Schools Greatness thrust upon them

  • By Louise Swinn
  • This article was published more than 9 months ago.
  • 3 Oct 2023
Rebecca Rhodes (left) and Daniella Pino. Photos: Meredith O'Shea

Two members initially reluctant to take up AEU rep roles have more than met the challenge. These superstars speak to LOUISE SWINN.

Daniella Pino is a Grade 5 classroom teacher at Broadmeadows Primary School, and AEU rep since 2021. “It was kind of thrust upon me,” Daniella says. “I was very reluctant at first because I didn’t know what was involved.”

After attending the AEU Reps Conference and completing Level 1 reps training, Daniella has well and truly found her footing. Working with a principal committed to the new school agreement made the development of a solid time in lieu model much easier.

“Before the ruling with the Fair Work Commission, our principal said that we would follow exactly what the VGSA says,” despite the conflicting advice offered by the Department of Education at the time. “Our principal worked really well with us, looking at the time fractions and when we’re able to look at 100% time and 50% time, and we calculated that before we went on camp,” says Daniella.

“It’s about being part of a united front.”

Daniella Pino

The sub-branch had been inactive but that’s changing. “I’m taking new skills I’ve learned into the consultation process – tips and tricks from AEU training and from talking to people from other schools where the sub-branch is getting active again.”

Daniella has recently signed up some new members, including graduates and staff coming back from leave. “It’s about being part of a united front. Our sub-branch meetings have an open forum. It’s nice for everyone to have a personal interest in what we’re doing. We can all be part of it together.” When it comes to recruiting new members, she says “it is that unity that pushes people over the line”.

For Rosebud Secondary School English teacher Rebecca Rhodes, the notion of a women’s officer initially seemed strange. “I was asked to be women’s officer and I thought: ‘Why? It’s a pink industry – women make up three-quarters of the workforce.’ But then I realised, for starters, that’s not reflected proportionally in leadership positions, where it’s many more men – versus ES, where it is significantly more women.”

Rebecca also looked at the statistics around domestic workload. “Women have two-thirds of the housework responsibilities, and much more of the mental load. Women have to take a step back in their careers when having children and then, when they return to work, evidence shows they do most of the child drop-offs and pick-ups, and are more likely to look after any disabled and elderly family members as well.”

“Women have two-thirds of the housework responsibilities, and much more of the household mental load.”

Rebecca Rhodes

She takes her role as women’s officer seriously. “It’s primarily about flexibility and making teaching a profession where women can pursue their career and pursue leadership roles. I’m in that boat myself – I graduated in the top 13% of the state and I spent four years at Melbourne Uni and then, when I had kids, suddenly it’s hard juggling kids and work.”

Women need strong role models, Rebecca says. Having a women’s officer who understands the realities as well as the nuances around gender issues helps everybody in the workplace.

“More men are also working from home now, picking up and dropping off the kids, and learning their kids’ schedules,” she says. “Maybe COVID is the great equaliser!”

Rebecca gives a presentation to other schools where she talks about the importance of looking at things through a gendered lens. She observes that the women in the audience always nod along. “They tell me: I really felt seen when you said that!”

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