In this wide-ranging interview, Kate Ambrose, Director of the Centre for Professional Learning and Maurie Mulheron, past NSW Teachers Federation President, go deep into the history of Local Schools, Local Decisions. This policy has defined the past decade of the NSW public school system, devolving the structure of the state-wide system with detrimental effects on every school and classroom in the state. Kate and Maurie discuss the policy decisions that led to the implementation of Local Schools, Local Decisions and the ongoing ramifications on the public school system in NSW.
Subject: Community engagement
Introduction to the Special Edition
Wayne Sawyer is Emeritus Professor at Western Sydney University where he remains an active researcher. He began working with the MeE Framework with the Motivation and Engagement of Boys project in 2004 and continued this work in Engaging Middle Years Boys in Rural Educational Settings, Teachers for a Fair Go and Schooling for a Fair Go. As with other researchers on the program, he has published widely on this work, and presented findings through national and international presentations. In this introduction, Wayne outlines the scope and structure of the edition and goes to the significance of the individual projects for teachers and students and the overall program for NSW public education.
The Special Edition
This issue of the Journal of Professional Learning is a Special Edition focused on the work of the Fair Go (FG) research program at Western Sydney University. The Fair Go research program is focused on pedagogy and engagement in low-SES schools through working with teachers on incorporating collaborative action research into their own practice. Fundamental to all of the research projects in which the overall Fair Go program has been involved are the principles or contexts of:
• pedagogy and engagement
• low-SES school communities
• practitioner action research
We believe that the profession is enriched when teachers see themselves as generating, as well as delivering, knowledge as researchers, and to this end, we see the taking on of a ‘researchly disposition’ (Lingard & Renshaw, 2010) by teachers as fundamental to the work of the program.
Fair Go reaches its 21st birthday in 2021 and this Special Edition is helping to mark that milestone. The history of the overall program through its various specific projects is told in the article by Katina Zammit.
Many schools in Western Sydney and rural NSW have worked with the Fair Go program. Apart from the NSW Teachers Federation, numerous professional and academic organisations in Australia and overseas have cited Fair Go as an exemplary student engagement initiative for low-SES schools, including: Learning Difficulties Australia, Education Services Australia, Australian Council of TESOL Associations, Primary English Teaching Association Australia, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and University of Toronto’s Centre for Leadership & Diversity. Fair Go has informed government policy around improving schooling outcomes in varied ways, such as being used as an exemplar program by, for example, the Departments of Education in NSW and Victoria, and in the evaluation of the Bridges to Higher Education program.
In 2011 the NSW Department of Education (The Department) reported Fair Go as ‘informing the system, school leaders and other teachers about different ways to encourage and support teachers to improve their classroom practices and student engagement’, and subsequently used FG in professional development material for hundreds of teachers. The Department’s paper on ‘Research underpinning the reforms’ in reference to the Commonwealth/States National Partnership on ‘Low SES School Communities’ traced a series of Fair Go projects since 2002, referencing its model of engagement as
showing ‘clear signs that (the relevant) changes to classroom teaching practices encouraged greater and extended interest in learning’. Fair Go was again featured in a cross-sectoral paper on the research base for the Low-SES National Partnership’s 2014 impact evaluation. This testifies to the program’s impact on the thinking of education authorities at high levels in Australia.
The Fair Go program developed in its early years an engagement framework through which to research pedagogy and engagement, and to this was later added an arm devoted to motivation (thanks to a collaboration with Professor Andrew Martin, now of UNSW). The Motivation and Engagement (MeE) Framework is discussed in the article by Geoff Munns in this edition and is referred to by the authors of the other articles.
Authors of the articles in the Special Edition have each been involved with the program in some way over these 21 years, either as academics, as postgraduate students focusing on Fair Go work in the relevant schools, as Principals in Fair Go schools, or, particularly, as teachers in individual Fair Go research projects such as School is For Me, Teachers for a Fair Go, Fair Go from the Get Go and Schooling for a Fair Go. Introductions to each article point to the background of the author and particular projects out of which the article arose. Of course, a number of other teachers and Principals have also been involved in a number of the projects listed in Katina’s history. In all, teachers in almost 90 schools in Western Sydney and rural NSW have taken part in various projects within the Fair Go research program.
Fair Go has always had a connection with the NSW Teachers Federation. Current Federation Officers have been researchers on individual projects. In 2014, the Federation co-hosted the Equity! Now More Than Ever conference in which teachers in the Schooling for a Fair Go project reported on their work and the JPL has published a number of articles in previous editions coming out of Fair Go projects. Thus, we would like to acknowledge the union for its strong support of this Special Edition, as well as for more general support of Fair Go over the past 21 years.
