Empowering our beginning educators
IEU member Clare Gilliland is one of our union’s active staff reps and is approaching her last year as part of our beginning educators’ network (BEnet).
Clare originally trained and worked as a research scientist before starting her teaching career.
“A graduate diploma [in teaching] seemed like a great way to continue to be involved in science, and also a chance to grow professionally,” she said.
Clare first joined our union as an associate member while studying and has been an IEU staff rep at her school since 2017.
“I wanted to be part of our union because I value the work of unions; we are stronger together and being part of something bigger than yourself…keeps me grounded,” she said.
“I wanted to be an IEU staff rep because I respected the staff reps at my school and I wanted to help them.
“They worked incredibly hard during our last collective bargaining negotiations, keeping staff informed and supported and reminding us why we are union.
“As a result, they were recognised with the John (Max) MacDermott Award [in 2016] and I wanted to make sure they were supported in continuing their work.
What does the role of staff rep involve?
“I love the diversity of being a staff rep – whether it’s recruiting new members, investigating and keeping staff informed about issues, surveying members on how changes to legislative requirements are impacting them day-to-day, rallying members, or supporting members when they have industrial concerns,” explained Clare.
“To be a staff rep you need the ability to effectively communicate across multiple platforms to a diverse range of people, as well as be sympathetic, passionate about our union and willing to ask questions when no-one else will.”
Clare said being active is especially empowering for newer members of our union.
“Firstly, you tap into the collective wisdom of our union – you learn your rights, our history and the value of our union in your life and the lives of every employee.
“Secondly, our union teaches you how to use your voice effectively.
“Finally, you have a support network like no other.
“Being an active union member gets you known as someone to be taken seriously and who takes our union seriously.”
Becoming an active member
Clare explained the easiest way to become a more active member is to simply ask and do what needs to be done.
“Just ask – ask your staff reps if they need help sharing the workload or your Chapter’s IEU Organiser about professional development to help build your confidence in being a staff rep,” she said.
“Our union has plenty of work to do, and across a diverse range of roles, so you should be able to find something that suits your lifestyle and skills, or even helps build new skills.”
Clare and her Chapter have tackled the issue of insecure work in their workplace.
“We have supported a number of teachers and school officers who were on contracts to attain continuing positions,” she said.
“When the issue was raised as a concern, we arranged a meeting with anyone who might also be affected.
“We had a number of non-members join us at this point and we were able to support them directly.
“We helped draft letters to the principal detailing their position and requesting continuing positions.
“We continued to ask questions about the progress of the requests and were ultimately successful.”
Focusing on the future
Clare attended our union’s NexGen Conference in 2018 which brought together early career members to discuss the future of the teaching profession and our union.
“I walked away knowing I am right to be proud of our union and that I can make a difference by being active in our union,” said Clare.