The IEU recently honoured Esther O’Brien with a 30 year membership badge. Esther has worked at the same school, St Clare’s College in Canberra, throughout her career, teaching Maths and Studies of Religion.
Esther and her husband Gavin were among the first to join the Independent Schools Staff Association (ISSA) ACT Inc that eventually evolved into the IEU.
The ACT Catholic Schools Staff Association was founded in July 1978 (with union dues of $5 a year). This became ISSA in 1979, with 200 members. ISSA became part of the IEU in 2003.
Esther migrated from the Philippines and said she was surprised to find a developed country like Australia had lesser rights and conditions compared to her home country.
“I already had maternity leave with pay in the Philippines and I was shocked it wasn’t offered here. I went into the Catholic Education Office and said ‘do you want all your teachers to be spinsters or have no children’?”
She said the CEO had trouble acknowledging her 16 years experience in Catholic schools and Masters degree in School Administration and Supervision from St Louis University in the Northern Philippines. She has since completed a graduate diploma in Religious Education (Signadou Campus) ACT to keep her skills up to date.
Esther has never hesitated supporting the Union over the decades.
“It’s always good to be part of the Union, supporting other staff and being supported by them,” Esther said.