Aboriginal unionists and the Torres Strait Islander emphasize the need for collegial and professional support in public education

Australian Education Union (AEU) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members experience little or no collegial and professional support from employers throughout the public education system. Instead, they take the opportunity to meet other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers and workers in the education and training industries. Many of these possibilities are offered by the AEU.

This was one of the results of a recent national survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of the AEU about their perceptions and experiences of racism in the workplace.

The need for the survey was borne out by the Yalukit Yulendj, the National Aboriginal Education Committee and Torres Strait Islander of the AEU. This was in response to numerous reports from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of their direct and indirect experiences of racism in the workplace. AEU had also noted that there was no national data focusing specifically on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education workers.

Direct and indirect experiences with racism in the workplace

In total, 399 or 16 percent of the AEU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members responded to the survey, which collected evidence of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in Australia perceive racism in their workplaces and around the world and experience the system in a broader sense.

The survey aimed to assess members' perceptions and experiences of the extent to which racism manifests itself in the following interrelated workplace contexts and situations:

  • Workplace – perceptions and experiences in the current workplace
  • Professional – Perceptions and experiences of professional support and structures
  • Personal – perceptions and experiences of personal events and effects
  • Colleagues – Perceptions and experiences of events in colleagues and effects
  • Systems – perceptions and experiences of system reactivity

Demand for systemic stability and support

A key finding from the survey is that most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators feel welcome and respected in most workplaces, but not ALL Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators do so. One of the reasons for this is the lack of stable and consistent systemic support for Aboriginal programs and staff and the Torres Strait Islander.

While there are a number of political commitments and programs in the public education system to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders at one point in time, implementation is not systematically embedded. Rather, the implementation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and training policies largely depends on the circumstances, individual personalities, particular locations, and the individual commitment of those who hold paid leadership / leadership positions.

Effects of the AEU

In many states and territories, the AEU, its branches and associated agencies provide the necessary assistance. Indeed, the AEU is one of the few organizations in the education sector that regularly brings together groups of teachers, school principals, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educational support professionals for professional and collegial discussions.

The AEU is a national entity that is organized and heard, stated Merv King, a Waanyi Husband and member of the AEU-affiliated Queensland Teachers' Union. “Since joining, I have had the opportunity to share my views and concerns about how we can improve employment conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in education. For all employees in education. And results can occur. It can really happen through the unions. "

A recent example of this was in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. When King realized that there was very little government policy regarding the status of vulnerable workers, he expressed his concern to union organizers at the state and federal levels. The union leadership responded by raising these concerns at the highest levels of government and the problem was quickly resolved.

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