Members seek paid cultural leave in Catholic schools
As part of Queensland Catholic school collective bargaining, commencing this year, members will be seeking changes to cultural leave provisions – to better capture and address the real needs and responsibilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members have considerable cultural obligations and require time away from the workplace to attend cultural ceremonies, including funerals. Representatives of Traditional Owner groups also have legislated responsibilities to attend and participate in cultural business.
Currently, the Queensland Catholic collective agreement contains a provision giving First Nations workers a right to access existing types of leave (i.e. annual leave, bereavement leave, carer’s leave or unpaid leave) for cultural purposes.
There is no current entitlement to paid cultural leave as such.
However, members have identified some limitations in this provision, including:
- There is no separate accrual function: the provision provides a way of accessing the same leave available to all staff.
- Available leave – for example, bereavement or carer’s leave – does not appropriately take into account the nature of kinship relationships and obligations.
- There is an inadequate quantity of leave provided for attendance at cultural ceremonies or sorry business, particularly when travel is taken into account.
- There is limited recognition of the obligations of First Nations workers involved in community organisation business, including Native Title matters.
Addressing the gap
Our union is seeking the establishment of paid cultural leave for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, separate from other existing forms of leave.
Member of IEUA-QNT’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) working group Joshua Waters (who works as an Education Officer: Indigenous Support in the Toowoomba Catholic Diocese) said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff should not have to deplete existing leave entitlements to meet their cultural responsibilities.
“Employer recognition of the significance and distinct nature of the cultural responsibilities of First Nations people would be a monumental step towards building/repairing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this country, and it would be a significant act of commitment to creating a better, more reconciled path to the future which can only be of benefit to all Australians,” Mr Waters said.
“This would be a step in the right direction to see, recognise, know, acknowledge and understand the needs of Indigenous people in our orkplaces through the creation and design of culturally rich, safe and responsive environments in order to create a better workspace and a better Australia for all.
“These additional incentives are the reinforcement of identity, self-worth and trust which boosts morale and productivity in the workplace as well as allows freedom of expression through generating a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture and its values among colleagues,” Mr Waters said.
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said employers must recognise the significant obligations some First Nations employees have to their communities.
“Members have made it clear that having a separate cultural leave provision would assist in supporting First Nations employees to carry out their responsibilities to their families, extended kin and communities.
“Our union will seek to ensure employers commit to recognising the nature of and need for a distinct cultural leave provision,” Mr Burke said.
Our union’s commitment to seeking such a provision is reflected in the endorsed Queensland Catholic Log of Claims, which can be read at www.qieu.asn.au/colb9
Read more about our union’s RAP at www.qieu.asn.au/rap