AEU New Educators Conference
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 1, 17 February 2023, page no. 22
The QTU sent a delegation to the annual AEU New Educators Conference in Perth, which brings together union activists in their first five years of teaching from all over the country. Over the course of the conference, delegates participated in discussions, training, and networking opportunities. Here some of the Queensland delegates report back.
Voice to Parliament
Union Officers Rachel Bos (QTU) and Russell Honnery (NSWTF) explained to new educators how the Uluru Statement from the Heart asks the Australian people to walk together to establish a First Nations “Voice” to Parliament, and a Makarrata Commission to pave the way to “Treaty” and “Truth.” The 2023 referendum will allow First Nations peoples the human right of self-determination, providing them with a collective voice that can be consulted on laws that affect them. How will you engage others in your school community to help secure a vote for constitutional reform, working together with First Nations peoples to ensure a better future?
I was lucky enough to attend an information session from Cool Australia, a digital library that provides educational resources aligned to the Australian Curriculum across all key learning areas. These resources are about solving wicked problems together and helping teachers to teach complex topics to students and provide an active framework comprised of three horizons. “Tuning in”, or hooking student’s attention and gauging their prior knowledge; “finding out”, or exploring and learning about the topic; and “acting”, or challenging traditional ideas and suggesting a new one to solve the wicked problem. These fantastic resources can be found at https://www.coolaustralia.org - Happy wicked problem solving!
There is no way to sugar coat it, educators across the world are experiencing shared suffering.In Japan, there is a lack of staff camaraderie between experienced teachers and new educators. Little union involvement among new educators means they don’t know their working conditions and rights. Something we experience among our Queensland new educators daily.
Samoa too has limited new and young educators’ involvement in the union, with only two active union members considered new educators.
In New Zealand, working conditions and mentoring programs, although funded, are not being implemented at schools due to differing executive focus. Fixed term contracts, which are supposed to be for short term relief, are being used as trial periods for new educators.
New Zealand had class sizes ranging from 16 to 32 students in the secondary space. In Japan, the teacher to student ratio in early childhood is 1:5, but quickly grows to 1:40 in junior secondary. Samoa shocked the room with its 1:60 teacher to student ratio.
Today’s political landscape
Correna Haythorpe, AEU Federal President, spoke to the delegates about the political landscape, and emphasized key moments in our fair funding campaign and how the climate has shifted since Australia elected a Labor government. It was interesting to hear the history of the Gonski review and the rigorous consultation that occurred to develop a needs-based model for funding. Correna also described the exhilaration of $1.1 billion promised to fund TAFE from the Labor government this year, and told us about the Workforce Action Plan, which aims to create solutions to attract and retain quality teachers. The session finished with a video message from Federal Minister Jason Clare, promising to stand behind the work state school teachers do.
LGBTIQA+ progress in education
Alicia Heymel (NSWTF) and Rowan Richardson (AEUTAS) eloquently explained their lived experience as students and educators before unpacking the acronym and discussing the history of LGBTIQA+.
Discussion of flags and visual representation resonated strongly, with many recognising them but often struggling to name the groups represented.
Finding more about our fellow new educators through their knowledge of resources, events, and opportunities within their contexts, such as Pride Clubs or books available in the school library, provided the chance to share and reflect on positive progress and consider continuing challenges to support, advocate and be an ally for LGBTIQA+ students, staff and community.
At this year’s NEN conference, I was fortunate to participate in the workshop, "Finding my people – building capacity", run by Kelly Creedon (QTU) and Josh Sankey (AEUVIC). During my first few years of teaching, finding people who have common goals and values has been my saving grace. In this workshop, we explored different ways to find where we should be focusing our energy and what we can do to have an impact, not only on the students but our colleagues too. While exploring the spheres of control, we were asked to think about what inspired us to become teachers. In this activity we heard stories from our peers and leaders. These stories helped us to build stronger relationships and connections with each other, which are fundamental when working in a school environment. The skills and knowledge I have taken from this workshop have already helped me develop my teaching practices and pedagogies.