Sentry, August 2021

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SENTRY Teaching academics shouldering the load Union win! WSU staff reject non-union Agreement

Complexity of issues increasing for

social work professionals

The crisis isn’t over – nor is the fight

Research Promoter

E-stress in Australian universities Published by National Tertiary Education Union

Aug 2021

vol. 2 no. 5


Shouldering the load

Social work professionals

Teaching academics are shouldering the load to transform the university experience.

Emily Bieber explains how the complexity of issues is increasing in her profession.


06 Cover: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

Sentry is a free online news magazine for NTEU members and Australian higher education staff. Sentry is published on the third Friday of each month in between publication of the Union's main member magazine, Advocate. In 2021 Sentry will be published in February, April, May, June, August, September, October and December. Advocate will be published in March, July, November.

08 Union win at WSU WSU staff have successfully rejected management's proposed non-union Agreement.

10 The crisis isn’t over – nor is the fight NTEU has been closely tracking the impacts of COVID and cuts.

In case you missed it... 01 E-stress in Australian universities 11 As the Taliban advances, students fear for their lives & higher education 12



SENTRY ISSN 2652-5992 Published by National Tertiary Education Union PO Box 1323, South Melbourne VIC 3205 Australia ABN 38 579 396 344 All text & images ©NTEU 2021 unless stated Publisher

Matthew McGowan


Alison Barnes

Production Manager

Paul Clifton

Editorial Assistance Helena Spyrou Anastasia Kotaidis Sentry is available online free as a PDF and e-book at NTEU acknowledges the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as traditional owners of Naarm (Melbourne), the land on which National Office is situated, and pays respect to their Elders, past & present.



In case you missed it....


our JOB


Save our UWA. Stop job cuts. Join NTEU in telling UWA Senate and the VC to treat staff fairly: make job cuts the last resort! Job cuts should always be the last resort. Staff should be openly, honestly and transparently consulted in all decisions that impact their working lives. Staff working conditions are student learning conditions. #SaveUWA

Sign the Petition File-Signature

UQ members force management back to negotiations On 13 August, UQ Management informed the NTEU Bargaining Team that they were withdrawing their proposal for the suspension of bargaining and would return to negotiations with NTEU representatives. This withdrawal was due to the hard work of the Campaign Committee and members on the ground in mobilising members and other staff across the University to oppose the suspension of bargaining. Now that bargaining is resuming, we will be able to take action to fix the urgent issues of unhealthy workloads and insecure work. The campaign for secure jobs and healthy workloads isn't over; it has just begun.

Secure Jobs & Safe Workloads – National Week of Action

I’m standing up for




#SaveHigherEd #SecureJobs

NTEU is planning a National Week of Action, from 13-17 September, in support of secure jobs and safe workloads. The week will feature activities designed to send a clear message to VCs to fix these issues during bargaining for pay and conditions. High levels of casualisation and fixed term contracts – at the same time as VCs cut jobs – is contributing to unsafe workloads in the sector. This is making it harder for members to deliver high quality education and research. Come along to a live or online event to send a message to your management that enough is enough: Secure Jobs and Safe Workloads NOW!


Find out more a vol. 2 no. 5




In case you missed it.... We won't wait One in three employers offer paid family and domestic violence leave. But workers at two out of three employers are still missing out. It’s time for the Federal Government to support this leave and make it law. Stand with us and stand up against family and domestic violence.

Sign the Petition File-Signature

Wear It Purple Day, Friday 27 August 2021 Wear it Purple Day is about showing LGBTQ+ young people that they have the right to be proud of who they are. It is about creating safe spaces in schools, universities, workplaces and public spaces to show LGBTQ+ young people that they are seen and supported. Every year thousands of schools, community organisations, universities and workplaces organise events across Australia, and through these actions, directly and indirectly, we’ll reach hundreds of thousands of young people, meaning that young LGBTQ+ people will benefit from seeing the respect, recognition, love and inclusion that surrounds them. This year’s theme is 'Start the conversation… Keep it going!'

