Your workplace

Sharree Gardner, Northlakes Public School

Federation’s support and guidance to resolve a workplace issue inspired Sharree Gardner to ensure colleagues would not find themselves without the valuable assistance of their union.

Ms Gardner, who teaches at Northlakes Public School in San Remo on the northern end of the NSW Central Coast, decided to take on the role of Federation Representative, and has been in the position for almost a decade. “I was involved with a situation at work that Federation supported me with,” she said. “From then, I wanted to work with staff to ensure they knew their rights and what they could do when those rights were being challenged.”

She finds the Fed Rep role rewarding and it is one she would encourage other members to take to step up their activism. “I would encourage other teachers to go to association meetings so they can network with other teachers and Fed Reps,” said Ms Gardner. “I would also encourage them to attend Trade Union Training to learn more about Federation and how to support other teachers. For women members, there is the opportunity to participate in the Anna Stewart Program to learn more about the inner workings of Federation.”

One of the most important attributes of being a Fed Rep is to be approachable. Ms Gardner is proud of her record, to the point of saying that, aside from teaching, the Fed Rep role is the most important at her school.

“Being approachable and knowing that my staff feel comfortable speaking to me about their issues is a big part of what makes me feel proud of what I do,” she said. “[As well as] being a part of the Your Rights at Work, Gonski and Fair Funding campaigns and sharing my concerns with our people.”

For members of Ms Gardner’s Teachers Association, “excessive workload is our major issue”.

“We are constantly adding more programs and feeling the pressure of higher expectations from parents,” she said.

When asked what issues she thinks are most important, Ms Gardner is very succinct: “Fair funding, salaries and conditions.”

— Scott Coomber