Lingard, B., & Renshaw, P. (2010). Teaching as a research-informed and research-informing profession. In A. Campbell & S. Groundwater-Smith (Eds.), Connecting inquiry and professional learning in education: international perspectives and practical solutions (pp. 26-39). Routledge.
Striking for their lives: Climate activists in the classroom
Mercurius Goldstein offers some reflections on why our students have become activists for the fight against climate change. He explains why teachers must ensure that our curriculum always includes discussions into such issues which directly affect the future of our students. . .
Here be activists
Conservative and reactionary political forces maintain, as an article of faith, that teachers, and public school teachers in particular, are subversive agents ever ready to imbue activism and revolutionary spirit among “impressionable” young minds. This is a frequently-pushed panic button for right-wing culture warriors, accompanied by broad-scale accusations of ‘indoctrination’, ‘brainwashing’ and, in recent years, the perverse and sinister charge of ‘grooming’.
A comprehensive corpus analysis of over 65,000 print media articles on education published between 1996-2020 provides a compelling survey of Australia’s unofficial national sport of ‘teacher-bashing’(Mockler, 2022), and is available from the Federation Library.
But what most media, and politically-driven portrayals of education, tend to ignore or downplay is the mere, but crucial, fact that teaching is a profession and that teachers are professionals charged with the delivery of a government-approved curriculum and its accompanying syllabuses, (which are in turn devised by qualified experts and authorities with specialist understanding grounded in an epistemology of realism). Such truths are not to be found in the rhetorical projections and shibboleths of the reactionary right.
If anything, the state institutional framework that resources and maintains public education (with greater degrees of care or neglect as governmental policies come and go, and defended most strongly by teacher unions) is the great counterweight to the panicked fantasies of conservative forces. For the countervailing charge has been made for decades among academia that education is not institutionally oriented to be a social-critical endeavour, and that the broad project of education affirms and maintains much if not all of the status quo (Zeigler, 1970; Connell, Ashenden, Kessler & Dowsett, 1982). From this we face a giant j’accuse that even as the project of public education aims for broader equality and fairness among the population, it offers no systemic critique of imperialist, colonialist, classist, racist, sexist, nor nationalist foundations of modern society.
Media and political portrayals also tend to overlook the sustained experience across many decades that teachers as a group evidence only slight variation in political voting patterns compared with the broader Australian electorate, and that a steady one-third or so of the profession tend to vote with conservative parties in state and federal elections – and overwhelmingly so when one includes the centre-right and what passes for the centre-left in Australia.
A recent key finding, from arch-conservative US think-tank the Heritage Foundation, is that a plurality of teachers would be categorised as political ‘moderates’, and that “[t]he average teacher response was consistently more moderate than that of the average liberal in the nationally representative sample. We find little evidence that a large percentage of teachers are systemically imposing a radical political agenda in K–12 classrooms” (Greene & Paul, 2021). Relatedly, a UK study of the longer-term political effects of schooling concluded that as an individual student spent more years in late high school, this correlated to a significantly higher likelihood that they would vote for the Conservative party later in life (Marshall, 2016).
Even so, there is a kind of poetic justice to conclude that the right may yet be half-right after all. For there remain still activists and subversives to be found in many classrooms – located among the young people sitting at their desks – also known as students.
There be unionists
In a recent Eric Pearson study grant report The #ClimateStrike movement and the future of unionism, I had the opportunity to research the key experiences and learnings of student activists in the #Climatestrike movement, their notions of collective action, participation, and organisation to achieve their goals. I also looked at the strategies through which the union movement, in general, and education unions, in particular, might remain visible, viable and prominent in the cause of climate justice for a stable and viable future for working people and the cause of public education (Goldstein, 2021, pp.10-11).
My research on this topic found that among young people engaged in climate activism there is a convergence of experiences with earlier protest movements – a commitment to collectivism over individualism, and a capacity for intergenerational partnership, within an emerging mass movement largely comprised of, and led by, women (ibid. pp.42-45).
In 2018, global media attention was drawn to Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish student activist protesting on the steps of her country’s parliament house with her Skolstrejk för klimatet sign when she was supposed to be in school. It is worth noting, however, that the student-led climate activist movement began to form as early as 2006, in our very own country, with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition developing school-based action templates among and between student activists (www.aycc.org.au). This cue was in turn picked up in the USA by the Rethinking Schools student movement who launched their own climate activist school-based organising kit in Portland, Oregon in 2016 (Goldstein, 2021, pp.17,39).