Find out more a

Report warns of 'big casualties' in arts industry A new report by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work said it was time for nothing less than a 'total public-led reboot' of the ways in which government thinks of and funds the arts. 'It was urgent last year,' said report co-author Ben Eltham of Monash University’s school of media, film and journalism. 'Now it’s beyond urgent. One thing I hope the report can do is show the metrics of just how bad things are.'

Read the article Book-Open




Teaching academics are

shouldering the load



to transform the university experience

The year 2020 may well be the year everything changed for Australian universities with the COVID-19 pandemic first making its mark on Australia in March of that year. The impacts were immediate, profound and reverberated across the sector, with the forced movement of students and staff off campuses, the mass migration of courses and subjects to the online space, and a dramatic drop in international student enrolments, a key income stream for many universities. Some of the commentary has heralded the pandemic as the catalyst for the long-predicted transformation of the higher education sector. Finally, universities would transform their practices to embrace a new, digital age where connectivity was integral to all university activities, including teaching and learning, research and industry collaboration. Finally, we would step into this new age and campus technology infrastructure providers would be ready. continued overpage...

Dr Elisa Bone University of Melbourne

Image: Scott Graham/Unsplash

vol. 2 no. 5



MEMBER EXPERT Unfortunately, the realities of this transformation for academics on the teaching and learning frontlines has, in many cases, been anything but energising. It is fair to say that 2020 did bring about transformative change as universities across Australia shifted their courses online. However, it was also the year in which teaching and learning came under increasing pressure that is, as we continue to face the pandemic over halfway through 2021, clearly unsustainable.

[2020] ... was also the year in which teaching and learning came under increasing pressure that is, as we continue to face the pandemic over halfway through 2021, clearly unsustainable.

At the curriculum level, some universities responded to continuing budget shortfalls by removing subjects or even whole programs of teaching. An estimated 17,000 job losses across the sector has been devastating. Other academics have been the target of redundancies, voluntary or otherwise, and still others have taken on fragmented roles. The resulting pressure on the remaining higher education workers has been immense. For many teaching academics, the requirement to move subjects and courses online has been a significant shift and has necessitated assistance from educational technology, learning design and academic development units. These services help make possible the kinds of robust, evidence-based and engaging experiences that are demanded of the emergent blended teaching and learning environments




and highlight the significant investment of time and resources required to implement quality online teaching. However, responsibility for allocating time and other resources to determine and implement appropriate changes for their student cohort still largely falls to instructors themselves, and their teaching teams. We know that Australian university students have found the disruption of their studies challenging and unsettling. But we also know, from decades of educational research, that the experiences of academics and their perceptions of the environment in which they work have clear and strong relationships with the ways in which students experience their learning, and their eventual learning outcomes. Clearly, recent changes to the work environment of academics have been intense and profoundly disruptive, but how we respond to this disruption will also influence the experiences of future student cohorts. Our research in progress suggests that teaching academics show a range of responses to the COVID disruption, reflecting in many cases a variation in their perceptions of how they are being supported. So, for some, a perceived lack of support for their work has been associated with an overall negative set of experiences, but others have shown more positive experiences and are more optimistic about their futures as teaching academics.

These include teaching-focused academics that have taken on greater leadership responsibilities as they guide their peers and colleagues in online learning design and form local supportive communities of practice. As change fatigue sets in and the pandemic drags on with recent lockdowns across the country, it is critically important that universities continue to support teaching academics to implement changes to their curriculum to suit online and blended learning environments and invest significant additional time to adapt to ‘dual delivery’ formats. Also important, however, are initiatives to support curriculum changes that move beyond crisis management and are sustainable over the longer term. These could include funding program-level curriculum reviews to ensure a coherent online experience for students, providing formal support for teaching and learning communities of practice across disciplines, schools and faculties, and recruiting more into teaching roles. As we move into our second year of COVID-19 disruption, universities also need to recognise the effects of the ongoing challenges and inherent uncertainties on the wellbeing of academics and provide incentives and rewards for their teaching efforts, as well as tailored support. There remain exciting, tangible opportunities in our Australian


