John's story

43 years in the making

From student member, chapter rep, branch committee rep, executive, organiser to Secretary. During his 43 year involvement with the Union, John Quessy has contributed to many significant achievements.

John’s involvement with the Union started almost as soon as he began his teaching career. A beginning history teacher at St Pius X Chatswood in 1976, by 1977 he was their Chapter Rep. Before long he was President of the Northern Suburbs Branch (1984) where he honed his leadership skills – chairing chapter meetings and branch meetings with grace and style.

From 1982 to 1994 he was a delegate to Council, during a time of turbulence within the Union. In 1985 the two day council meeting at the infamous and now disappeared Graphic Arts Club saw internal union hostilities boil over and what resulted was the new foundation for the vibrant and effective Union that we have today.

Elections were held as per schedule in October 1985. Why was that important to John’s story? The team he supported and was part of became the spine of the team that has led this Union for the last 30 years.

This team then led the continuing work of our federal organisation, still in its infancy, the ITFA. In fact 30 years ago John was elected president as part of that team. Thus began the reign of Shearman and Quessy (and Glenda Roberts) at councils that had mercifully became one day events.

During his presidency there was the cyclical dispute with major employers and the customary membership drive that accompanied it – such as the late 1989 early 1990 Catholic dispute.

The name change from ITA (or Aunty ITA as it was affectionately known) to IEU was in 1993. The federal organisation ITFA became the Independent Education Union of Australia.

John took a tilt at politics around that time, standing for the ALP in Epping.

In 1995 John handed over the mayoral chains, at that time, the longest serving president in the Union’s history, to become an organiser.

In 2012 he became Secretary. During his time as captain, he moved headquarters from the Union’s Day Street premises to Wattle Street, and secured improved new premises for the Lismore and Paramatta branches.

He oversaw two major and successful campaigns for the Catholic systemic members of this Union in 2014 and 2017, with the 2017 campaign named ACTU Campaign of the Year.

He has provided stalwart support for the early childhood sector throughout his time as Secretary, backing the resource intensive Equal Remuneration Order case, and supporting early childhood teachers in their campaign to be treated the same as school teachers.

There’s been a modernisation of many sections of the Union, including increased digitisation of the publications and communications department. He also concurrently served on Unions NSW executive and networked with the ACTU.

When John first took over the reins he wrote a Newsmonth article about “a union with a reputation for tenacity and strategy, presiding over remarkable improvements to wages and conditions, one of the first private sector unions in NSW to win paid maternity leave and Catholic sector Work Place Agreements”.

He was part of a team that delivered collective success.

Thank you for being an integral part of the team and the leadership that led us through the challenges of the 1980s, the growth of our Union in the 1990s, the leadership that our Union provided the movement in the early 2000s and in the last decade the work you have been collectively part of with colleagues here and interstate in promoting and building the industrial/professional agenda.

On a personal note, I thank you for your friendship and guidance.

Chris Watt
Federal Secretary

Significant achievements while at the helm

Here is just a sample of landmark Union achievements during John Quessy’s tenure as Secretary of the IEU.


  • leadership in the 2013/2014 and 2017/2018 Catholic systemic campaigns, which included ballots, regional meetings, mass stoppages and extensive media
  • commitment, support and leadership with the 2012 Teachers are Teachers campaign and the 2013-2020 Equal Remuneration Orders – early childhood pay parity case and Work Values case
  • IEUA NSW/ACT 2018 winner ACTU Campaign of the Year Award for the Union’s Catholic systemic schools campaign
  • strong representation of the Union’s position challenging state discrimination laws and proposed federal Integrity Bill.


  • oversight from 2014 to 2019 of the Union’s transition from a state to a federal registered Union
  • assistance with the united response to the changing legislative landscape by driving a union restructure that reflects greater integration and unity at a national level.

Asset management

  • purchase of The Briscoe Building Wattle St Ultimo, the renovation of this heritage building into purpose-built office space, oversight of office layout, design and furnishings and the subsequent move of IEU’s headquarters from Day St Darling Harbour to Wattle St Ultimo
  • purchase of building for IEU Parramatta office, oversight of design and layout and refurbishment of these premises, together with the move from Wentworth St Parramatta to Ross St North Parramatta
  • purchase of new premises for the IEU Lismore office, renovation and refurbishment in progress
  • sound financial management of IEUA NSW/ACT Branch resources, repeatedly confirmed in audited reports.

Union movement

  • representation of the IEU from 2012 to 2019 as Unions NSW executive member and member of Unions NSW finance and governance committee
  • maintenance of a strong network with regional, state and peak union councils, and as part of the Union’s delegation to ACTU Congress
  • liaison with education unions, state, national and international.


  • engagement and liaison with TQI and NESA
  • representation of members on the Quality Teaching Committee of NESA
  • IEU input into NESA policy to ensure best interest of members in our sector were considered in formulation of policy and process
  • expansion of the Union’s PD program and professional online programs
  • establishment of the Union’s relationship with TLN, consequently delivering PD online, particularly creating accessible courses for early childhood teachers covered by their membership fees
  • representation of the Union at Education International and associated global professional organisations.


  • commitment to innovations and change in the Union’s communications, together with a shift to digital publications, including regular specialist enewsletters for early childhood teachers, teachers in post secondary colleges, support staff, principals and school leaders as well as a significant and dynamic shift in the Union’s social media presence
  • supportive of the review and upgrade of the Union’s print publications Newsmonth, IE and Bedrock
  • training and encouragement for officers to actively participate in online and offline campaigning.


  • appointment as NGS Super Director 2003, resigned and reappointed as Alternate Director on 2012, currently serving as an Alternate Director. These have been periods of significant change in superannuation, which include the ISST, Cue Super, Uniting Church and QIEC mergers
  • supportive of significant changes for the Fund such as improved insurance arrangements, larger membership base firmly establishing NGS Super as a national fund for non government schools, some social services (UC Super) and some Credit unions
  • participation as a member of the Investment Committee during directorship, initiating important investment decisions for the over-all benefit of members’ retirement savings
  • participation in the corporate governance of NGS Super and meetings with the regulators, APRA and ASIC.


  • representation of the Union as IEUA Federal President 2014 into 2019. This period has required experience and strong leadership, consultation and cooperation within the national organisation. The positive outcomes have seen growth of national cooperation, data base sharing as well as communications and membership teams combining strategies and products for greater Union strength. These developments and their benefits to the Union and members Australia-wide are ongoing.

The IEU thanks John for his guidance and leadership. The new leadership team of Mark Northam, Carol Matthews, Liam Griffiths and Pam Smith looks forward to continuing the great work of growing and strengthening the Union.