Council of Pacific Education (COPE) Conference

Weaving stronger women’s networks

This year’s Council of Pacific Education (COPE) Women’s Network Workshop and 23rd Regional Conference were held at the Tanoa International Hotel nestled at the base of the Sleeping Giant Mountain range in Nadi, Fiji.

Every three years, 19 countries from across the Pacific region send women union delegates to work together to develop skills and partnerships to support women in education in their regional areas.

For many years the Australian education unions, IEUA and AEU, and our sister teacher unions in New Zealand NZPPTA, NZEI,TEU and ISEA, have worked in partnership to support the delivery of a programme which is inspirational, respectful, exciting and on occasions demanding. This year’s programme was no different.

The IEUA delegation from Australia included Valerie Jones, Lyn Caton, Angela McDonald (IEU NSW/ACT), Nicole Kapernick (IEU QNT) and Marit Clayton and Teresa Laughlin (IEU VicTas).

The COPE Assistant Women’s Coordinator is IEUA Federal Secretary Christine Cooper, who was re-elected to the position for another three years, unopposed, in recognition of her long standing, passionate agency for COPE.

The Women’s Network Workshop programme was conducted over two and a half days beginning on 31 October and culminated in a Women’s Action Plan for the next three years which will require every nation to report back on the successes and challenges at the 24th Triennial Conference, scheduled for 2025. This programme formed an integral part of the agenda for the ensuing Triennial Conference which was conducted from 2-4 November.

As the Pacific Islands are faith-based communities, these events are conducted with much joy, enthusiasm and energy. For all those who attend, they forge lasting professional and personal relationships which span the seas. Indeed, this year’s theme ‘weaving stronger women’s networks’ was celebrated with the creation of mats under the tutelage of our Fijian colleagues.

The ibe (mat) signifies the interwoven parts of our society, with the strands of the pandanus leaves woven together displaying how closely knit the Pacific Island communities are. The mat pattern creates a web of safety, where every member is significant. A weak link would result in the collapse of the community together with its values.

Lyn Caton Organiser

Walking away a new person

I was honoured to represent the IEU at COPE. It was a humbling and transformative experience.

I was struck by how many issues were the same across the Pacific as Australia – teachers and support staff stepped up during the pandemic.

While Australia is no stranger to natural disasters, the Pacific Nations have experienced tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and the devasting impacts of climate change. I learnt a lot from our Pacific neighbours. Many of their unions were excelling, despite numerous challenges, creating networks for women and youth.

The conference challenged me to look beyond my immediate networks. The cultures, traditions and languages of the Pacific were evident. It was pleasing to discuss how in Australia we are taking steps to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, but there is still much to do. I encourage you to look at:

I have walked away from COPE a different person. I was reminded of my many blessings and how simple things, such as connecting with others beyond your workplace, can be enriching and educational.

Angela McDonald IEU Vice President ACT