MEMBER EXPERT universities for a renewed focus on creative, intentional learning design that facilitates engaging student experiences in both online and on-campus formats. At our institution, curriculum changes have ranged from replacing core content with online videos, to interactive polling and online quizzes, through to the huge efforts of some instructors to provide rich, immersive online experiences for their students. These latter efforts have included providing remote lab kits so students can perform experiments at home, and creating virtual worlds and experiences to replicate artistic performance spaces for instrumental students and construction sites for building and planning students. To continue this curriculum transformation in a way that is successful and sustainable requires conscious investment in formal and informal support at multiple levels and greater recognition of teaching and learning efforts across the university. Teaching academics are the lifeblood of our universities. The challenges they face need to be recognised and the work that they do needs to be supported and valued as we move forward.

Teaching academics are the lifeblood of our universities. The challenges they face need to be recognised and the work that they do needs to be supported and valued as we move forward.

Dr Elisa Bone is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, The University of Melbourne

vol. 2 no. 5




Complexity of issues increasing for

social work professionals

I’m a casual social work teacher at La Trobe University, in metropolitan Melbourne. As demand for qualified social work professionals continues steadily, the complexity of the issues faced by the industry is growing. I train my gorgeous students to be ready to tackle almost anything: homelessness, war trauma, sexual abuse, injecting rooms, palliative care, prison work, trafficking, chroming, neonatal care. I have to keep my finger on the pulse! The heart of successful social work is decent relationships, and this extends to course delivery. I’m quietly getting used to the 'to and fro' of online versus face-toface teaching. We teachers alternate between modalities with skill and roll with the punches. Teaching online was a winner for me. I could stay home and help run the 'home school' my family was thrown into, and keep COVID-safe for longer stretches of time. But, at the cost of deeper student/teacher relationships. The reliance on casual social work teachers is strong, as the school loses more and more funding for ongoing positions. I see my beloved bosses appear more fatigued and overworked than ever before. They plan to work while on leave, much more than I have noticed in the past. We’ve had marking time reduced, meaning my students get less feedback and that thing called 'evidence-based pedagogy' gets thrown out the window. Like my colleagues, my students’ mental health, income and personal stress deteriorated markedly in the face of lockdown.

Emily Bieber La Trobe University

To tell your story to the NTEU member community, please contact Helena Spyrou




Many of my students are six months behind on course completion, due to hold ups on beginning placements, which further impacted their well-being. It quickly became very difficult for the industry to generously host our budding social workers to complete lengthy placement hours: a paltry 980 hours per student (unpaid of course!). The industry was under-resourced prior to 2020, and the pandemic placed unprecedented pressure on tiny NGOs and large government departments, especially our child protection practitioners. As a social work teacher, I think my job is to help my students to keep the faith and momentum, despite the current global circumstances. My students are more vulnerable than usual and are stepping in to support the most vulnerable people. I try to show them how to love our clients. So how do I deal with the ups and downs, and ongoing job insecurity? Laugh, cry, call the Union. Join the Branch. Fight for better work conditions. It is a fine thing that I happen to love social work, and love teaching and am backed by the Bank of Dad. I treat my permanent colleagues with respect. They have their own set of challenges, and we have to back one another. To steel myself, I have a few nifty tricks, developed over the past four years of teaching across first-, second-, and third-year students.


MEMBER STORY • Don’t get sick for exactly 24 weeks of the year and make sure none of your loved ones do either. It’s really annoying. In 2020, I lost a QUARTER of my annual income because my mum died of cancer and I chose to be at her bedside during the teaching semester. • Have coffee with your colleagues and pick their brains, or just shoot the breeze and learn that you are in the same boat. • BE a student. I am not a qualified teacher right? I have to guess how students learn. It appears these might help: humility, jokes of any quality, real life examples, props, food, icebreakers, pictures, embarrassing anecdotes from real life practice. The daggier the better, and the more passionate the better. • Say ‘no’ to stuff more often: unpaid meetings, lazy emails from students, jeopardising your own health and teaching overloaded classrooms.

