In the spotlight: Meet four IEU reps

Reps from independent schools joined us in May to learn more about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace as talks for new agreements got under way.

Caitlyn Esther

Aspect South East Sydney School, Peakhurst South

Caitlyn Esther started at Aspect South East Sydney School, a specialist school for students on the autism spectrum, as a volunteer, helping with visual arts.

She then became a teacher’s aide, took a degree in Autism Studies at Griffith University, became a teacher in 2018, then an IEU rep this year.

“It’s been a steep learning curve,” Esther said. “We had a brilliant rep for a long time, but he’s recently retired, so I have big shoes to fill.

“I’ve picked up so much today at the IEU’s reps’ training. It gives us the framework of where our rights come from – it’s about understanding our rights are not a favour.

“As we approach enterprise bargaining, there are a lot of questions, and I’ll be able to relay to support staff and teachers why it’s important to join the union.”

Che Walsh-Kemp

St Aloysius College, Kirribilli

Che Walsh-Kemp is a drama teacher at St Aloysius College, an independent school for boys from Year 3 to Year 12, where she’s been a rep for two years.

Walsh-Kemp, who teaches at the Rozelle campus, cites workload intensification as a big issue. “We’re hoping to get some change around things that are just creeping in as custom and practice,” she said.

Walsh-Kemp is keen to welcome new members to the St Aloysius chapter. “It’s a year of bargaining for our new multi-enterprise agreement and if staff want to have a voice, I encourage them to join the union,” she said. “I like to remind my colleagues that we are the union, and we have strength when we stick together.”

Walsh-Kemp sees union membership as every bit as important as NESA accreditation or membership of a professional association. “It is part and parcel of who we are,” she said. “Over the years, the union has won so many of the standards, pay and conditions we have today that are above the modern award. We won these entitlements as a union. We need to hold onto them and progress them and not revert to anything less.”

Anil Thomas

Penrith Anglican College, Penrith

Anil Thomas is the new co-rep at Penrith Anglican College. When a teacher volunteered to be the rep for the primary school, Thomas put up his hand to be the rep for the secondary school

“I thought I would be happy to do that, working as a team,” he said.

A maths and chemistry teacher, Thomas began teaching in Australia in 2012, arriving from India after a few years teaching in the Middle East.

The IEU helped Thomas get teacher accreditation in NSW, giving him a strong understanding of the importance of union membership.

“It’s very important to have a rep, there are always issues happening and there should be someone to look after the interests of teachers and support staff,” he said.

Alissa Martire

Cranbrook School, Bellevue Hill

Alissa Martire has taught at Cranbrook School for 12 years in the primary school. She took on the role because she believes it matters.

“The rep’s role is important for providing another level of support at schools – it’s someone you can go to if you can’t work out your issues and you feel you’re not getting support,” Martire said. “We’re stronger together and get better benefits for the staff if we’re united.”

Martire says the union’s campaign for new enterprise agreements in independent schools (see pp 1, 3) is important, particularly around workloads. “It doesn’t matter who you talk to, teachers are all burning out and schools are asking more and more of teachers,” she said.

“They don’t realise the impact it’s having on staff and their wellbeing. If schools want to retain their staff and maintain the productivity of their staff, they need to look at what they’re asking them to do.”