Four decades of change

We were treated as teachers then, but now it’s a corporatised world where staff are treated as numbers, and you are recruited by big organisations.

Fiona Moult has seen a lot of changes during her 41 year career in early childhood. She is retiring this year after a 24 year stint with KU in the Newcastle area and 24 years as an activeIEU member.

Fiona graduated from Churchlands Teachers College in WA. Her first teaching position was with a community preschool in the Pilbara in WA. She was one of only six single women in a town of 5000 people.

“When you graduated you were either employed by the Department of Educational or the WA Preschool Board, and I was assigned as a teacher to a preschool,” Moult said.

“If you didn’t work in mining you were a teacher or health worker,” Moult said.

She loved the community spirt of the preschool and the fact that in those days early childhood teachers were treated the same as school teachers.

“Reflecting on my time in early childhood, that’s been one of the biggest changes. We were treated as teachers then, but now it’s a corporatised world where staff are treated as numbers, and you are recruited by big organisations.”

Not surprisingly, considering the odds, Fiona met her husband in the Pilbara and the pair had two children. They moved to the Newcastle region, where her husband pursued a career as a ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

After a few short term teaching positions Moult started at KU Wonnayba as teacher/ director for five years. She transferred to KU Windale Preschool, reportedly “one of the most disadvantaged postcodes in Australia”.

Moult said working at this preschool was demanding but rewarding.

“Parents would disclose to me a lot. I was doing a lot of child protection notifications.”

She remembers a child being shown a picture card of a roller skate and describing it as a ‘car shoe’ because he had never seen or heard of a roller skate.

“While it was taxing, I felt like I could and did make a difference.”

During that time Fiona was appreciative for the support from the IEU over several difficulties at work and their positive outcomes.

“Being a director, I was constantly torn with the amount of paperwork that was required and spending time with the children.”

After 12 years as teacher and director Moult moved into a permanent relief teaching position where she believed she could make a difference.

“Another change that has happened over the years is the increasing amount of paperwork early childhood teachers are required to fulfil.”

Coming into preschools and long day care centres fresh but with lots of experience, Moult felt she was better able to help children and fellow teachers.

She regrets that over the years more of the focus in early childhood has been towards a corporatised, monetised service rather than community and family orientated education.

She supports the IEU’s Teachers are Teachers campaign, and said it is important for teachers themselves to be aware they are professionals influencing the future of society.

“Governments need to respect children and better fund early childhood education and teachers.”

Moult felt it important to a be a Union member throughout most of her career and be informed and involved about her rights, pay and conditions.

She’s attended a number of IEU women’s seminars in Newcastle and served as the staff rep on KUSA - KU Staff Association for some years, informed by the support and advice of the Union.

She managed to get some changes through, like better long service leave entitlements and acknowledgment by KU of the valued contribution made by deceased staff in the KU Staff Bulletin.

She’s now looking forward to a well deserved rest and some time with family and friends.

Sue Osborne