As a social work teacher, I think my job is to help my students to keep the faith and momentum, despite the current global circumstances.

• Join your union. After two years of feeling like I was the only one in my situation, I met dozens of magnificent souls. They normalised my anxieties and they taught me that my time was precious. And I even got a free t-shirt!

Emily Bieber is a Casual Academic in Social Work & Social Policy, La Trobe University

vol. 2 no. 5




WSU staff reject non-union Agreement In early August this year, staff at Western Sydney University (WSU) pathway provider, The College, overwhelmingly rejected university management’s offer for a new non-union Enterprise Agreement with 80% voting against this offer. Here is what a few delegates had to say.


At the end of the day, members have the power.

Member participation in bargaining is crucial because bargaining is a consultative process.


Colleagues rejected management’s offer so strongly because they felt under-valued by the offer, which isn’t in line for cost of living for those living and working in Western Sydney, and it goes back to 2019. Despite all the additional work and effort staff had done in recent times to keep things working, it was a real slap in the face. Members were energised to speak out about the offer. At the end of the day, members have the power. It is essential bargaining represents the needs of members, because ultimately when push comes to shove, members have to be entirely supportive of the position taken and tell management when offers are not good enough. Which is what we saw here, members speaking clearly and loudly when management tries to push them, echoing that same position the bargaining representatives had been communicating.



ZUIE HERVEY, ENGLISH TEACHER The pay offer has been resoundingly rejected due to the total lack of recognition of the dedication, unpaid work, stress, and many other challenges faced and overcome by College staff in ensuring the continuity of high-quality teaching and learning since the onset of the pandemic. In addition, it fails to acknowledge the very real cost of living increase in Sydney. Member participation in bargaining is crucial because bargaining is a consultative process. It begins with consultation in compiling the log of claims, and should continue with checks that the membership is being represented as negotiations develop. Importantly, whatever is agreed upon will be the lived reality of members, so it is imperative that they are participants in informed decision making.

DAVID LENTON, SESSIONAL TEACHER The NTEU ran an effective campaign that made it clear that management's message of doom and gloom in a post-COVID environment just wasn't backed up by the data. It was very clear to us – particularly those of us who are casuals, who were looking at a significant cut to our marking pay – that this was an attempt to scare us into accepting a bad deal now for fear that the alternative might be even worse. We just weren't going to accept that. It's extremely important to have members participating in bargaining. We're the ones that know how policies work in practice, and their impact on both staff and students. We're the ones experiencing workload creep, and not being paid adequately for the increasing amount of work that we're expected to do. In other words, we're the ones who are saddled with consequences of the decisions being made at that table.



BRENDAN MAHONEY, FIRST YEAR EXPERIENCE COORDINATOR, LEARNING & TEACHING Staff rejected management’s offer so strongly because the issues were communicated to everyone clearly, with evidence that the pay offer was not consistent with inflation, and that the College and WSU had the clear ability to offer more. The evidence therefore showed that the management position was a choice to undervalue the contribution of workers. Member participation in bargaining matters because members are extremely important, as they are the ones that can have the conversations with colleagues, communicate widely, and have the experience to know how the outcomes will affect them.

We're the ones that know how policies work in practice, and their impact on both staff and students

It's only because of the strength of our collective bargaining that we were not only able to push back against some of the worst proposals being put forward...

Read more about this campaign in Campus Morning Mail, 9 August 2021

It's only because of the strength of our collective bargaining that we were not only able to push back against some of the worst proposals being put forward but were able to fight for some gains for staff at a time when it seemed like it was going to be impossible. That was a direct result of our collective action.

vol. 2 no. 5




The crisis isn’t over – nor is the fight Since March 2020 the NTEU has been closely tracking the impacts of border closures and the Federal Government’s funding cuts on the sector.

Unfortunately, the crisis is not over, and the NTEU has been able to identify a distinct third wave of job losses that university managements have planned...

