An air of optimism hovered over this year’s IEU early childhood conference, More than Meets the Eye, held in Sydney on 7 September and attended by more than 100 members.
Early childhood conference
Conference convenor Tina Smith said the event allowed participants to meet other like-minded professionals to swap notes and offer support and friendship.
As usual Early Childhood Vice President Gabe Connell’s address was met with a great response.
Her tongue in cheek presentation brought a wry focus to the more bizarre side of the profession, as well as canvassing important issues such as equal pay, assessment and ratings, teacher shortages and accreditation, with an in-depth knowledge gained from years at the coalface.
Participants were introduced to their new representative on the Labor side of politics, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Jodie Harrison who replaced Kate Washington, a speaker at two previous conferences.
There was also an update on the Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) case, which calls for improved pay for early childhood teachers, before the Fair Work Commission. A decision is expected between December 2019 and April 2020.
Keynote speaker Leadership, Neuro-linguistic and Conversational Intelligence Coach Sarah Moore, provided practical skills that could be used to tackle real life problems in early childhood settings.
Other presenters and workshops provided learning on a wide range of issues, including accreditation, teaching in capitalist times, recycling for toys, diverse cultures and children as advocates.
Robyn Hurst and Cheryl Peris are conference stalwarts. They’ve lost count of how many conferences they’ve attended, but it’s upwards of 20.
“We always find the conference inspiring and uplifting,” Cheryl said.
The pair are working in different roles at university and TAFE, mentoring, assessing and supervising students, and part of that process includes encouraging young teachers to join the Union.
Starting work in 1975 and 1980 respectively, Robyn and Cheryl have a wealth of experience about how much the Union can benefit teachers, and they tell their young charges so.
‘’Young employees don’t know what their rights are or that the Union can speak up for them, so we let them know.”
Cheryl said that whatever the outcome of the ERO case, she feels optimistic, due to the dedication shown by the IEU in pursuing it.
“Knowing there is someone to fight on our behalf and put the effort in to support us is encouraging, even if we don’t get what we deserve.”
Raelee Smith is also feeling optimistic about the ERO case, saying change is on its way even if progress is slow.
“It’s well overdue – what I heard about the case it sounded like the evidence provided was very convincing,” Raelee said.
A long term member of the IEU, Raelee is an Early Childhood and Inclusion Support Teacher at Muswellbrook Preschool Kindergarten.
“It’s nice to know we have the backing of the Union and help is available to negotiate enterprise agreements,” she said.
Alan Davies has been a teacher for 20 years and joined the IEU as soon as he started work at Allira Early Learning Centre at Dubbo.
Alan said as far as he was concerned ‘teachers are teachers’ and a positive outcome in the ERO case ought to be a given.
He enjoys working in early childhood because it comes with greater freedom to choose curricula and more independence than working in a state or system controlled school.
He made a decision to work in early childhood to address the lack of male role models, and he said parents welcome the balance he brings to a centre.
The conference was rounded off by a paella dinner accompanied by some vintage tunes at the Union’s head office.