They came from far and wide to Hunter Valley forum

Over 120 IEU members enjoyed the recent Hunter Valley sub branch Women in Education forum and dinner at Fort Scratchley Mutipurpose Centre in Newcastle. Teachers and support staff came from as far as Swansea and Port Stephens, with groups from Branxton, Abermain, Wallsend, Merewether, Thornton, Warners Bay, Cardiff, Mayfield, Adamstown, Booragul, and Gateshead.

Guest speaker Meryl Swanson MP, elected Federal Member for Paterson in 2016, spoke about the Turnbull government’s school funding announcements and their shortcomings for both government and non government schools in the Hunter region and across Australia. She outlined Labor’s position and her commitment to strongly voice the educational needs of children and their families, with particular attention to the need for increased funding for children with special needs and disabilities.

Meryl Swanson praised the teachers and support staff she had seen in action as a mother of two girls. She encouraged women to ‘seize the day’ and take their active place in leadership positions in the community and all levels of government and outlined her career path from radio presenter and member of the Maitland Business Chamber, Youth Express, Hunter Region Organisation of Councils and Hunter Tourism to more recently the Federal Member for Paterson.

Meryl’s current responsibilities include, deputy chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources, chair of the Labor Party Caucus Committee on Sustainable Australia and she is a member of Caucus Committees on Education, Science, Research and the Arts, also the Status of Women, Country Labor and the National Policy Forum.

It was a great night offering information, discussion and fine dining. IEU Deputy Secretary Gloria Taylor presented a comprehensive overview of the IEU’s industrial and professional agenda giving her insights into current enterprise agreement negotiations and the campaign on workloads.

IEU President Chris Wilkinson gave a potted history of the Women’s Forum and it’s humble beginnings in a Newcastle pub in 2003 to the current event, with great numbers of women coming from all over the Hunter to Newcastle’s Fort Scratchley Multi Purpose Centre. She encouraged members to be active, vigilant and use their networking skills to support their Union. She urged them to take advantage of the Union’s extensive Professonal Development programs and special interest conferences throughout the year.

Pam Smith, Assistant Secretary and Women and Equity Committee Convenor, spoke of the Union’s campaign Hands Off Parental Leave giving the political background to the issue and the IEU’s participation with other unions to save paid parental leave – “and we did” said Pam.

Pam proudly stated; “Our members’ persistence, support, campaigning and our Union’s representation and networking with other unions across Australia has successfully swept this off the Turnbull government’s table. There were none of the mooted cuts to paid parental leave announced in the 2017 Budget. We will continue to be watchful and monitor any statements the Federal Government might make on this issue, which is so important to our members. The Union’s ‘Hands off Paid Parental Leave’ campaign has achieved a significant win for IEU members and other women and families throughout Australia.”

A good night was had by all.