ASSOCIATION SPOTLIGHT

Macleay River Teachers Association

Number of members: 279
President: Ben Carver
Secretary: Karen Kemsley
Treasurer: Barb Coughran

Where and when do you meet?
At 4.15pm on the Tuesday after Council at the Kempsey Golf Club.

Our area and community: The Macleay River Teachers Association is situated in the Dunghutti Nation area. Kempsey’s Macleay River is the heart of the Kempsey Shire and is said to be the second fastest-running river in the world. The Macleay River meanders from the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, through the town of Kempsey, then fertile farming land and empties at the beaches of South West Rocks. The Macleay Valley community of schools is made up of 15 primary schools and two high schools, North Coast TAFE, Kempsey Campus and the Macleay Valley (Dunghutti Nation) Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

Our teacher demographics: The past few years have seen many teachers reach retirement age and this trend continues. An increased number of new scheme teachers are now entering our schools as permanent, temporary or casual teachers.

What we are focusing on: TAFE is under attack by the State Government, and residents of the Macleay Valley have serious concerns about the cuts to our local TAFE Campus. Kempsey TAFE has already seen the loss of the campus manager, senior librarian, two Aboriginal consultants, fashion teacher and information technology teacher. The introduction of Smart and Skilled will see further cuts and increased fees for students.

Our community is also definitely worried about the prospect of Gonski funding cuts. The State Government must ensure the needs of students with disability are met. The full six years of Gonski funding must be implemented, including the additional funding through the NERA (National Education Reform Agreement) disability loading for students with disability promised by the Abbott Government.

Our campaigns: Macleay River TA has held a range of seminars, hosted a number of major rallies with other unions, developed close links with other public sector unions through the creation of Macleay Valley Community Union Alliance and voted unanimously in support of executive recommendations at each of the stop-work meetings.

Association meetings and membership drive: Our meetings have a good and diverse turnout with attendance by high school, primary school, TAFE and correctional service teachers and school counsellors. The meetings are fairly informal, not intimidating for newcomers, and we make time for questions and discussion of individual and school concerns.

We post notices in schools before each meeting and ensure school issues are given prominence at our meetings. Our association is currently developing a digital survey for members to offer feedback and suggestions around how we can maximise attendance at meetings and ensure that we maintain a strong union presence in our schools. Encouraging Trade Union Training has helped develop more committed activists.

Our executive structure: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Women’s Contact, Aboriginal Education Contact, GLBTIQ Contact and New Educators Contact.

Recent special events: We have recently held celebrations to award life membership to two devoted retiring members, celebrate another year of successful public education and recognise the hard work of members throughout the year.