New Federal Education Minister
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 5, 8 July 2022, page no.10
Following the recent federal election, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the new cabinet, with Jason Clare, the Member for Blaxland in Western Sydney, named as the Minister for Education.
One of the new Minister’s first acts was to go back to his primary school, Cabramatta Public School, where he paid tribute to his former teacher Cathy Fry. He also attended Canley Valley High School and was the first member of his family to attend university.
On Wednesday 5 June, Minister Clare (pictured above) addressed the Federal Executive of the Australian Education Union (AEU), with QTU Senior Officers in attendance. This was the first time in almost a decade that a federal minister had accepted an invitation to address the AEU Executive.
During this meeting, Minister Clare advised that he values the work of teachers and school leaders. He also stated that, although we may not always agree, his door will always be open. He then went on to repeat comments he made to the media recently that, unlike previous Federal Education Ministers, he was not interested in “culture wars”, picking fake fights, or dismissing state school teachers as “duds”.
Although some of this may seem like symbolism, at a time when media commentators and others are quick to criticise the work we do, without considering the impact, or are purposefully provocative, symbolism and public statements of support are welcome.
The QTU and AEU will be looking to work constructively with the new Minister on the unfinished business of delivering 100 per cent of the schooling resource standard (SRS) to all state schools in Queensland. This can only be achieved through the renegotiation of the bilateral agreement between the state and federal governments, which is due to expire at the end of 2023. The federal government went to the election promising to deliver a pathway to 100 per cent SRS funding for state schools, and we will continue to campaign until this is delivered.
We will also be seeking the assistance of the Minister in bringing teacher and school leader voices back into the room when it comes to key policy decisions made at a federal level. As the democratic industrial and professional voice of the teaching profession, this should include the restoration of AEU representatives on the boards of federally owned education organisations such as ACARA and AITSL, along with stakeholder input within the federal department.
Finally, we will be seeking a commitment from the new federal government that it will invest in capital infrastructure in state schools, to ensure the students we teach have world class learning facilities. One of the most damaging legacies of the Morrison government was its $1.2 billion school infrastructure fund, which only non-government schools were able to access. We need to ensure our state schools also receive capital funding to invest in new cutting-edge facilities.
It is refreshing to see a Minister willing to be so frank and honest about the challenges we face as a profession, coming from a position of wanting to support the work of teachers and school leaders across the country, rather than undermining their work or taking political pot shots for a media grab. The QTU looks forward to engaging with the new Minister and ensuring that the issues facing teachers and school leaders across Queensland are heard loud and clear in Canberra.