Focussing as it did on the implications of the emerging #Climatestrike events for the broader union movement, the report posed the question “whether our movement has a future without #ClimateStrike activists choosing to join our ranks as they begin their working lives over the years to come”. The report concluded that “[w]hen young people can experience the union movement as being tangibly linked to their future wellbeing and pursuit of a safe, stable global climate, they have a vector through which they can perceive purpose and relevance to joining and becoming active members of their union…” (Goldstein., 2021, pp.20,52).
Where be teachers?
But the #ClimateStrike report also offers a professional challenge to classroom practitioners and non-school based teachers 0alike: how should we properly and ethically undertake our professional duties in the context of a student population whose literal future survivability is at stake? For the world heads for global average temperatures in their lifetime most likely to exceed the 1.5°C above pre-industrial averages, and well into a perilous global range of 2°C+ by 2100 according to accepted international climate projections (IPCC, 2022).
My suggestion is that teachers as always should return to our curriculum and syllabus documents for guidance on how best to proceed. In doing so, we should remain mindful that curriculum is an ever-contested space that itself is subject to attempts at political interference which it is our collective professional duty to guard against.
On 24 December 2021, the then federal Education Minister Stuart Robert vetoed an Australian Research Council (ARC) recommendation for academic study into the very topic of my own report – climate activism amongst students (Hurst, 2021). A private member’s bill in the Senate (Faruqi, 2018) to amend the Act to remove ministerial veto of ARC grants was referred to a Senate Inquiry which reported on March 2022 and recommended that the Act not be so amended but called for an independent review of the ARC including its governance and research funding processes (EELC, 2022). As of July 2022, those powers still remain in the Australian Research Council Act of 2001.
Supporters of academic freedom and enquiry in education would be well advised to remain vigilant on government intervention in research grants and urge for repeal/replacement of ministerial “discretion” which amounts to political interference in the academic grants process.
All that said, it is…
“…hardly a new phenomenon whereby politicians have attempted to suppress topics of great importance to future generations by denying their teaching in schools. Across the decades whether the topic is evolution, civil rights, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, health education including sexuality, contraception, drugs, and communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, one rarely has to look far for a politician insisting that such matters are not to be brought to the attention of students…
…It is sadly all too easy to imagine a world in which children are denied education about their own physical and psychosocial development, their gender, cultural needs, health needs, and the health of the planet. What greater threat to children’s freedom could be the denial of knowledge on such critical matters to their future?
(Education Quarterly, Issue 1, 2022, pp.26, 27)
Thus, I argue that it falls to educators – teachers and principals – to ensure that the curriculum remains an edifice which promotes understanding, engagement, and enlightened criticism on matters of great consequence for children’s life trajectories, the whole of society, and for the ecosphere of which we are all part (ibid. p.27).
For these reasons, I urge specialists in all Key Learning Areas to scrutinise our respective syllabuses, to perceive the ways and means in which our pedagogical content knowledge (Gudmundsdottir & Shulman, 1987) relates to the climate activist projects that students themselves have undertaken on their own initiative.
For whether the realm is scientific, mathematical, geographical, historical, sociological, whether in literature, artistic, agricultural, industrial, health, and even sporting pursuits, there is much to be learned and taught from our current syllabuses to equip students with the knowledge they need to pursue a safe, stable global climate.
In doing so, teachers are supported by the cross-curriculum priority area of Sustainability embedded in the Australian Curriculum, which includes statements that cover the applicability of environmental content for every learning area (ACARA, 2022).
And for the many teachers whose educational careers and aspirations include dipping our professional toes into the pond of curriculum consultation and development for future syllabuses, there is considerable scope for ensuring the needs of the global biosphere and its concomitant role in sustaining our students, whose very lives and futures depend upon it, are given due priority.
The extent of economic and societal reorganisation that might be required to achieve all this remains where it has always been – in the hands of the rising generation. But their capacity to do so depends crucially on the readiness and willingness of those charged with their education to teach them that which will make it possible for them to assess their world and society, and to undertake such repairs as they find necessary.
