Queensland Ed Unions Aim to Close Industrial Gap

Independent Education Union - Queensland and Northern Territory (IEU-QNT)

As NAIDOC Week 2024 celebrations are underway across Australia, the unions representing teachers and school leaders in both state and non-government Queensland schools are pleased to release landmark industrial guidelines to establish equitable benchmarks for the employment of First Nations education workers.

The Queensland Teachers' Union (QTU) and the Independent Education Union - Queensland and Northern Territory branch (IEU-QNT) said the guidelines were the culmination of years of work by First Nations union members and other stakeholders committed to closing the industrial gap experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and culture educators in schools.

First Languages Australia (FLA), the peak body committed to ensuring the future strength of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, worked closely with the unions to develop a suite of Industrial Guidelines suitable for employees delivering First Nations language and culture programs in schools.

IEU-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said for too long aspects of critical work being performed by First Nations teachers and school staff had gone unrecognised.

"Our union strongly supports the delivery of First Nations language and culture programs in schools," Mr Burke said.

"Unions have a key role to play in ensuring the contributions of First Nations education workers are recognised through appropriate, professional pay and conditions which reflect their crucial contribution to students' understanding of Australia's rich and diverse histories and cultures," Mr Burke said.

"Members of our union's Yubbah Action Group, the committee overseeing our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), initially sparked the idea for the establishment of industrial guidelines, after recognising there was an urgent need to ensure viable career pathways for First Nations education workers," he said.

QTU President Cresta Richardson said the guidelines were designed to give employers an understanding of what conditions of employment should be considered as necessary to support employees who are delivering First Nations languages and cultural education and give value to the work carried out.

"Such measures are essential to ensure that education systems recognise broader criteria of 'success' that reflect First Nations' frames of reference, rather than expecting First Nations people to conform with norms derived from colonial constructs," Ms Richardson said.

"If we can play a role in bringing about changes that see the full richness and complexity of First Nations histories, cultures and perspectives assigned greater value within schools and education systems, we can be satisfied that we have contributed to meaningful, sustained reconciliation across generations of education workers and students," she said.

FLA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Beau Williams said the IEU-QNT's Yubbah Action Group was to be commended on the launch of these guidelines.

"Led by the Yubbah Action Group, Queensland education unions, sector representatives, FLA and First Nations language educators have worked together on this resource, recognising the need for wages and conditions that align with the mammoth task of developing and delivering a school language program," Mr Williams said.

"The guidelines are a practical tool for principals, language educators, and education authorities to establish appropriate employment contracts and collective agreements.

"It has been an honour to work together to develop this vital resource which we hope will be used and adapted in each jurisdiction to benefit language educators nationally," he said.

Stakeholders involved in the development of the Industrial Guidelines for Employees Delivering First Nations Language and Cultural Education Programs include IEU-QNT, QTU, FLA, United Workers' Union (UWU), Queensland Department of Education, Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee, Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) and Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ).

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