The IEU’s Support Staff Conference Work Well held on 21 August in Sydney took a big picture look at what support staff can do to keep themselves well in the workplace.
NSW ACT IEU General Secretary John Quessy said the IEU plays a key role in promoting and supporting the industrial needs and interests of non teaching staff.
Better working conditions contribute to a healthy workplace. Conference Convenor Carolyn Moore said the IEU’s Support Staff Advisory Committee, acting on feedback from members, had recommended the theme for the conference.
Carolyn Moore said the theme Work Well really struck a chord with support and operational staff members.
“There were 140 delegates from across NSW and the ACT in attendance today and many more wanting to come,” Carolyn said.
“The keynote address by Dan Haesler was so informative and inspiring. Dan is such a dynamic speaker, and his message that we need to recognise our accomplishments and take the time to appreciate what we do and why we do it as being essential for our mental and emotional wellbeing was made so passionately.
“The Support Staff Advisory Committee in planning this conference wanted the participants to focus on what makes our working lives worthwhile and take away some new ideas and strategies for looking after their own wellbeing – in spite of all the craziness of our lives both inside and outside of work. I think that Dan’s address and all the workshops achieved this.
“This is the sixth biennial conference the IEU has hosted specifically for our support and operational staff members. The conference is an event that members look forward to and is one of the many benefits of being in the IEU.”
Dan Haesler said: “The Union is being proactive, rather than just focusing on wages, although that all plays into mental wellbeing as well,” Dan said.
“I think it is really powerful to spend a day just addressing positive psychology and understanding ways to address depression. I highly commend the IEU for taking on this initiative.”
Vincent Cooper is the Aboriginal Education Worker at St Joseph’s High School. He presented the acknowledgment of traditional owners at the start of the conference.
As well as being the Aboriginal Education Worker Vincent teaches Aboriginal Studies to Years 9 and 10.
“Support staff need to take time out to feel they are important. PD for support staff is lacking so to get a sense of worth support staff need a day like this,” Vincent said.
“If you are not healthy in your mind you can’t do your work so you need to regenerate, and the Union is streaks ahead of anybody else by recognising that need.”
NSW ACT IEU Vice President Support Staff Carolyn Collins said support staff tend to be self-effacing and find it difficult to accept gratitude or to acknowledge their own worth.
“We don’t expect anything – we’re givers, so a conference like this about our well being is fantastic.”
Seven members of the support staff team from St Dominic’s Centre for Hearing Impaired Students at Mayfield near Newcastle, including teachers aides, secretarial staff, pastoral care staff and library assistants were able to attend the conference.
Two signers were present during the conference so one member of their staff could fully participate.
They said the day was special for them because there is no PD for support staff offered by their diocese, and it was a great opportunity for them to spend time together.
“It’s a challenge dealing with our students, parents and school community, and if we couldn’t call on positive psychology, we wouldn’t survive.”
Sue Osborne Journalist