The status quo is one that delivers our students a distinct prospect of environmental, and thus societal, collapse in their lifetime. Against that prospect, we must conclude that some enlightened subversion is warranted after all.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, (2022). Australian curriculum: Cross-curriculum priorities. Canberra: ACARA. Available from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/cross-curriculum-priorities/
Connell, R.W., D.J. Ashenden, S. Kessler and G.W. Dowsett. (1982). Making the Difference: Schools, Families and Social Division. Sydney, Allen & Unwin.
Education and Employment Legislation Committee (2022), Australian Research Council Amendment (Ensuring Research Independence) Bill 2018. Canberra: Australian Senate. https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/reportsen/024901/toc_pdf/AustralianResearchCouncilAmendment(EnsuringResearchIndependence)Bill2018.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf
Faruqi, M. (2018). Australian Research Council Amendment (Ensuring Research Independence) Bill 2018. Canberra, Parliament of Australia: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_LEGislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=s1150
Goldstein, M. (2021). Whose world? Our world!: The #ClimateStrike movement and the future of unionism. Sydney: NSW Teachers Federation. Available from https://cpl.nswtf.org.au/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2023/04/21016_Eric_Pearson_Report_By-Mercurius-Goldstein_4th.pdf
Goldstein, M. (2022). Political pawns in climate wars. Education Quarterly 1(1), 26-27. Sydney: NSW Teachers Federation.
Green, J., & Paul, J. (2021). Political Opinions of K–12 Teachers: Results from a Nationally Representative Survey. Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation. https://www.heritage.org/education/report/political-opinions-k-12-teachers-results-nationally-representative-survey
Gudmundsdottir, S., & Shulman, L. (1987). Pedagogical content knowledge in social studies. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 31(2), 59-70.
Hurst, D. (24 December 2021). Federal government’s Christmas Eve veto of research projects labelled ‘McCarthyism’. The Guardian Australia: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/dec/24/federal-governments-christmas-eve-veto-of-research-projects-labelled-mccarthyism
IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926
Marshall, J. (2016) Education and Voting Conservative: Evidence from a Major Schooling Reform in Great Britain. The Journal of Politics, 78(2), 382-395.
Mockler, N. (2022). Constructing Teacher Identities: How the Print Media Define and Represent Teachers and Their Work. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Zeigler, H. (1970). Education and the Status Quo. Comparative Education, 6(1), 19–36. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3518916
Mercurius Goldstein holds a Master of Education (Research) and Bachelor of Education (Hons I) from The University of Sydney, and a Diploma of Government from TAFE NSW. Mercurius is a high school teacher of languages (Japanese, Korean) and EAL/D who commenced teaching in 2007. Mercurius undertook a variety of roles in the Glen Innes Teachers Association between 2011-2018 including President, Secretary, Councillor, and Fed Rep at Glen Innes High School. Mercurius was elected a Country Organiser for NSW Teachers Federation in 2019 and has since worked in the Dubbo, Tamworth, and Newcastle regions.
Mercurius is author of the 2020 Eric Pearson Report entitled ‘Whose world? Our world! The #ClimateStrike movement and the future of unionism’.
A century of professional learning: Teachers Federation Library Centenary 2022
Mary Schmidt guides us through the history of the Federation Library that this year celebrated its centenary. She shares with us her knowledge of the items in the Treasures collection held by our library . . .
HISTORY OF THE TEACHERS FEDERATION LIBRARY
The Teachers Federation Library has a key role in supporting the work of the union. It has an established role in supporting the union’s campaigning on industrial and equity issues; the professional learning of members, and an emerging role in preserving the union’s cultural and heritage artefacts (NSW Teachers Federation, 2008, p. 51).
How the library was founded is a fascinating story and involves generosity, the dedication of many, and sustained support from the union and its members.
Origins of library 1890s
The foundation collection of the library belonged to a school inspector with the NSW Department of Public Instruction, David Cooper. For more than a decade (1890-1901) he was a district inspector in Goulburn. (“Tragic Death of Mr. D.J. Cooper, M.A.,” 1909). Library folklore, handed down over the last century, is that he travelled by horse and buggy visiting schools in the Goulburn district and always had some volumes from his personal collection of literature, history and professional learning resources to lend to isolated teachers.
David Cooper died suddenly while giving a speech at Fort Street School on November 12, 1909. He was 61 years of age (“Obituary: Sudden Death,” 1909).
David John Cooper was very highly regarded. At the unveiling of a monument to his memory at Waverley Cemetery on 12 November 1910, exactly one year after his death, the Under-Secretary for Education Mr. Peter Board, praised the late Principal Senior Inspector’s achievements, particularly his organization of the technical education system in NSW and the founding of the teachers’ library (“The Late Mr. D. J. Cooper,” 1910).
