.9 billion in federal capital works funding is only available to private schools. The government also appears poised to cave in to the political blackmail of the Catholic school lobby. Historic over-funding in their system was to be wound back through slower growth over the decade to 2027. There would be no real funding loss with allocations rising 3.6% annually in line with costs.

Added to other shortcomings of the Liberals' funding model, these special deals and backflips mean Gonski is effectively dead under the Liberals. Dogged campaigning by the AEU over more than a decade made fair school funding a national priority and forced the Gonski Review. We have come a long way but now need to redouble our efforts to make sure fair funding is front and centre at the coming federal election.

Exaggerated threats of school closures and interventions in recent by-elections appeared UNDER THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT... to spook the government • $1.9 billion has been cut from public school and they are set to cut yet funding in 2018 and 2019 another deal to preserve • the federal government has arbitrarily capped  unfair advantages the  public school funding at only 20 percent of the  Catholic system has long  Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) while private  enjoyed.  schools receive 80 percent • only 13 per cent of public schools will receive   enough funding to reach the minimum Schooling  Resource Standard (SRS) by 2023

For updates, visit www.fairfundingnow.org.au

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

DEMOCRACY AT WORK: THE DUTY TO CONSULT Patrick Judge AEU ACT Industrial Officer

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” - Martin Luther King, Jr. “I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” - Malcolm X

AEU ACT BRANCH

Why should we consult?

What is consultation?

Teachers and schools are at their best when everyone is working towards a common goal. We thrive on open dialogue between staff and management. When we work together, we mitigate our individual weaknesses and amplify our collective strengths.

Consultation requires the employer to engage with employees about a proposed change. The employer must genuinely consider the views of those employees before making its final decision.

We've all heard stories of workplaces that have descended into conflict. Communication ceases. Staff become angry at management. Management become distrustful of staff. A heavy cloud settles over the building. Like Dr King says, a riot is the language of the unheard. If staff and management do not consult, then both parties are liable to feel that they do not have a voice. When workplaces are not consultative, "riots" are prone to break out. Likewise, as Malcolm X suggests, a shared challenge encourages shared solutions. When workers and managers consult, they can create mutual programs for effective action. When we do not consult, management imposes solutions on a workforce. Likewise, the workforce is not invested in making those solutions work. We should consult, then, because consultation leads to better solutions and a more harmonious workplace.

Consultation is not a mere formality. In Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association v Qantas Airways Limited (No.2) [2013] FCCA 1696, the Federal Circuit Court considered a failure by QANTAS to consult with the relevant union about redundancies. In that case, the employer had already made the determination about the number of redundancies that were required. It then sent the union a letter notifying it of the decision. Its “consultation” process was simply to work out how to achieve the decision through a round of voluntary redundancies. Even in this process, it breached its obligation to provide the union with information that it had requested. To meet its obligations to consult, the employer should ensure that: • •

consultation happens before final decisions are made; the employees and union can genuinely contribute to the decision-making process;


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• • •

the employer takes into account the views of the employees it is consulting; and adequate time is provided for consultation; all relevant information to the proposed change is provided.

When consulting for work health and safety purposes, the law requires that: • relevant information be shared with the workers; • the workers be given a reasonable opportunity to express their views and contribute to decision-making; • the views of workers are considered by the person conducting the business or undertaking; and • the workers consulted are advised of the outcome of the consultation in a timely manner. If the workers are represented by a health and safety representative, the consultation must involve that representative.

When is consultation required? Consultation is required in circumstances including: • • •

where there are proposals to introduce changes to the organisation or existing work practices; where there are proposals to change rosters or ordinary hours of work; and where required by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT) (WHS Act).

It will usually be clear when consultation should occur. For example, if a school introduced changes to its timetable to start school earlier or finish later, this would impact on staff with caring responsibilities. By consulting with those staff, the school might determine that the change in start or finish time is not desirable, or that minor adjustments could make it more practicable for affected staff. Likewise, an employee might seek breastfeeding facilities after returning to work from maternity leave. By consulting with the employee, the employer can ensure that the facility provided is appropriate to their needs. Where consultation is required by law, the requirements are often stricter. For example, consultation under the WHS Act must occur in circumstances including: • •

where more than one duty holder has a duty in relation to the same matter; with workers, where there is a matter directly affecting their health and safety;

IMAGE: An AEU member’s child. The member had this bodysuit made after seeking assistance from the AEU ACT office after lack of consultation over a work health and safety risk while pregnant.

