Federation is the only registered trade union representing the interests of teachers who work for:
- the NSW Department of Education
- TAFE NSW
- NSW Department of Corrective Services
- New South Wales Education Standards Authority.
Members include permanent full-time, part-time, temporary, casual and unemployed teachers.
The union’s political strength is rooted in the collective power of our members, created by their participation in Federation’s campaign activities and forums.
To protect and improve teachers’ working conditions and salaries, within the public education system.
A strong public education system with a well-qualified and supported teaching profession, free from political interference.
- We work together to strengthen our efficacy on improving our working lives
- We unite in action to achieve our democratically determined objectives
- We advocate to achieve fair and just outcomes for members and public education
- We share what we know to empower our actions, our true power
- We offer support to our member colleagues to enhance their capacity to solve workplace problems
Members have a voice in their union and those who have the right to speak for teachers on behalf of the union are democratically elected by their member colleagues.
In your workplace, elections are conducted for positions on the Federation Workplace Committee, including Federation Representative and Women’s Contact. Members can speak and vote at workplace meetings.
Each member is automatically allocated to a teachers association, determined by where they teach. Members can speak and vote at their association’s meetings and can vote in elections to elect their state Councillors and Annual Conference delegates.
Find out more about how members can participate in the union’s decision making forums here.
All members can cast their votes in the Presidential Officers ballot.
Presidential Officers for 2024–2025 are:
- Henry Rajendra, President
- Amber Flohm, Deputy President
- Natasha Watt, Senior Vice President.
State Council meets at least eight times per year where Councillors, representing the different Associations, debate and vote on decisions that become union policy.
State Councillors elect members to Federation’s Executive annually and elections are held every three years to elect members to the following Professional Officer positions:
- General Secretary
- Deputy Secretary (Communications and Administration)
- Deputy Secretary (Post Schools)
- Deputy Secretary (Research/Industrial and Professional Support)
- Deputy Secretary (Schools)
- Aboriginal Education Co-ordinator
- Communications and Online Coordinator
- Research/Industrial Officers (4)
- Membership and Training Officer
- Multicultural Officer/Organiser
- Professional Support Officers (5)
- Trade Union Training Officer
- Women’s Coordinator
- TAFE Organisers (3)
- City Organisers (9)
- Country Organisers (12).
Members have collaborated on campaigns to achieve improvements in salaries and working conditions, the provision of public education and social justice for more than 100 years.
Salaries and working conditions
The top priority of Federation’s first Council meeting in March 1919 was an application to gain access to the arbitration courts in relation to salaries and awards. Members sustained a long campaign to restore wages to pre-Depression austerity levels. They then mobilised to achieve the first of the union’s major salaries breakthroughs; in 1946 teachers gained their first realistic salary increases since 1920 and set the standard for other professional workers.
Federation members made a major break with its past in 1968, when the first statewide strike was held, over the appalling conditions in which teachers were working. Since then, industrial action has become a part of the union’s campaigns. For example, members engaged in significant industrial action during salaries rounds from 1990 to 2003/4 to restore salaries relativity lost during a period of federal wage fixation. Sustained campaigning over several years achieved, in 2023, the most significant improvement to NSW public school teachers’ wages in decades.
Understanding that smaller class sizes enable teachers to give more time to support students’ individual learning needs, since Federation’s early days (when many classes had 70 students), members have campaigned to reduce class sizes. A sustained campaign reduced infants class sizes in the first decade of this century.
Other wins as a result of campaigning, sometimes involving industrial action, have achieved improvements in differential staffing for disadvantaged schools and special education, the four-term year in schools and student-free days for professional learning.
In the late 1980s, after a 10-year campaign, members achieved two hours of release from face-to-face teaching for all teachers working in infants, primary and schools for specific purposes settings. This time enables teachers to plan lessons catering to all learning styles and collaborate with colleagues on how to best meet the needs of students.
Public education provision
The union has an ongoing dialogue with successive state and federal governments over equitable and adequate funding of public education.
Since the late 1980s state governments have sought to apply corporate managerial practices to public education, a concept which our members continue to challenge.
Over time, members have joined with their local communities to oppose the sale of school and TAFE land.
Federation commissioned the Inquiry into the Provision of Public Education in NSW (2001) and the Valuing the Teaching Profession — An independent inquiry (2020), to draw attention to the issues facing public education teachers and students. Their findings and recommendations provided the basis for future campaigning.
Officers to support member efficacy
Federation appointed its first Organiser in 1937. Progressively more officers have been appointed to serve members’ needs and grow the membership base. Three significant appointments between 1975 and 1986 demonstrated Federation’s commitment to social reform: Women’s Coordinator, Aboriginal Education Coordinator and Multicultural Coordinator.
Quests for fairness and equity
Federation is proud of its contemporary history with Aboriginal Peoples, which is founded on mutual respect for one another. Our union led the battle in 1976 for the original affirmative action strategy for the employment of the first group of Aboriginal teachers to graduate in numbers from teacher training. In partnership with the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group we founded the first union policy on Aboriginal issues in this country, in 1980. This partnership paved the way for the ultimate development and support from teachers of the first Department of Education Aboriginal Education Policy, the foundations of which were so ground breaking that it formed the backbone of the 1997 Department of Education and Training’s Aboriginal Education Policy.
Our Code of Ethics forbids members engaging in racist behaviour, comments or dissemination of racist material and our Anti-Racism Charter states all members have a responsibility to organise, oppose, act and educate against racism in all its forms. We also campaign for enhanced support for students with a background other than English and the rights of asylum seekers.
Federation has long advocated for government to provide the funding and resources to ensure the legislated rights of students with disability are met.
For years Federation has advocated for the rights of members who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer.
Discrimination against women has been challenged by the union over the decades. An enduring campaign preceded the repeal of the Married Teachers Act, which dismissed married women teachers, lecturers and public servants from December 1932 until in 1947.
The union’s Executive established an equal pay committee in 1949 and an equal opportunity committee in 1956 to campaign for women to have access to the promotion lists and equal pay. In 1958 legislation phased in equal pay for women over five years, with women achieving full parity in 1958. The separate gender-based promotions lists were combined in 1961. Paid maternity leave and adoption leave was increased to 14 weeks on full pay in 2006.
The union was formed as the NSW Public School Teachers Federation on 26 September 1918, when various teachers associations met in the temporary home of the Australian Workers’ Union, in Castlereagh Street.
For many years there were two parallel organisations, one being the federally registered Australian Education Union (NSW Branch) and the state-registered NSW Teachers Federation. Because of the shift of some of Federation’s members into the federal jurisdiction, notably members working for TAFE, it was decided that there should be a single entity registered both federally and at the state level. Both the NSW Teachers Federation and the AEU Branch adopted rules that facilitate the change to a single organisation.