The staff at St Kevin’s College in Toorak are under enormous stress as they are caught up in the maelstrom of scrutiny resulting from the Four Corners investigation that aired on 24 February.
But they have one thing to be grateful for – the strength of the IEU sub branch under the leadership of Rep Nick Baff. Nick has doggedly spent his years as the Rep convincing staff of the need and value of unions. The result of this work is that St Kevin’s College has a strong and vocal IEU sub branch, which has proved invaluable at this difficult time, a time when a strong collective staff voice and real collegial support is needed more than ever.
It was the union sub branch that was first to act, calling a meeting to set expectations around what needed to change. Nearly all available staff gathered at the senior campus at lunch time to vote on motions that at their core responded to the concerns raised by the ex-students who bravely spoke out in the Four Corners program. Staff wanted it to be clear that their first interests were with the students and demanded that the college actively engage in necessary cultural change. The IEU sub branch demanded the opportunity have meaningful input into driving this change and made it clear that they would not accept half measures.
The sub branch has asked to have direct input into a professional development program designed to be rich, deep and transformational of staff understandings and behaviours, and to engender a respectful workplace free from misogyny. They have also set up a core group to develop processes and practices in the college to establish and maintain a safe and respectful workplace for all staff and students.
In the same timeframe, John Crowley was installed as acting principal and he has commenced a detailed process of investigating any past and present complaints of alleged misconduct.
The IEU firmly supports the need for positive cultural change and agrees that comprehensive investigations into all aspects of student and staff safety are necessary. At this moment of crisis, though, we also emphasise the fundamental importance of avoiding knee jerk reactions and ensuring procedural fairness to ensure that staff are not unnecessarily caught up in vexatious complaint or overreach by the employer.