A democratic union

Throughout the 135-year life of the QTU, its members have freely chosen and committed to maintaining and renewing a democratic structure. 

Decisionmaking_in_the_QTU_800x557.jpgThe Union’s democracy has three features: it is representative; it is run by members (working teachers and principals); and participation is voluntary.

A representative democracy

Most of the time, democracy is exercised through representative structures.

Full membership ballots are conducted for:

  • election of the QTU’s President, Vice-President and Honorary Vice-President every three years
  • statewide industrial action
  • approval of enterprise bargaining agreements.

Other decisions are made by representative bodies – the Council, Conference, Executive and Area Council for schools and the Union overall; and the TAFE Council and TAFE Executive for TAFE members.

Other decisions are made by representative bodies made up of working teachers and principals (“rank-and-file” members) – the Council, Conference, Executive and Area Council for schools and the Union overall; and the TAFE Council and TAFE Executive for TAFE members.

Whether it’s schools or in TAFE, the fundamental building block of the representative structure is the branch. For members in schools, there are 103 branches covering the schools in a geographic area. In major cities, these have between 200 and 750 members each; in other areas, they range from 60 to 600 allowing for the large area covered by some branches.

Each branch elects a representative to State Council every three years, two representatives to the Area Council every three years at a different time, and a Conference delegate every two years, with a ballot of all members if required because of the number of nominations.


The Council is the main decision-making body of the Union, which meets in Brisbane on four Saturdays a year. It is made up of six elected Senior Officers, 103 branch representatives, a representative from each of 12 area councils, and three representatives from the TAFE Division. That’s 124 members and 120 votes (the General Secretary and the two Deputy General Secretaries don’t have a vote, and the President chairs the Council with a casting vote only), with 119 of those votes cast by elected “rank-and-file” representatives who work every day in schools and TAFE colleges.


In between Council meetings, decisions are made by an Executive elected by the Council every three years.

There are 20 people on the Executive – six Senior Officers, one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander representative, one TAFE representative and 12 other Council members. On any issue, 16 of the 20 members have a vote, and 15 of those are rank-and-file members.

Executive meets fortnightly after work. Using videoconferencing, Executive now has members from across the state.


Every two years, Conference meets for three days in the winter vacation. It comprises the Council plus another 120 delegates from branches, area councils, TAFE and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members.

The Conference decides and adopts revised policy consolidated in 15 policy documents covering hundreds of pages.That policy, reviewed by committees and Executive and distributed to branches beforehand, can only be changed by a two-thirds vote of Council.

The rank-and-file members of Executive, Council and Conference make a significant contribution of time on behalf of all members to make decisions on the Union’s direction. Their involvement and contributions are not always appreciated as they should be.

How do you put forward an idea?

Members have two main ways of putting forward ideas to be considered and getting involved in the QTU democracy.

The first way is by attending a meeting of your local QTU branch. The dates for these meetings are on the QTU website. 

Any member can attend a branch meeting to discuss ideas and propose a formal motion for the branch to consider supporting. The motion would need to be seconded and then branch members vote in favour or against.

If carried, the motion is then sent in to the QTU Executive to be actioned or to QTU State Council to be debated. 

The second way is to for you to attend a meeting of QTU members at your workplace, organised by the Union Reps, where a motion that impacts on your workplace, may be put forward and voted upon by other financial members

A motion that is supported by the majority of members in a branch meeting or workplace meeting becomes a resolution. These resolutions are then considered by Executive or State Council. If they are supported at this level, they then form part of the union’s position or policy on the matter

Your Organiser and other branch members can assist you to write motions that may be considered at meetings – just ask and they will be happy to support you. We have also developed guides to support members in the art of writing motions.

Of course, members can also express an individual views that may be sent in to the QTU, via an email or letter which will be responded to by an officer of the union, in accordance with existing QTU policies and decisions of Council or the Executive.

The principle is simple – the more members get involved in their union, the more reflective the union’s policy and positions will be of members’ views. A resolution from a branch (many schools) goes to Council; a resolution from a school goes to Executive; an individual’s view is addressed by an officer.

Participation is voluntary; decisions are binding

Unlike federal, state and local government elections, participation in Union elections is voluntary. Voting is not compulsory, but as far as humanly possible, everybody has the chance to express a view.

The avenues available to QTU members to put resolutions and issues on the decision-making agenda is far greater than any level of government, but participation is again voluntary.

The decisions are made, at the end of the day, by those who turn up – and there are many members who do. And in a collective organisation, those decisions – in an election, in a ballot, in a vote – are binding. They are the democratically-decided positions of the QTU, which Union officers and employees are required to implement.

The QTU is proudly democratic. We’re starting from a very high level, but we’re always looking at ways to make it even more so. 

QTU Reps

The Union Rep is the first point of contact with the QTU. They are serving teachers elected by their colleagues to represent the Union in the workplace. They provide advice and support, organise local campaigns, arrange workplace meetings and recruit new members. There are also Lead Union Reps, who are trained to assist QTU Organisers, and Principal Union Reps, who provide a school leader perspective on education and industrial issues.

Branches and Area Councils

QTU members in every school in a given area belong to the local branch. This branch, in turn, has representation at a regional level on an Area Council, which is represented on Council and Conference and can bring issues forward for debate.

The Executive

The QTU Executive consists of the Senior Officers, along with 14 serving teachers, including an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative and a member from the TAFE Division, all elected by State Council. It manages Union affairs between State Council meetings. Its members chair and occupy positions on many Union committees and outside bodies.

Senior Officers

The QTU's Senior Officers all have a teaching background. The President, Vice-President and Honorary Vice-President are elected by the members. They preside at meetings of Executive, Council and Conference and are responsible for the implementation of their decisions. They also handle media and community relations. The General Secretary and two Deputy General Secretaries are elected by State Council and have primary responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the Union.

The Trustees

The four QTU Trustees are members appointed by State Council to manage the Union’s capital investments.

The Secretariat

These Brisbane-based officers, again all from a teaching background, provide advice on specific areas of expertise and respond to general enquiries from members. They provide advice to Senior Officers, Executive, Council and Conference, as well as representing the Union in negotiations.


There are 14 Regional Organisers and a Membership Growth Organiser to serve members across the state. All former teachers themselves, they attend branch meetings where possible, liaise with district offices and take up members' concerns with departmental representatives and administrators.

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