IEU Committees: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory

Several committees of practising teachers and support staff regularly consult with the union on its work, ensuring it reflects the current demands of the membership.

Those committees are: Professional Engagement, Environment, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory and Women and Equity Committees.

In this series, we take a closer look the work of each committee. This week it’s the turn of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee. Convened by Organiser Jackie Groom, the committee currently has 12 members.

The committee consults with union officials when they need write policy documents, need advice on protocols, or need tips on the best ways to encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to join the union.

One of its founding members is Aunty Mary Atkinson, who is an Aboriginal Cultural Advisor with the Catholic Education Office of the Diocese of Wagga Wagga.

“We are a minority group in the workforce, so we really need our voices to be heard and our concerns to be heard and for someone to lobby for us,” Aunty Mary said.

The process is a two-way street. While the committee can advise the union about cultural safety, the committee learns about its rights in the workplace.

Aunty Mary said Aboriginal Education Workers love their communities, and knowing how to create boundaries between work and home can be difficult.

“It’s good for us to get to know more about the industrial side of things, to know our workplace rights so we know when to draw the line,” she said.

Another long-time member is Karen Andriske.

Karen said, “I have been working for over 26 years as an Aboriginal Education Worker at St Johns College Dubbo, a position that has been inspirational and enlightening.

“The rapport with staff, parents and community shows the importance of working collaboratively to embrace the social, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing of our youth,” she said.

“It is an honour to be on the IEU ATSI committee, working towards enriching conditions that enhance equity, inclusion and fairness.

“Being able to initiate an ATSI perspective into matters that are raised by members and communicating that information signifies the importance of my representation at a state level.

“Being made aware of challenging issues and diligently offering guidance that supports positive achievement, further enriches my attendance.

“Acknowledging the diversity of opinions, vastness of opportunities and positive enrichment of inclusiveness enhances my status on such a valued and prestigious committee.

“As a member, my goal on the committee is to successfully network with an array of people who have the passion to make a difference.

“I’m grateful that the IEU embraces the input of the committee’s knowledge and supports the diversity of all cultural customs,” Karen said.

Michelle Thompson is a member of the ATSI committee as well as IEU Vice President Early Childhood Education and Care.

Michelle said, “I have been Director at Shore Preparatory School Early Learning Centre for five years.

“I have worked across many spaces including community based, not-for-profit and independent schools for over 20 years, with a strong focus on the all-important early years.

“In the past five years, my relatives shared our history, being descendants of the Stolen Generation at the Parramatta Girls Institute.

“While I am still on my personal journey of discovery, I know that I come from a long line of strong Wiradjuri women and have a strong spiritual connection to my father’s home, Cowra.

“Fairness and social justice have always been key to who I am, and in joining this committee, I aim to be an advocate of Closing the Gap and supporting equal access and rights to all Aboriginal people, particularly children.

“I am in a unique position being a part of the IEU Executive, to play an important part in advocacy, and to help educate, create awareness with a strong focus on inclusion.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committiee

Jackie Groom (Convenor)
Craig Duncan
Karen Andriske
Kathryn Baxter
Kylie Booth-Martinez
Lyn Caton
Mary Aitkinson
Megan Sampson
Michelle Thompson
Pam Smith
Vince Cooper