The Teachers Federation acquires Cooper Library
In May 1910, the Public School Teachers’ Association of New South Wales accepted the offer of the Cooper collection, from the Western and North-western Inspectorial Associations, on condition that the library be called “The Cooper Library” (“A Teachers’ Library,” 1910; “Teachers Association,” 1910).
The Public School Teachers’ Association of NSW was a founding Association of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation (Mitchell, 1975, p. 45). When the Teachers Federation was formed in 1918, the collection was transferred to the Federation. Consideration was given to the “installation of the Cooper Library, already the Federation property”, at a meeting of the Teachers’ Institute Sub-Committee in September 1920 (Berman, 1920, p. 296).
At the time of the Sub-committee’s deliberations in 1920, the Cooper Library was at Sydney Girls’ High School. The library was open on Friday evenings for books to be borrowed (“The Cooper Library,” 1910) but in 1921, when that school relocated from the Castlereagh Street premises, to its current location in Moore Park “the Committee directed the removal of the Cooper Library therefrom to the Federation Office” (“Teachers’ Institute Committee: Report to Council,” 1921, p. 15).
Official opening 1922
The Cooper Library, as the Teachers Federation Library was originally known, was officially opened on the 24 February 1922 at the Federation rooms (“A Pleasant Evening at the Cooper Library,” 1922),
12 O’Connell Street, Sydney (“Cooper Library,” 1922).
At the official opening, the chairman of the Library Committee, Mr. P. Bennett, presided in the unavoidable absence of Mr. Dash, the President. There were many distinguished guests. The Assistant Under-Secretary for Education Mr. Smith promoted the virtues of books and bookmen and pointed out that it was not sufficient for a good library to have books on the shelves to be looked at, they must be “well thumbed.” Mr. Inspector Finney echoed this sentiment stating that books “were nothing to him, but valuable only where they brought out and improved the mind and character of the individual who read them.” (“A Pleasant Evening at the Cooper Library”, 1922, p. 8).
To add to the festivities, Fisher Library at the University of Sydney, loaned a number of exhibits, including facsimiles of the Book of Kells and the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The late Mr Cooper was represented by two of his sons and a daughter, the last of whom declared the Library open (“A Pleasant Evening at the Cooper Library”, 1922, p. 8).
Growth of the library
The collection of the Cooper Library transferred to the Teachers Federation numbered some 300 volumes (Taylor, 1922). The first accession register lists the titles transferred, principally, history, English literature, philosophy and education texts (N.S.W.P.S.T.F. Cooper Library Accession Book: 1 – 10,000, n.d.).
The union applied considerable resources to get the books of the Cooper Library into the hands of teachers. From the beginning there were regular features in Education: The Official Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation listing the books and journals available from the library. The July and August 1922 issues published a list of the library’s holdings (“Author List of Books in the Cooper Library”, 1922, July 15; August 15).
The Cooper Library rules and regulations for 1922 included provision for a postal service. Federation paid the outwards postage, with the return postage paid by the borrower. The loan period was 14 days for city-based members. Country members could request an additional 14 days. There was a fine of one penny a day for each day a book was overdue (Bennett, 1922).
In August 1931, the Federation’s Executive made a special grant of £100 to build up a collection of Australiana. The collection numbered 6,000 volumes (Hancock, 1931). The move to O’Brien House, Young Street, Sydney, about October 1931, benefited the library, with new shelving and extras such as a clock and a carpet (Hastings, 1968).
In 1933, the Federation published a printed catalogue of the books and journals held by the library (Taylor, 1933) some 7,000 titles. Members could purchase this catalogue for 2 shillings at the counter (“Library Catalogue,” 1934).
“Federation has been forced to move five times owing to the growing pains of the Cooper Library,” claimed General Secretary Bill Hendry at the 1935 Annual Conference. The library had 8,420 books, (“Observations,” 1936, p. 102) having grown from 675 books in June 1922 (“Cooper Library: Report,” 1923).
In 1936 the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia made a gift of £100 worth of books in recognition of teachers’ services with school banking. This support continued for many years, well into the 1970s (“Gift to Cooper Library,” 1936). In 1968 a special grant of $2,000.00 was made by the Bank to commemorate the Federation’s move to Sussex Street (Hastings, 1968). In later years, the books purchased with these funds had an elaborate book plate.
1938 marked the completion of the Federation’s own building in Phillip Street, Sydney (“NSW Public School Teachers’ Federation,”1938, p. 7). The library was located at the rear portion of the 7th floor (“Federation House,” 1939).
