Support Staff Conference

Conference promotes sense of belonging for support staff

The 2017 Support Staff Conference, with the themes community, Connection and Belonging, provided just that for the 100 or so people attending in August.

Support staff said they loved being given a voice, and having a day that was dedicated just to their needs.

“Coming from a regional area, it was great to have access to PD, especially for support staff,” St John’s Catholic High School Nowra Senior School Support Officer Loreena Doumbos said.

Conference Convenor Carolyn Moore said the IEU’s Support Staff Advisory Committee felt there was a need for a conference looking at the theme of belonging for support staff.

“A sense of connection is fundamental to our health and wellbeing. How we engage and connect determines how we manage in life,” Carolyn said.

IEU Vice President Support Staff Carolyn Collins said the conference was “wonderful’ and paid tribute to the organisers.

Back pay win

IEU Secretary John Quessy told the audience about the current dispute with Catholic employers and how they were undermining the sense of connection between staff and employers. He also outlined a recent win where the IEU helped three support staff get $130,000 in back pay.

“Where would those three members be if they didn’t have connections with the Union?”

“This sort of work happens every day, it’s what we do. There was no animosity between employer and members. This goes to today’s theme of connections.”

Where would those three members be if they didn’t have connections with the Union?

Finding her place

Keynote speaker Yassmin Abdel-Magied recounted a warm personal tale of how she has tried to find connection and belonging when she was often one of a kind.

The Sudanese refugee had always felt different as a Muslim girl growing up in Brisbane, and her choice of career as the first woman engineer employed on oil rigs only added to that feeling of being singled out.

Still only 26, Yassmin has taken it all in her stride with humour and determination, and she shared some of her learnings with the audience.

The Table Talk session on asylum seekers facilitated by the Sydney Alliance really gave support staff a space to talk about wider issues affecting the community.

Better and better

Dot Trevaskis has been to every support staff conference and said they “just keep getting better and better”.

“When I heard Yassmin was going to be the keynote speaker I bought her book. Her life story was amazing and hearing her speak about it was fantastic.”

Dot was thrilled to get Yassmin to sign her book at the conference.

Who are you?

Josephine Geer works at St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School Gwynneville four days a week as a senior support staff officer, and one day a week at the Wollongong Catholic Schools Office as a liaison officer for senior school support staff.

Josephine said it’s important for support staff to join the Union, otherwise they would not have a strong voice at diocesan level.

“They are often isolated, being the only science assistant or the only food technology assistant, so being in the Union makes it easier for them to know their rights.”

The conference also provided a number of workshops which allowed members to delve deeper into ideas of engagement, connection and belonging.

Well organised and full of excellent content - Great to meet fellow support staff out of school
Thank you for providing such an amazing day - I feel so glad that I have connected with so many like minded people
Yassmin was a very inspirational and motivational start to the day. I found her extremely relevant to how we connect and form communities and can do this with success if we listen to some of her advice and experiences
Every aspect was great this year – such great PD
Inspiring and thought provoking – ready to go out and impact others
Thoroughly enjoyable – opened my mind and my heart
Great thought provoking presenters
Fantastic experience
“ inspiring and thought provoking day
Very beneficial – great speakers, inspiring and thought provoking