Why have you invested yourself personally in this campaign?
I have a fundamental belief in the transformative power of public education and what it should mean for each individual child and the nation as a whole. I believe the quality of the education should not depend on the wealth of one’s parents, or where one lives.
Every child should be given every opportunity to achieve his/her very best, to be able to fully contribute to the sustainable and democratic development of society. This is really the key to creating a better world.
The worst case scenario?
The new Conservative Government does not proceed with the Gonski reforms. It maintains the current broken funding system, established in 2002, where the majority of federal funding goes to private schools.
A failure to fully implement this historic change in the way schools are resourced will have a profound impact on the education of the most disadvantaged children, denying them the resources they need.
How long have you been campaigning for the Gonski reform?
We have been campaigning actively since April 2010 when the Gonski review was commissioned by the government.
What kind of new programmes could be implemented with the extra funding?
For local schools, this extra money could be used for the following:
- New or better ways of teaching: working with literacy and numeracy specialists or more focus on tracking how kids are doing every day and putting in intensive effort where it’s needed
- More specialist programmes that benefit students: reading or maths remedial or extension activities for kids with special talents
- More teachers, teacher aides and specialist support staff: guidance counsellors, librarians, science laboratory technicians and language specialists who can deliver a huge range of curriculum, learning and support programmes
- Better resources and equipment: smart boards, computers, iPads and tablets that can capitalise on the National Broadband Network
- New strategies and resources to tackle bullying and help teachers get on top of behaviour management
What is your assessment of the campaign so far?
We are very proud of this campaign. It has had a huge impact and a lot of visibility. The issue has widely penetrated into the public opinion; it is being reflected in daily columns and attracts huge media coverage. But we don’t want history to record that we ran a good campaign. We want history to record that we won.
What is a ‘normal day’ for you?
Depending on the intensity of the campaign period, my day could start with an early morning check of all the media followed by media commentary; visits and meetings with AEU affiliates, politicians and other stakeholders; community rallies; media interviews; evening functions… During the last month, I took about 25 flights. Some weeks I was in a different city in a different state every day.
What would be the cost of inaction?
Public schools would receive AUD$390 million less in funding in 2014 if the Australian federal and state governments fail to put in place the Gonski school funding reforms by the beginning of next year. This cut would be equivalent to more than 3,000 teaching positions, according to recent budget analysis by AEU.
How are the Gonski reforms closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage?
For the first time, schools will receive funding for each indigenous student they enrol. The higher the level of concentration of indigenous, the higher the level of funding. That will allow the adoption of specific strategies that benefit Indigenous students, whether they are in metropolitan, rural or remote settings.
How was the AEU involved in the Gonski review?
The AEU was not involved in the creation of the review itself, other than lobbying for it to happen. We subsequently became heavily involved and organised parents, teachers and principals in public schools across the country to work together on submissions to the review. In total, 6,200 of the 7,000 submissions that were made came through our campaign, I give a Gonski.
If the reform passes, how will the money be spent?
The funding will come from both the Federal and State Governments. The amounts that schools will receive will vary, depending on the needs of the students. Schools that have lots of disadvantaged students, are smaller in size, or are in regional and remote locations – will get significantly more.