Union program nourishes confidence

The message from my Federation story is it’s never too late to become an active member of Federation — even if you’re shy — and when you do, you’ll find it to be an enriching and uplifting experience that will inspire you to want to do even more.

I started teaching in 1982 and in my first few years of teaching I participated in stop work meetings and attended strike actions when necessary but that was the extent of my involvement with my union. In 1995, I started working at my current school. The Federation Representative was passionate about public education and when she decided to step down from the position in 2001, I decided to step up! I was voted in and have been Fed Rep ever since.

I completed Trade Union Training and developed an understanding of the power of the union and its ability, with members’ support, to make change.

Over the years, I have been inspired by my Organisers — all passionate advocates for public education and amazing role models.

I completed the Communicating and Negotiating Skills course in 2005 to try to overcome my fear of public speaking and my confidence started to grow. In 2018, I nominated as a Councillor, to represent my association at Council.

A simmering passion ignited! I decided to apply for the Anna Stewart Program because I wanted to be able to answer that question I am so often asked: “What is Federation doing for me?”

The answer, I discovered, is an enormous amount of work!

While participating in the two-week program, I took every opportunity to speak with as many people as possible — Senior Officers, Deputy Secretaries, Professional Support Officers, Research/Industrial Officers — and even spent an hour with the General Secretary, John Dixon.

As a Learning and Support teacher, I wanted to learn more about how Federation could make a difference for students with specific learning needs. After speaking with several officers on this topic, and after a discussion with Acting Vice President Tim Mulroy, I decided to write an amendment to an Access Request motion before the October Council meeting.

With my increasing confidence and just two and a half minutes of time for motions remaining, I stood up before Council and quickly spoke to my amendment. It was carried by Council — I can do this!

The Anna Stewart Program has developed my confidence, knowledge and understanding of how my union works. It’s opened my eyes to the passion Federation’s officers have for public education and inspired me to share my experiences to encourage other women members to apply for the program and become stronger union activists.

Teresa Calder teaches at Bradbury Public School

The Anna Stewart Program is aimed at developing the skills, knowledge and confidence of women members and empowering them to be actively involved members in their workplace, local association or state level. Applications are considered by the Women’s and Anna Stewart Program Restricted Committee, made up of six women Federation members elected for two years by Council. Anna Stewart Program participants are given the opportunity to work with Federation Officers, attend Saturday State Council and associated meetings, and observe Federation campaigns to develop an understanding of the processes and practices in our operations and dealings with the Department of Education and TAFE NSW. Interested? For more information on the program click here.