Association Spotlight: Lake Wallis

Number of members: 219

President: Stuart Ireland
Secretary: Lisa Jego

Our meetings are “informally formal”. We like to give representatives from our schools the chance to talk about the issues at their school, good and bad. We have anywhere between eight to more than 30 (that’s for our December end-of-year celebrations and our AGM, which includes dinner) attendees. We meet on the second Wednesday after Council at Club Forster. We found that many members were rushing straight from work to the meetings and, as is the case for many teachers, eating on the run. We organised with the club to have plates of sandwiches and slices available in the meeting room and attendees can also pick up a beverage of their choice from the café/bar. We also host a welcome to the new school year barbeque and encourage all new members and prospective members to attend.

Our community Our schools are situated on the Mid-North Coast, approximately a three-hour drive north of Sydney. Most of the towns in the association’s area are between the coast and the lakes that form the Great Lakes region. Forster-Tuncurry is the geographical centre of the Association’s reach and home to two K-6 public schools, Forster and Tuncurry, while Great Lakes College has two junior campuses and one senior campus. The other schools in the Association include Hallidays Point, Pacific Palms and Bungwahl public schools. Being close to the ocean and the lakes means the main industries are fishing, oyster farming and tourism. We are in the state electorate of Myall Lakes held by the Nationals’ Stephen Bromhead and the federal electorate of Lyne, with the sitting member David Gillespie from the Nationals.

Our challengesBecause of our location there are no problems attracting permanent staff to the area, although, like all areas of NSW, our schools face the problem of insufficient casual teachers to cover classes throughout the year. As far as the Fair Funding Now! campaign goes, our federal member has shown little interest in meeting with representatives from the local associations in his electorate despite formal requests.

Our teachers The demographic of the teaching population spreads from targeted graduates right through to very experienced teachers closer to the end of their careers. The vast majority of staff move in from other areas of the state, including a sprinkling who have benefitted from incentive transfers.Our Association has an Aboriginal Education Contact, Women’s Contact, an LGBTQI contact in addition to the President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Our focus Like our colleagues across the state, our primary focus is on the Fair Funding Now! campaign, although, we have some local issues such as catering for students with disabilities and ensuring that our casual and temporary teachers are getting a fair go.

Our achievements The Association has been active in the Gonski/Fair Funding Now! campaigns, with stalls at local markets in the lead up to the elections gathering signatures, handing out Federation information sheets and talking to the community. We have been at key election booths handing out Federation flyers and schools have held Gonski celebrations. We have been interviewed for local radio and newspapers to explain the principles of Gonski/Fair Funding Now! and attended school P&C meetings to help our parents understand how important the Fair Funding Now! model is to our local public schools.

Our events Last year we held a Federation centenary barbecue on the edge of beautiful Wallis Lake and invited members from all local schools and associations, as well as our retired members who are fantastic allies when it comes to getting the public education message across to the general population. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t kind to us but we managed to feed everyone and provide sufficient beverages to mark the centenary in an appropriate manner.