Folklore handed down by former library staff, is that in the Phillip Street building, there were separate reading rooms for men and women. Early plans for a Teachers Building published in Education in September 1920, includes “as an irreducible minimum by way of conveniences, a Reading Room and Library; a common room for women members with retiring room; a smoke room extended into a billiard room with retiring room” (presumably for men), which lends substance to this (Berman, 1920, p. 296).
At the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation Annual Conference, held in December 1940, Miss Bocking of the Girls’ Mistresses Association, moved, and it was agreed to, that the name of the library be changed to Teachers’ Federation Library (“General Business,” 1941, p. 94), in recognition of its growth from small beginnings to become a significant part of the Federation’s activities (Hastings, 1968).
The Teachers Federation moved to 300 Sussex Street, Sydney in 1967, with a spacious library on the 2nd floor (NSW Teachers’ Federation, 1967, p. 4). The library occupied two-thirds of the second floor, adjacent to a lounge and reading room area. The photographer Max Dupain photographed the occasion (“Federation House,” 1967).
In the thirty years before the Federation’s move to Sussex Street, the library’s book stock increased to over 23,000 volumes, writes Valmai Hastings, Librarian (Hastings, 1968).
From the 1970s through to the mid-1980s the Promotion Reading List, advertised in the library column of the Federation’s journal, Education, and prepared by the library, was sought after by members. This publication listed texts which would assist members preparing for assessment for promotion.
In the 1960s and 1970s through its postal service, and by acquiring relevant texts, the library supported members who were upgrading their teaching qualifications, by studying externally at university. (“Federation Library,” 1979).
From the mid-1970s, the focus of the library gradually expanded to include support for the industrial and campaigning work of the union, as well as professional learning for members (Schmidt & Stanish, 2001; Fitzgerald, 2011, pp. 196-197; Doran, 2019, p. 280).
The NSWTF headquarters moved to Mary Street, Surry Hills in December 1998 (NSW Teachers Federation, 1999, p. 11) and the library’s location in close proximity to the Federation’s Centre for Professional Learning assists the library in understanding member’s professional learning needs and in delivering relevant services.
The library in 2022 has a stock of 14,500 physical items, mostly books (NSW Teachers Federation, 2022, p. 65).
Several prominent librarians have held the position of Librarian at the NSW Teachers Federation. The position was hotly contested from the very start. Among the librarians are:
A. Vernon Taylor, Librarian 1921-1933; 1935-1941
The Executive chose Mr. A. Vernon Taylor from Fisher Library, at the University of Sydney, as the first Librarian. Vernon Taylor was born on the Isle of Man and served as a Private in the A.I.F. in France during the First World War from 1916-1918. Under the A.I.F. Education Scheme, he attended a course in cataloguing at the Central Public Library, Portsmouth, prior to demobilisation. He was employed as a Librarian at Fisher Library, University of Sydney from 1920-1939 (University of Sydney, 2021). When the part-time appointment was announced at Council on 5 November 1921, some members opposed the appointment of an outsider (“Council Meeting,” 1921a, p. 18). The Assistants’ Association was disappointed that Mr. H.J. Munro, who had managed the collection in an honorary capacity for 8 years was overlooked by an applicant who was neither a Federation member nor a teacher (S.E.H., 1921).
At the Council meeting of 3 December 1921, Mr. Bendeich, of the Assistants’ Association moved “that the appointment be reviewed, a month’s notice given, and fresh applications be called.” Following a “heated discussion” the motion was lost after the President, Mr. Dash, stated that Council had authorised the Library Committee to make the appointment (“Council Meeting,” 1921b, p. 27).
The annual salary was £52, and initially Mr Taylor was required to attend each Friday from 7.30 pm until 9 pm and to undertake other duties as directed (“New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation,” 1921). By 1929, the Assistant Librarian, Miss Synnott attended all day until 5pm, and Mr Taylor, who was also employed at Fisher Library at the University of Sydney, attended the Cooper Library at 42 Bridge Street, every evening until 9 pm and on every Saturday morning (Acorn, 1929, p. 243).
But Librarian Taylor’s troubles were not over.
In 1933 Mr Taylor was given notice that his engagement with the Federation would be terminated (“N.S.W.P.S. Teachers’ Federation,” 1933, p. 36).