• •

when identifying hazards and assessing risks; and when making decisions about how to deal with those risks.

What if I have not been consulted? Failure to consult is one of the most common causes of disputes in the workplace. We can resolve disputes using the process in section G2 of the Enterprise Agreement. While this might sound formal, the goal is to re-establish good communication between staff and management. In all cases, the first step is to discuss the matter with the relevant supervisor or manager. You should try to focus on shared interests and achieving a better outcome. Remember that most managers will not have intentionally cut staff out of the loop. If you're a manager, consider what steps you can take to enable consultation. Often, it isn't so much the decision that staff oppose, but that they didn't share ownership of it. Remember that strong consultation enlivens management prerogative and legitimises your actions. The mutual benefits of consultation are clear. Working together, we can avoid "riots" and overcome the challenges that we face as educators. AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

THEIR STRUGGLE IS OUR STRUGGLE Tamara Ryan and Blair Williams

T

wice a year, UnionsACT hosts amazing young activists as part of the

Anna Stewart Memorial Project. This paid internship promotes and empowers women in the union movement.

During September 2018, we took part in the Anna Stewart Memorial Project as paid interns for UnionsACT, to promote and empower women in the union movement. The project was founded in memory of Anna Stewart, a passionate Australian feminist, unionist and activist from 1974 to 1984. Among other achievements, she spearheaded the first Australian blue collar union campaign for maternity leave award provisions, whilst pregnant. She was a founding member of the ACTU Women's Committee and pushed the core demand that union structures open themselves up to women. This demand is being carried out by bodies such as the Women's Committee, comprised of a woman representative from each union affiliated with UnionsACT. We were placed with several of these affiliated unions, such as the Australian Education Union, the Independent Education Union, the Community and Public Sector Union and the National Tertiary Education Union. During our time with them, we learnt much about the

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industrial side of union work providing advice and advocating for members and bargaining for better pay and working conditions. We were impressed with the "Change the Rules for Working Women" campaign ACTU is running to amplify the choices of working women. It's calling for restoration and increase of penalty rates, ending the pay gap, equalising of superannuation by continuing to pay it during leave, an increase of paid parental leave period, inclusion of paid domestic violence leave, right for secure work and challenging bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace. The Women's Rights at Work ("WRAW") chats are another important initiative that we worked on during our internship. These were launched by Victorian Trades Hall, adapted by the previous UnionsACT Anna Stewart interns in March 2018, and are being carried out in affiliate unions as an initiative to hear about other concerns that may be overlooked, such as bullying in the workplace.


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IMAGE: UnionsACT Anna Stewart interns Blair Williams (left) and Tamara Ryan.

One of the biggest issues affecting working women across the nation is domestic and family violence, which 800,000 women will experience this year nationally. A huge number of these are Aboriginal women, who experience domestic violence at a rate between 35 and 80 times higher than other Australians. We co-organised a vigil while we were completing our internship, which was held at 6pm on Thursday 27 September at Haig Park in Braddon. Attendees gathered to remember the 46 women murdered so far this year (at the time of writing) in domestic violence incidents and to protest government inaction. We raised awareness of the union movement's "We Won't Wait" campaign, demanding ten days of domestic violence leave be included in the National Employment Standards for every worker.

Many of the services (of those left after repeated Coalition cuts) that support women and children are only available during business hours, so paid leave, along with economic independence and job security, is critical in ensuring those experiencing domestic violence have the time and resources to find a safe place to live.

The multiple issues discussed above overwhelmingly affect working class women on the minimum wage most harshly, particularly refugee and migrant women, Aboriginal women, those with disabilities, those in the LGBTQIA+ community, and women without higher education backgrounds. These women are the ones who we will continue to struggle alongside the hardest, as their struggle is our collective struggle. Tamara Ryan spent three days in the AEU ACT office in September, gaining experience in industrial union work. "At the AEU I learnt about the industrial side of union work, in much more depth than Industrial Law studies provided," she said. "It has better equipped me to support the struggles of other working women and to talk to many while on a paid internship, so is very empowering." IMAGE: Tamara Ryan in the AEU ACT office (with special visitor Charizard).

AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

INDIGENOUS PICTURE BOOKS OFFERING WINDOWS INTO WORLDS Ambelin Kwaymullina Assistant Professor (Law School), University of Western Australia

A

mbelin Kwaymullina is an author of Young Adult books, an author

and illustrator of books for children, and a member of the First Nations Australia Writers' Network.

In a town by the sea that lies in the homeland of the Yawuru people, there sits a small publisher. But in the scope of its ambition, the depth and complexity of its range, and its commitment to bringing the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to all Australians, Magabala Books looms large on the Australian literary landscape. The Broome-based publisher was established in the 1980s, partly in response to concerns that Indigenous stories were being taken and published without permission by nonIndigenous academics and storytellers. Today, Magabala has the most extensive list of Indigenous children's literature of any Australian publisher. So for parents and teachers looking to introduce children to the many worlds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Magabala Books is a good place to begin.

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And anyone who buys a Magabala publication also has the comfort of knowing that they are purchasing an ethically published book. Indigenous peoples hold copyright in their stories, and there is a return of benefits to the Indigenous storytellers and/ or their communities. While it is not possible to cover the depth of Magabala's range in a single article, I offer here, as a starting point, five picture books that have wisdom to share with all ages. While most of these books are listed as suitable for lower primary, I'd suggest this is the point at which children can begin reading the books but not where the enjoyment of these texts ends.

This article first appeared on The Conversation. www.theconversation.com


Tjarany Roughtail

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By Gracie Greene, Joe Tramacchi & Lucille Gill Ability: lower primary

First published in 1992, this book is rightly considered a classic. A collection of Tjukurrpa (Dreaming) stories of the Kukatja people of the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Tjarany Roughtail is a bilingual illustrated narrative in which the pictures speak as powerfully as the words. It is also a book that can grow with children through the layers of knowledge it offers. Young children will enjoy the stories of the Dreaming ancestors. Older children can explore the diagrams that explain the meaning of the symbols used in the artwork, as well as the maps of the Kukatja kinship system which shows the web of relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their homelands. And all ages can treasure a book that is at once a culture, language, art and philosophy text.

Stolen Girl

By Trina Saffioti and Norma MacDonald Ability: lower primary This is a Stolen Generations tale written by Trina Saffioti (Gugu Yulangi people) and illustrated by leading artist Norma MacDonald (Yamatji and Nyungar peoples). It is told in nuanced, sparse text accompanied by illustrations that convey the warmth of family, the terror of removal, and the loneliness of life in an institution. The book ends with the hope of returning home, captured through the image of a girl stepping through a half open door into a sunlit landscape. Stolen Girl is a moving tale that gently introduces children to a traumatic aspect of Australian history that echoes through the lives of Indigenous peoples today.

Fair Skin Black Fella By Renee Fogorty Ability: lower primary

This masterful work by Wiradjuri writer and illustrator Renee Fogorty addresses Aboriginal identity, and in particular that being Indigenous is about culture, community and family rather than skin colour. The story is brought to life by illustrations that sensitively and appropriately capture the message of a tale that speaks to the importance of inclusiveness and belonging.

Our World By the One Arm Point Remote Community School Ability: Upper primary What is life like in worlds different from your own? This book tells of the Bardi Jaawi people of the Ardiyooloon community, weaving together history and traditional stories with the seasons and rhythms of everyday existence. Our World features the children’s artwork as well as photographs of them undertaking activities such as fishing, constructing windmills from pandanus leaves, and learning animal tracks. As a whole, the book conveys a wonderful sense of Bardi Jaawi children speaking of their lives to the child-readers of the text in a meeting of lives and worlds.

Once

By Dub Leffler Ability: lower primary This reconciliation tale by artist and writer Dub Leffler (Bigambul and Mandandanji people) is an evocative tale of friendship across difference, with the poetic text given full expression in illustrations that capture the beauty of the story and speak straight to the heart.

These books, along with the many other narratives by Indigenous storytellers, offer opportunities for children and adults to journey through diverse Indigenous realities – and in so doing, to begin to build bridges across worlds. AEU ACT BRANCH


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