Keeping up with the complex world of school support staff

Belinda McRae has found her voice by joining the IEU and working for change for school support staff.

As a member of the CER/IEU Joint Working Party, she is part of the team undertaking a forensic examination of the work of support staff in Catholic systemic schools, with a view to an improved enterprise agreement.

Office Manager at St Benedict’s Primary School in the ACT, McRae said over the years the work of school support staff has become increasingly complex, but the industrial instruments that cover them have not kept pace.

By undertaking a detailed survey of support staff positions and the way they view their roles, the IEU hopes the working party can negotiate a deal that better reflects the evolving workplace.

“For a long time, I was advocating by myself, but this is not a job for one person,” McRae said.

“Now I feel privileged to be part of this working party, and able to really represent the views of support staff I have worked with over the years.”

So far, the working party has focussed on administrative/clerical roles Level 4 and 6 roles and compared the work of government school support staff with those in Catholic systemic schools.

She said their research has uncovered disparities that give them room to manoeuvre in the enterprise agreement.

For a long time, I was advocating by myself, but this is not a job for one person.

“The role of support staff is so crucial in education, the children will suffer if we are not fully supported. Schools would have to run much smaller classes without the support staff that work in the classroom and potentially even close without the support staff in the front office or working behind the scenes,” McRae said.

“The needs of the children are becoming so complex. Support staff assist with the emotional, mental, academic and physical needs of students, but their own needs are not always put to the forefront.”

Forthcoming meetings will examine the role of specialist assistants such as science, library, ITC and hospitality assistants, Aboriginal Education Workers and special education assistants and finance officers, among others.

McRae said being part of the working party has given her an opportunity to network with support staff from all over the ACT and NSW, and has left her feeling empowered.

“It’s been amazing and has given me so much more insight into the other dioceses. It’s unfortunate that so many support staff feel so overwhelmed by their work that they are not engaging with the union, as it’s the only way they can achieve improvements.

“It’s also made me appreciate my own school and colleagues too, as we have such a great team here.”

If you work in the roles that are yet to be considered and would like to be part of the consultation, please contact your IEU organiser or Industrial Officer Carolyn Moore on

Sue Osborne