Building community connections

Hosted by Holy Family Primary School at Emerton on 23 October, the 2019 western Sydney women’s forum, Building Community Connections: A focus on Aboriginal students and families, built upon the success of other IEU regional women’s gatherings held this year in Kiama, Bathurst, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and Armidale.

With a focus on Aboriginal student and staff issues, the forum featured as guest speaker Julie Waddell (Lead Teacher, Jarara Indigenous Education Unit CEDP) who is an Aboriginal teacher whose heritage is from the Kamilaroi People of far northern NSW.

In her role in the Parramatta Diocese, Julie is a proud member of a team which is building upon the foundations of Jarara to develop support and opportunities for students, families and communities.

Julie believes that there have been some wonderful opportunities where CEDP students have been able to engage via literacy, art, song lines, artefacts, games and leadership experiences.

Central to Julie’s perspective is that cultural awareness is built with explicit professional development for staff and that such awareness is not an occasional event but is embedded into the daily life of schools.

In all aspects of her life and work, Julie reiterates the influence of her mother who she describes as ‘the heart and soul of our family.’ As Julie told the forum, “Mum had a strong sense of social justice and would go without to help others”.

In the words of a forum participant, the “IEU Western Sydney Women’s Forum was a rich opportunity to network with colleagues with specialised interests, and the Aboriginal focus this year was particularly uplifting”.

“Storytelling is a significant aspect of Aboriginal culture and it was humbling listening to Julie Waddell share her journey. In a similar manner, as women in education, telling our stories has the ability to bring us together in understanding; from where we have come and the direction in which we are going in the union. These exchanges of experiences and professional dialogue are the essence of the forum.”

Another participant expressed her appreciation that the forum was a great way to network with other women to express social justice values and to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, families and the broader community. “I really value the IEU’s commitment to social justice, equity and inclusion.”

Appreciation is expressed to the Holy Family IEU Rep Janet Marie, the principal John Spradbrow and other staff for hosting the event which was also supported by IEU Executive members Tricia Murnane and Tina Ruello.

The IEU western Sydney women’s forum unanimously endorsed a resolution calling upon Parramatta Diocese to re-establish a Workplace Gender Equality Committee with IEU participation to ensure that issues of gender justice, equity and inclusion receive appropriate recognition and action.

Discussions have since occurred with CEDP in regard to re-establishing such a committee next year.

In 2020 the IEU will hold its Women's Conference on 14 August and will also continue to host International Women's Day and other events as appropriate to protect and advance the interests of the Union's over 75% women members.