Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander working party begins journey

The IEU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Working Party had its inaugural meeting in November to discuss its future journey with the Union.

The working party consists of Aboriginal Education Workers (AEWs) Kylie Martinez, Karen Andriske, Vincent Cooper and Denise Kelly, Sydney CEO Aboriginal Education Officer Elizabeth Burke and IEU Organisers Lyn Caton, Karen Forbes and Jackie Groom.IEU Deputy Secretary Gloria Taylor is the convenor.

Upon convening the meeting Gloria highlighted the fact that many AEWs in non-government schools have qualified as teachers, but are not being employed as teachers. Consequently many move to Department of Education schools.

She said it is “time for us to work towards improvements for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and so we invite you to attend to start the conversation that will allow us to identify our goals and set the targets to reach those goals.”

“As a Union we believe that increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ participation in further education is critical to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander economic development.”

Kylie, at The Assumption School, Bathurst, said the group of people gathered for the working party would fill a gap.

“I’ve been in education a long time and I wanted to step up and say what’s working and what’s not,” Kylie said.

St John’s College Dubbo AEW Karen said the working party was giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff a voice.

“We can share our passion for our culture and a basic understanding of it with people at the Union,” Karen said.

“We may have been holding back previously but the working party gives us a chance to express all our thoughts and share our journey with others.”

Elizabeth said the working party could provide representation across all systems through the IEU, and identify issues in all workplaces affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.

“We can work together to clear pathways in the systems,” Elizabeth said.

It was Vincent’s idea to form the working party; he suggested it through the IEU’s Hunter Valley Branch, as he works at St Joseph’s High School in Aberdeen.

“There was a strong need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation within the IEU,” he said.

“We want more AEWs to join the Union, that is the main goal. The working party can put forward the Aboriginal perspective and raise cultural awareness in schools.

“There’s a lot of lip service paid to this but it’s not always followed up by action.”

Denise, of St Marys Catholic School, Wellington, said the support of the Union would allow the group to raise issues that they deal with on a daily basis and seek further action.

The working party will meet again on Tuesday 16 February, 9.30am - 1pm.

Sue Osborne