There were protests from the Isolated Teachers’ Association, the Assistants’ Association, the Cookery Teachers’ Association, the Infants’ Mistresses Association, and the Women Assistant Teachers’ Association, to no avail. The General Secretary advised that the termination of Mr. Taylor’s engagement had been carefully considered by the Executive and Council and was part of the reorganisation of the Federation office. (“N.S.W.P.S. Teachers’ Federation,” 1933, p. 39).
Wilma Radford (1912-2005), Librarian 1933-1935
From 56 applicants, the Executive and the President of the Library Committee chose Miss Wilma Radford, 21 years of age (a former university lecturer of mine) as the next Librarian at an annual salary of £200. She was employed from September 1933 (“N.S.W.P.S. Teachers’ Federation,” 1933, p. 36), and her resignation was accepted by the Council in April 1935 (“N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation: Council Meeting,” 1935, p. 227).
Miss Radford had a distinguished career. One of her many achievements was in 1968 when she was appointed Professor of Librarianship at the University of NSW, the first chair of librarianship in Australia (Jones & Radford, 2005).
Miss Wallace, the assistant librarian managed the library until Mr. Taylor’s reappointment (“Minutes of Executive Meeting,” 1935, p. 323). At the May 1935 Council meeting, it was moved by Mr. Murray, seconded by Miss Rose, and carried by 34 votes to 13 that the matter be referred back to Executive (who had endorsed the employment of another librarian), with a recommendation that Mr. Taylor be appointed (“Minutes of Adjourned Council Meeting,” 1935).
Librarian A. Vernon Taylor retired on 30 June 1941, (New South Wales Teachers’ Federation,1941) and a great debt is owed to him for his organisation of, and dedication to, the library.
Eric Richard (Dick) Edwards, Librarian 1941-1945
In 1937 the position of Assistant Librarian was advertised. The position was open only to male applicants 17-25 years of age. (“Positions Vacant,” 1937). Mr. Eric Richard (Dick) Edwards was appointed. (“Minutes of Council Meeting,” 1937, p. 432). From the pages of the Federation’s journal, Education, in which he is referred to as the Librarian from October 1941, it is apparent that he succeeded Mr. Taylor. He relinquished the Librarian position in October 1945, to setup in business (NSW Public School Teachers’ Federation, 1945, p. 20).
With a friend, Rod Shaw, he established, while still at the Federation, Barn on the Hill Press in 1939. This was re-named Edwards & Shaw in 1945. Both a printery and publisher, Edwards & Shaw’s customers included publishers, universities, architects, designers, artists, art galleries, the NSW Teachers’ Federation, and the NSW Teachers’ Federation Health Society (Stein, 1996). In 1994, Dick Edwards was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the Australian printing and publishing industry.
Dorothy Peake, Librarian 1954-1956
In the succeeding years a number of librarians were appointed, including Miss Dorothy Peake, who judging by the pages of Education, held the position for two years 1954-1956. Like Wilma Radford, she later became a prominent figure in Australian librarianship, becoming the foundation University Librarian of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and a pioneer in implementing automated systems and electronic networking of Australian Libraries (Maguire & Schmidmaier, 2015).
You will notice, at the end of this article, that Mary makes only a one sentence comment about her time as Federation Librarian. This is not enough acknowledgement for someone who has dedicated over forty years’ service to the Federation Library.
Hence the addendum below (written by Graeme Smart, Federation’s Deputy Librarian):
Mary Schmidt, Librarian 1975-present
Mary completed her Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at the University of NSW in 1973. After relatively short spells at the UNSW Law Library and Sydney Teachers College, she became Federation Librarian in 1975, succeeding Miss Valmai Hastings. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she already had a connection with the library; one of her lecturers in 1973 had been Professor Wilma Radford, the Federation Librarian 40 years earlier, between 1933 and 1935.
Library staff numbers have varied over the years, but in Mary’s early years, she was supported by a library technician and two library assistants; since 2015, the staff has comprised a Librarian (Mary) and a Deputy Librarian. From the mid-1980s, when her children were born, until 1999, Mary job-shared the Librarian position, after which she resumed the role full time.
Mary’s time at the Federation has coincided with the emergence of computer technology, which has transformed the storage and dissemination of information. Reflecting this change, the library has shifted its focus, becoming an information and research service in addition to performing its traditional role as a lender of books (NSW Teachers Federation, 1993, p. 77).
