IEU National Conference 2015 – Part One

IEU National Conference 2015 – Part One

So, the ‘love-in’. I’d been hearing about this since the start of the year, when I started my new job as an IEU Organiser. All the officers from all the branches of the IEU (SA, QLD/NT, VIC/TAS, NSW/ACT, WA) all headed down to the RACV Resort in Torquay to take part in a series of discussions and sessions about the work of the union.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. In my previous career as a teacher, I’ve been to plenty of different conferences – Apple Conferences, EdTech Conferences, Writing, School Leadership and so on. As a doctoral students, there had been lots of other conferences about citizenship and education and postgraduate study, but, in some ways, this was the first non-educational conference that I had ever attended – it was a purely professional event.

Needless to say, the social side of things was nothing short of excellent. That’s not really germane to this post, so I’ll leave it there, having only mentioned that it was good to have a chance to speak with fellow organisers from across Australia. The connections are important for a variety of reasons.

What I was really pleased about was the quality of the presentations that were offered – and, indeed, the range of them too. Although I was disappointed that Julian Burnside could not make the conference, his replacement, Asher Hirsch from the Refugee Council of Australia was excellent.

So, to kick off the conference, we heard from Chris Watt, Federal Secretary. Chris outlined some of the ways that changes in membership were affecting the union – the big takeaway for me was that the number of schools wasn’t really increasing, but the number of teachers in independent schools were – in other words, schools were getting bigger – and that means that we must continue to drive to get members amongst these large independent schools in both teachers and support staff – because that is an area of specific weakness.

Ged Kearney from the ACTU then spoke about the ‘Build a better future’ campaign, which I found really interesting because it was all about the build up to the next federal election and, crucially, I think – beyond the election. The relationship between the IEU and the ALP is more complex than most people think. There were lots of interesting ideas here – mostly about creative and powerful ways of engaging activists, as well as focusing on key areas, rather than broad brush approach that covers a lot of different issues and ground. There was also a lot of use of ‘gamifying’ union activism via the One Term Team, whereby activists get points by undertaking certain actions.

This was followed up by discussions led by QCU and Vic Trades Hall – I’ll talk about them in Part 2.