The retirement of the IEU’s long serving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adviser Diat Callope in 2015 left a significant space to fill, because we knew, that as an organisation, we couldn’t let things remain stationary for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members. As a result our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Working Party was born.
After starting with an initial group of some invited members and a few IEU officers, we decided to ‘ramp it up’ and advertised the working party in Newsmonth to encourage those who wanted to take the opportunity to have voice, join and be heard. Consequently, our working party numbers grew and we formalised the process of meeting together once a term.
The group quickly developed our terms of reference to ensure we had a comprehensive and contemporary framework to guide us. It was agreed that high expectations were paramount to the success of the working party, as we aimed to raise awareness of the status, remuneration and working conditions of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members.
Our working party members agreed that attendance at both chapter and branch meetings would build awareness of both our group and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members. This has since been met with great success as three members have been elected to Council: Debbie Long, representing the chapter at Jarara Aboriginal Education Unit, Mt Druitt and the Penrith Blue Branch; Kylie Booth-Martinez representing the chapter at The Assumption School, Bathurst and the Central West Branch and Vinnie Cooper representing the chapter at St Joseph’s, Aberdeen and the Hunter Valley Branch.
Already several items have been raised by our working party: investigating how the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch may be able to introduce a Reconciliation Action Plan; our engagement with BOSTES with Vinnie Cooper’s representation in syllabus development; a review of the current policy and protocols for the IEUA NSW/ACT; research into statistics about increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teacher numbers (currently a very important area in the lead up to the federal election with the major parties releasing details about education policies) as well as keeping any specific industrial matters at the forefront of discussion. We report to Secretary John Quessy and IEUA NSW/ACT Executive each term as well as to Council four times a year.
Where to next?
During Term 3 we have members attending the Women’s Conference on Friday 19 August as well as engaging in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander meeting and workshop the day before the conference. We will continue to advocate and be a voice for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and encourage all IEUA NSW/ACT members to walk the journey with us.