Aboriginal members stand together as warriors

Anthony Galluzzo
Stanmore Public School 

Aboriginal members want Opposition leader Tony Abbott to promise he will honour the schools funding deal signed between the NSW and federal governments. Photo by Amanda James

“Warriors, we are Warriors!” was the unifying catchcry at this year’s Aboriginal Members Conference on May 17–18.

The conference kicked off with the Friday night forum, which proved a popular event. Participants listened to experienced activists, warriors, champions, heroes, supporters, survivors and elders.

The expert panel included filmmaker and musician Richard Frankland, Uncle Kevin Tory, TAFE teacher Aunty Joan Tranter, Recognise spokesperson Lachlan McDaniel, the first Federal Australian Education Union (AEU) Aboriginal Officer Margo Weir, Aboriginal rights activist and trade unionist Fred Moore and Federation Assistant General Secretary (Communications and Administration) John Dixon.

The messages from the conference were clear; that we need to celebrate our successes, fight for our rights as members and continue to campaign for Gonski and a brighter future for kids.

On the Saturday, local Elders Aunty Ali and Aunty Joan acknowledged Country and welcomed Aboriginal members from across the state to the conference. Federation President Maurie Mulheron updated all members on the current campaigns, while Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal Aboriginal Education Officer Nicole Major discussed the national landscape. AEU Federal TAFE Secretary Pat Forward presented a detailed national overview of the critical state of TAFE for all members.

Workshop topics included: leadership; social media in education; new scheme teachers; welfare and leave entitlements; superannuation; regional Aboriginal education initiatives; TAFE and corrective services; and leadership pathways.

The conference endorsed and supported the need for federal and state governments to show bipartisan agreement and honour the Gonski recommendations, and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s Constitution as First Australians.

The annual report was given by Aboriginal Education Coordinator Charline Emzin-Boyd. To an outpouring of admiration, it was announced that Federation had reached the milestone of 1000 Aboriginal members.

In a final address, the keynote speaker, Mr Frankland, spoke passionately about cultural baggage and how, with recognition, education and support, this cultural baggage can be lifted. He finished by noting the importance of being proactive in your school and community, leaving members inspired and ready for the battle ahead.