Workplace campaign wins new home for Yeerongpilly ECDP

The deaf youngsters of the Yeerongpilly Early Childhood Development Program are to have a new base, thanks to their teachers’ refusal to accept the appalling conditions at the existing site.

The facilities that members were subjected to were the worst I have ever seen, with significant termite and water damage, the presence of mould spores, and vermin in the ceiling cavities.

Refusing to put up with these conditions any longer, they took action, seeking a directive from the QTU boycotting the classrooms affected on the basis that they represented an imminent health and safety risk to the staff and students at the site.

Their determined action eventually secured a commitment from the state government and the Department of Education and Training that a new purpose-built facility would be designed and constructed on the Yeronga State School site, at a cost of $2.75 million.

Yeerongpilly ECDP QTU workplace representative Maree Carew described the outcome as an important step in improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community: “We have been working on getting our facilities upgraded for more than 15 years, and with the assistance of our Organiser, we were able to take action to improve our working conditions and the learning conditions of the kids and families who access our program.”

The Yeerongpilly ECDP is currently based on the Association for the Preschool Education of Deaf Children’s site, where it has been operating for more than five decades. The association is a charitable not-for-profit non-government organisation that works to provide additional therapy services to deaf children, from babies to pre-prep age, as well as support programs for parents. A space allowing the association to continue its important work has been included in the new design.

The breakthrough was announced by then Member for Yeerongpilly Simon Finn, who had met with QTU members on a number of occasions throughout the dispute. He also announced more than $50,000 of minor works making the current site safe until construction of the new facility is completed for the start of the 2013 school year. Let's hope the new government honours this commitment.

Members at the Yeerongpilly ECDP have shown that if teachers are prepared to take a stand and take action over the health and safety of facilities, they will always win, because a safe environment in which to work and learn is a basic right.

If you have similar heath and safety concerns at your school, refer to the Right to Teacher/Right to Learn section of the QTU website and contact your Regional Organiser for advice.

Brendan Crotty
Brisbane South Organiser

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 3, 20 April 2012, p17