Patricia at vanguard of union movement

Lifelong IEU member Patricia Calabro played a founding role in the IEU in the 1970s and has remained engaged with the Union ever since.

Patricia joined the Preschool Teachers Association in 1968. This organisation was associated with the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association (AMMA), which evolved into the IEU.

After a stint overseas Patricia became active in the Union from 1974. She was the first woman president between 1978 and 1981.

An early childhood teacher, she played a major role in the successful fight for pay parity with primary school teachers.

“There was a lot going on, it was a foundation time when the structures were put in place to turn the AMMA into a union rather than a professional association,” Patricia said.

“We were fighting for pay parity for Catholic teachers with government school teachers.

“We were fighting for equality for women. Women teachers were earning 80% of the male wage, and it took five years to put that right.

“And we were fighting for early childhood teachers to have the same pay as primary school teachers.”

Patricia was active in all of those campaigns, making speeches, going to court and industrial commissions, attending union meetings.

“I loved it. I came from a migrant family where the philosophy was to get involved. I believe you can only change things from within.”

Patricia left teaching in 1986 but has kept in touch with the field and remains an avid reader of Newsmonth.

“It has been frustrating and disappointing to see the decline in early childhood teachers’ wages. I think the rot set in soon after I left the profession.

“The emergence of commercial enterprises put downward pressure put on wages.

“The increased use of TAFE qualified rather than degree qualified staff to look after three year olds blurred the lines.

“Early childhood started to be seen as childcare rather than part of the education system and the wages started to diverge from the primary school standard.”

Patricia said she still feels proud to be part of the Union today, and believes there is a strong base in schools.

“Allowing everyone who works in a school to join, not just teachers, was a good move.”

Patricia said she is frustrated that people are now not joining unions in such great numbers.

“They are not aware of the struggles that went on before to get the benefits they enjoy.

“The fact that everyone can get those benefits, whether they have joined a union or not, is a problem.”