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Stanmore Public School
Bridget Poon’s experience during the campaign against voluntary student unionism of the mid-2000s whet her appetite for unions and the collective voice.
“I knew what students unions were doing and what our guild was doing and the services that were possibly at risk under VSU [voluntary student unionism],” she said. “That was my first union experience and I saw the importance of having a union and what they can do.”
She joined Federation during her teaching degree saying “it was a no brainer that it was something you would join and participate in”.
Ms Poon, a member of the New Educators Network, is Women’s Contact at Stanmore Public School. When she was first posted there as a temp, she shared the Federation leadership responsibilities with a “like-minded friend” and they were able to re-establish a workplace committee at the school.
“Because I was a temp teacher we shared the responsibilities because I did not feel comfortable going to the principal’s office but I was OK with campaigns,” she said. “I said I’ll do the campaigns and you do the staff support things.
“We shared it and the interesting thing is we got elected and it’s kind of become less separate and we do overlap on different things and it works quite well.
“We were able to form a workplace committee and get people on board to discuss issues that affected staff at our school; workload.”
Ms Poon said when she started going to Inner City Teachers Association meetings she saw what was being discussed in her school was also being discussed at an Association level and that Federation was taking those concerns to the Department.
“Because our staff are raising issues and you are able to tell them this is being addressed at all schools across the state and not just in your school, then it validates and helps [members] understand it is a shared experience and by us speaking out about it is being passed on and we’re heard.”
Ms Poon aims to get people to be more active in Federation and for them to “understand it’s not just about the insurance you pay for when something goes wrong”.
“It’s about being aware of the campaigns and being aware of how much it’s a system that relies on us to communicate what we need and that concern being sent further up the chain right to Council,” she said.
“A really good example of that at our school was a teacher who wrote a motion for staff [about an issue relating to a section within the department].
“She felt quite passionate about that [issue] and at one of our school meetings we all agreed it was a motion we wanted to send on to our Association and it was published in the Council minutes.
“It made people aware that an issue in our school that someone thought was important … was recognised all the way up to Council and their voice can be heard in these situations. If we’re not active and don’t speak up, we can’t wait around for something to happen if we’re not communicating and being vocal and an active member.”
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