Leading Teacher, Thornbury High School
I come from a long line of teachers: my dad and his two brothers were teachers; aunts, grandparents; now my brother is training to be a teacher… I qualified to be a teacher at Melbourne University, and a month later I was working in the UK in a co-ed government school and was a member of the National Union of Teachers, even though I wasn’t a citizen! Since then, during 15 years of teaching in Australia and overseas, I’ve consistently been a member of education unions; I feel it’s very important.
My family migrated to Australia in 1989 when I was 12, and when we arrived things were getting quite toxic for teachers; Victoria was going through a recession, Kennett was closing down schools – including my primary school. My father and uncles couldn’t get teaching jobs in Victoria at the time, so they did what any new migrants would do – they got work outside their area of expertise and worked seven days a week for many, many years. My father sadly never ended up working as a teacher in Victoria because of the political climate. Even though I was so young, this formed my opinion of the importance of unions and why we need them.
You very quickly realise that there tend to be more men than women in leadership positions in the female-dominated teaching profession.
I was thinking of doing the Eleanor Davis Leadership Program, but the last Liberal government scrapped it. There was nothing in the news about it as far as I know. That’s when I started to realise that there is very much a need for lots of women to be in the union, and we need more young women to join.
It’s really important to remember that good working conditions for teachers mean our students will get the very best possible outcomes
Being in a union is not just about securing good conditions for teachers. When we do talk about Gonski, or about why we don’t want performance pay, it is because we know the impact it will have on the children and communities we teach. I think it’s really important to remember that good working conditions for teachers mean our students will get the very best possible outcomes.
To me, being in a union means equal treatment for everyone, regardless of who you are and where you come from. I think that’s why I work in public schools, because I passionately believe in equality and access for everyone.