Editorial: Voice. Treaty. Truth. It's Union business
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 1, day Month Year, page no. 5
At the end of each year, QTU Executive meets to consider the year that was and set the priorities for the next.
Last year saw a number of wins for members through bargaining. In this case it was easy for Executive to set the priorities - we need to ensure that the EB is implemented, that people understand the new working conditions and that the reviews of school resourcing and teacher mobility commence. Executive also committed to safe workplaces, through our Expect Respect campaign and the campaign to end occupational violence.
However, while the new agreement does go some way towards reconciliation by securing a salary structure that begins to reflect the vital work of community teachers and providing access to leave for sorry business, if we are to truly commit to reconciliation and safe and healthy workplaces for everyone, then Executive was clear that we need to be involved in Voice. Treaty. Truth. and accept the invitation from the Uluru Statement of the Heart to help secure a Voice to Parliament.
Recently I’ve been asked why the Voice to Parliament is Union business. Our job is to secure improved working conditions and salaries for members and to ensure members’ health and safety. But how do we ensure that all members are safe if we don’t campaign for all members? As a Union we attempt to provide a voice to the democratic structures of the QTU by having a First Nations committee and QTU Executive delegate who are consulted on issues that specifically affect First Nations members and their employment.
As a profession, we recognise the need to “Close the Gap”. The Union campaigns for needs-based funding to make a difference for First Nations students and their families.
However, our profession alone can only do so much. If the system is inherently flawed because the rules that govern it do not recognise the needs of First Nations people, then how do we truly “Close the Gap”?
We campaign to change government policy about education all the time. We navigate the bureaucracy to try and achieve the best outcomes for the students we teach. We believe that the people who have a say over education should be those qualified in education - i.e. our profession. Over the past decade we have campaigned to have our voice restored on ACARA, and AITSL.
We know we can make more of a difference when we have a system that works with the needs of our students and our profession. We need a system that does this for ALL of our students and for ALL educators.
The Voice campaign is about providing safe workplaces for our members. As we step toward reconciliation and a Voice to Parliament, we take a step toward addressing racism. Ensuring safety and respect at work is inherent in Union values. In fact, our Statement of Safety and Respect states that we commit to ensuring our spaces (including online) are free of all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment and racism. I know that the Voice is not the panacea to to end racism against First Nations people, but it’s a vital first step.
As a Union we have seen the benefit of such steps. With each agreement we have taken steps to improve conditions. We know that while we may not achieve everything all at once, we build on foundations. I reflected recently about the arbitration in 1997 (when, among other things, we were arguing for incentives for beginning teachers and to have paid maternity leave separate from school holidays) and compared this arbitration to the outcomes of this agreement. Twenty five years ago, our witnesses in that case laid the foundation for improvements for beginning teachers, and each agreement we have taken a further step - we have gone from mandated induction programs, payment for holiday periods for temporary teachers, job security, mentoring, extra NCT, to paid incentives for beginning teachers.
Likewise, those people who campaigned in the 90s for an incentive scheme in rural and remote Queensland built a foundation that led to further improvements in 17 February 2023this agreement, including the introduction of attraction incentives and the extension of retention incentives.
Without those foundations to build from, would we have achieved as much? First Nations people need that foundation and need constitutional recognition if we are going to achieve Makarrata.
As a Union and as a movement, we see the power of the collective every day. We see and understand that together we achieve great things for our profession and our students. It’s clear to me that Reconciliation and Voice. Treaty. Truth. are Union business - we must be involved:
- for our First Nations members and students
- in Closing the Gap
- to make a difference
- for safe and healthy workplaces
- for our profession.