Education means everything to me. I have always wanted to be a teacher. In fact, from the age of eight I even had all the children in the neighbourhood, including my reluctant brother, lined up and sitting at little tables and chairs; setting them school work and then with me as the teacher, marking each of their correct answers with a tick. My passion for helping others has never diminished.
When I wanted to re-enter the teaching profession in 1988, I went back into the largely unregulated area of adult literacy and numeracy teaching in the TAFE sector; mainly because Education Queensland did not generally re-engage married women. However, today, adult literacy and learning support is a highly valued and respected teaching discipline within the TAFE sector. In my teaching role over a period of more than 25 years, I have witnessed firsthand the tremendous difference that second chance education makes to a person’s life. For me, it did not matter whether the context for learning was in a local high school, in a program designed to re-engage learners who were at the risk of dropping out, or in the workplace helping meatworkers develop procedures or in a prison helping students develop basic reading and writing and maths skills.
My philosophy of education was that every learner deserved another chance and in my classroom it was my job to provide the instruction and materials that met the goals, needs and interests of the students. I have had the privilege of helping prisoners to get an education, as well as supporting students in vocational courses to bridge the gap between their initial skill level and meeting the required level of competence. I have spent 15 years delivering and coordinating standalone literacy programs, with the support of many fantastic volunteer tutors, to assist students get to a Year 10 standard in Maths and English. This has only happened because the Governments have been committed to funding TAFE programs.
Sadly in recent times, the TAFE sector has been and is still struggling as a result of the pressures being placed on the system especially over the last five years. The pressure to survive each round of funding cuts, the loss of teaching staff, and the loss of courses have put a strain on the educational system. It was truly getting to a point where I honestly believed that the TAFE sector in Queensland would not survive. Funding cuts became particularly savage during the reign of the Campbell Newman State Government. My local TAFE, TAFE Queensland North, is still struggling with the legacy of those funding cuts and a continuing shortfall in terms of revenue. If the TAFE sector continues to suffer further cuts, it may mean that the sector will further decline and continue to lose teachers. I want the TAFE sector to keep moving forward with the process of recovery and I ask all members of the union and the community to support higher education. Anything less would be a significant loss of skills to individuals and our communities.
All union members and delegates in the Together Union must continue to stand up ‘together’ for our sector because every citizen has a right to a fair and equitable education and further training. If we do not protect this right, then the opportunities for so many individuals will be diminished. This has already occurred because our sector has been severely impacted by savage funding cuts. We are slowly trying to recover our funding and programs. As a community, we must all be concerned about the effect of further funding cuts expected from the policies of the LNP Federal Government if they are re-elected.
As I reflect on the past and present, I passionately believe that it has been a privilege for me to work in the TAFE sector in my role as a teacher. I have been able to contribute to the education and training of many individual students. It would not be fair of me to single out any particular person or experience but I will never forget each of these students and their stories. More importantly, I know that the opportunity of coming to TAFE for many learners has made a significant impact upon their lives and their community.