Every workplace deserves a committed Sub-Branch Secretary

Gaye Rose, Sub-Branch Secretary at Mitcham Girls High School, reflects on her time in the role, as well as the need for schools to release time for members to engage in union business. 

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In June 2022 our then Sub-Branch Secretary (SBS) won a position at another school. Following this, I was delighted to be nominated and appointed to the role at Mitcham Girls High School (MGHS). 

With over 20 years’ experience in both teaching and leadership positions I felt I had a great deal to offer. I have always been an active member of the AEU and am forever grateful to the organisation for their continual support. Not only in a personal sense, but also via the incredible work we engage in to ensure public educators are given a fair go.  

My focus at MGHS centres around the support of both staff and student outcomes. I have taken on this role passionately and recognise the importance of being the local representative of our union. I want to listen, advise, seek solutions, and be an advocate for our members.  

My SBS training began with a comprehensive 2-day workshop run by the AEU’s Education Director. The knowledge and confidence I took away from this session has enabled me to give reliable support to our members. Returning to school I began the process of creating a Workplace Organising Committee (WOC), as well as organising a well-attended sub-branch meeting with guest speaker, Andrew Gohl, AEU Branch President. 

The news of our Principal resigning has also created an opportunity for me to be the AEU representative on the upcoming Principal panel. It is both a privilege and honour to be a part of this process. To ensure I execute my duties effectively I have attended four merit selection training sessions and have complemented this training with individual mentoring. In addition, I have also sought information from our members regarding the qualities and characteristics deemed to be vital for any successful candidate, which I have passed on to our Education Director. 

Of course, all this work is supported by the AEU Organiser for Mitcham, whose active encouragement enables me to perform my role with knowledge, skill, passion, and energy.  

It is so important to be proactive as an SBS, as it requires a lot of energy. And there is a challenge now to get our site to recognise the need for release time for the SBS, Personnel Advisory Committee (PAC) and Work, Health and Safety (WHS) representatives. I have met with our acting Principal to ask for consideration to formalise release time for these activities and have explained that this is an industrial entitlement. A further meeting of our sub-branch has passed a motion to formalise this request. 

There is a real buzz in the staffroom now, as word is spreading about the value and importance of joining the union movement. With regular meetings planned, an increase in site membership, greater transparency from our PAC and WHS representatives who represent the views of members, momentum is building. We have included “hot topics “in each meeting to encourage members to get active. 

I am confident that our sub-branch will go from strength to strength. Growing our membership has never been more important. With increased workload pressures placed on teachers, and admin time on the rise, our members demand to be heard. Online meetings do not adequately allow for the robust discussion of the issues our members feel strongly about. At our last sub-branch meeting we passed a motion to have meetings face-to-face, and that they include an opportunity for staff to raise issues for discussion. 

Despite the considerable pressures facing public educators across the state, I am rejuvenated by the prospects of a new round of enterprise bargaining.

"What a journey it has been so far! In just 4 months so much has happened. I find it difficult to adequately describe the incredible support I have and continue to receive from the AEU so that I can effectively perform my role."
I have an abundance of hope for a better future. It’s time to “Fix the Crisis", particularly considering the independent data recently published by UniSA. This powerful research shines a massive spotlight on the unsustainable workloads currently plaguing our profession.

Teachers are at breaking point. Let's do something about it.