In June and July last year we saw the first wave of job losses, with a second bigger wave hitting the sector early this year. To date our Branches have been able to record a staggering minimum of 16,550 jobs lost across public universities during these two rounds. Unfortunately, the crisis is not over, and the NTEU has been able to identify a distinct third wave of job losses that university managements have planned for Q3 and Q4 at nine universities including: Adelaide, Melbourne, Macquarie, Newcastle, La Trobe, Monash, RMIT, UWA, ANU. These upcoming job losses will affect at least 1,666 staff.

NO TRANSPARENCY We refer to this figure as a minimum because: • In some cases, universities reported full time equivalents lost not actual jobs. • Almost no university has reported casual and fixed term job losses in instances where they were not compelled to.

Kieran McCarron Policy & Research Officer


• The quality of publicly available data on casual employment in universities is generally poor due to



the usage of FTEs or is significantly delayed. As it stands, the lack of transparency in university workforce data allows managements to mask heavy casualisation and increases the risk that universities will attempt to re-fill allegedly 'redundant positions' with even more casual and fixed term staff than before – after all, we know that just because colleagues were made redundant does not mean that the actual work is no longer required. The NTEU will continue advocating its long-held position that there needs to be full transparency in university workforce data – including in the usage of casual and fixed term staff – so we can call out managements that take this approach.

THIS FIGHT’S NOT OVER Our National Week of Action, from September 13-17, will be five days of action by NTEU members coming together to fight against over-zealous job and course cuts coming too hard and too soon from managements and an indifferent and reticent government. Visit our website in early September to find out what your Branch has organised for the National Week of Action and get involved!

E-stress in Australian universities University employees who take part in the 2021 national study on digital communication and work stress can go in the draw to win a $100 voucher. In the Australian higher education sector, high email volumes and increasing levels of psychological strain (work stress) can affect employees' health and well-being. The University of South Australia’s Centre for Workplace Excellence invites all Australian university employees to participate in a 20–30 minute online survey supported by the Australian Research Council. The survey includes questions about your work, including email load, work engagement and work-home conflict so that we can learn about

your experiences at work and its impact on your well-being.

search Fellow, Amy Zadow, amy.

The aim of this study is to provide deeper insights into digital communication and employee well-being. For the first time, top-down factors like psychosocial safety climate (PSC) will be explored, and the experiences (including sleep and recovery) of employees which may assist policy development both in universities and other complex organisations.

Click here to start the survey.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact the Re-




Please help us reach as many university employees as possible by forwarding this to a friend.

To promote your research in Sentry, email Paul Clifton

Don't forget that last month's Research Promoter is still open for completion: 'An evaluation of tertiary educators’ perceptions of online teaching related ergonomic factors'

Promote your research to your fellow NTEU members!

NTEU is proud to announce Research Promoter, a new initiative to promote research currently being undertaken by our members in each edition of our online journal, Sentry. Do you or one of your postgrad students have a research project that features an online questionnaire or other instrument that you would like fellow NTEU members to complete? We will feature details of your project in Sentry magazine to help increase the reach of your potential participants. To be featured, you must be a current NTEU member. And don't forget that membership for Postgraduate students is free (visit for more details). Simply send an outline of your research in 200 words or less, including a link (or links) to your online research and any relevant images, to Paul Clifton,

vol. 2 no. 5




As the Taliban advances, students fear for their lives and higher education Never in the history of Afghanistan’s conservative and remote corners have so many girls made it into higher education as in the past few years of relative peace. Now, amid swift and deadly advances by armed Taliban insurgents, these gains – and their lives – are under threat. On the heels of the US withdrawal, after taking over nearly 200 rural and suburban districts, the Taliban launched deadly assaults on major cities last week, sparking panic and anxiety among millions of civilians. 'It was our hope and dream to stand side-by-side with our brothers to rebuild our country, help the children with education and become "angels of salvation" for the sick and wounded,' Shagufta Amiri, of the southeast Logar province, told University World News.

She and many young people are watching helplessly as their prospects of higher education are shattered, with the shock waves of Taliban advances resonating nationwide. All higher education centres, universities and schools in Logar, as well as in many other provinces, have had to close due to threats of war.

Read the full story by Shadi Khan Saif at University World News, 13 August 2021

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