The AEU’s two new TAFE organisers, Carolyn Pearce and Monica Fly, are both well and truly TAFE insiders.
Carolyn started her Certificate III apprenticeship in 1991, began teaching in 2000, and took a full-time teaching position in 2010. “I completed three Certificate IVs, two diplomas and countless upgrades. I was also lucky enough to complete a Masters of Adult Education when the TAFEs paid for teachers to undertake the qualification.”
She got involved in the union early on and soon became AEU sub-branch president at Box Hill Institute. “I’m somewhat of a poster girl for lifelong learning, and education not being a linear pathway.”
Carolyn has big plans for her AEU role. “Ultimately, the role of TAFE Organiser is to make sure that the best possible capacity exists within our sub-branches. This means that reps, activists and members are connected to their fellow members, hold the skills and knowledge to be empowered to exercise their rights in the workplace, and are proud to be union.”
“With the changes in compliance and with audits, the teacher’s role has drastically changed.”
Monica Fly was teaching tertiary education in the US for nine years before moving to Australia where she began working at Victoria University and soon became the sub-branch rep. When the opportunity to become a TAFE organiser arose, Monica jumped at the chance.
She says the institutes she has been allocated are grateful to have someone who understands the complexities particular to TAFE. “I understand the teaching load, issues around teaching, workplans, and the interpretation of the agreements and how they are implemented.”
Monica believes we have some great teachers in Victoria right now, with a lot to offer students, but excessive workloads mean many are not able to offer their students the focus they could in the past.
“With the changes in compliance, the teacher’s role has drastically changed. There is a big emphasis on audits and quality assurance – whereas, 20 years ago you had your deliverables but you also had the time to personalise the curriculum and share your experiences. Now it’s pretty full on. There’s less time to prepare, less time for the work–life balance.”
“I’m really pleased to be part of making sure TAFE teachers’ voices are heard.”
Carolyn agrees. She is excited to be working with TAFE members. “I feel a real affinity with TAFE, having been a student and a teacher. I know the difference TAFE makes to students and the community. TAFE is the quiet achiever. I think we are on the verge of TAFE moving in a better direction, rebuilding the space it used to hold in education – and teachers are expert in ways to make this happen. I’m really pleased to be part of making sure TAFE teachers’ voices are heard.”
Both are well aware of the challenges, which begin with one word: funding.
“Teachers do an incredible job with very little,” says Carolyn. “The last couple of decades have seen massive reductions and stripping of funding. It’s time to get that funding back into the system.”
Workload issues have made staff retention a real issue, but Monica remains positive. “We’re working to get a better workplace agreement with more manageable workloads.” She is very clear on what she wants: “For TAFE teachers to be able to take their passion and share that passion with their students.”