Mary has responded to the rapidity of change in the provision of library services in the twenty-first century with indefatigable enthusiasm and thoughtfulness. She is always looking to improve the relevance and quality of the library collection and ensuring that the information needs of Federation Officers, members and staff are met in a timely and appropriate fashion. At the same time, she has never lost sight of the importance of the union’s history and has overseen the preservation of a great variety of artefacts (banners, posters, photographs, documents, etc). But these are not hidden away; many are digitised and can be viewed on the library catalogue, and some are always on display in the library. Their accessibility ensures that the union’s history lives.
Although Mary would be the first to observe that the librarians, like the Federation itself, work in union, it cannot be denied that her own contribution to the Teachers Federation Library has been immeasurable – truly, a notable librarian.
OTHER TEACHER UNION LIBRARIES
Teacher union libraries were established in other Australian states.
1922 NSW Teachers Federation
It appears that the Cooper Library in 1922 was the first teacher union library established in Australia. If NSW was not the first, it was certainly a leader.
1924 State School Teachers’ Union (Tasmania)
The Daily Telegraph (Launceston) on 31.10.1924, reported that at a meeting of the Executive of the State School Teachers Union, “It was decided to institute a circulating library which would be available to members throughout the state” (“School Teachers’ Union,” 1924).
1929 South Australian Public Teachers’ Union
The Advertiser reported on 23 August 1929 that the “South Australian Public Teachers’ Union has established a fine library” and there are 500 volumes on the shelves (“Teachers’ Union Library,” 1929).
1938 Queensland Teachers’ Union
The Queensland Teachers’ Union officially opened its library on 1 July 1938.
Two officers from the Queensland Teachers’ Union visited the Teachers’ Federation Cooper Library in 1934 to assess its suitability as a model for a library for Queensland teachers. Their initial report back to the Queensland Teachers Union was that it was too expensive, particularly the postal service, but eventually in 1938 the Queensland Teachers Union did establish a library for members, which included a postal service (Spaull & Sullivan, 1989, p. 206).
To commemorate the Federation Library’s centenary in February this year, a special Friday Forum, Treasures, was held (on Friday, 18 February 2022 at Teachers Federation House) in order to display many of the Federation’s precious cultural and heritage artefacts. Volunteer guides, drawn from Federation Officers and staff, assisted visitors to find their way and with interpreting the heritage artefacts.
A growth area of the library’s work is the conservation, preservation and celebration of the union’s cultural and heritage artefacts. There are now nearly 600 Treasures, including badges, banners, medals, pictures, posters, objects and sculptures in the library’s Artworks Collection.
Images of the Treasures may be viewed on the library catalogue, by selecting the Artworks button on the main menu. https://library.nswtf.org.au/libero/WebOpac.cls
The library has a collection of over 300 posters in the Artworks Collection, stored archivally in plan cabinets. As display is inherently damaging to fragile originals, fine art reproductions, made from digitised originals, are provided for display throughout Federation House at Mary Street, Surry Hills, and in regional offices.
The library has a collection of over 30 historic NSW Teachers Federation banners. Rolled storage, on archival cylinders, is used to protect the larger banners. Smaller banners are stored flat in plan cabinets.
For the NSW Teachers Federation centenary in 2018, 14 bannerettes, made of silk, were created to highlight the historic sectional Associations, that once comprised the Federation.
The NSW Public School Cookery Teachers Association, which predated the Federation, being founded in 1912, was very active. The Association produced several successful cookery and domestic science books for pupils in public schools and assisted with raising funds for the war effort, Red Cross and other charitable institutions. The teachers involved also provided food for invalids during the 1919 influenza pandemic (“N.S.W. Public School Cookery Teachers’ Association,” 1919).
The library has many historic volumes, and still has books from the original Cooper collection (N.S.W.P.S.T.F. Cooper Library Accession Book: 1-10,000, n.d.). Many of the older books are quite worn and were rebound to extend their life, which lessens their value in dollar terms and their intrinsic value as artefacts. However, the founders of the library could take satisfaction in that the books that were in their care are ‘well thumbed’ as they intended.
The first book listed in the library’s accession register from the Cooper collection is a Primer of logic, by Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones, published London, 1905. The early librarians were thorough in their record keeping and this book is noted as missing in 1940, and not seen since.
However, the second book accessioned, The story of my life, by Helen Keller, published London, 1906, is still part of the library collection. Born in Alabama in the United States of America, Helen Keller was deaf, blind and mute at an early age and overcame these adversities to become a special educator and authored a number of works. This book includes several quality black and white plates, photographs of her as a child, and later with Alexander Graham Bell and Mark Twain. The stamp of the Cooper Library is on the title page and the volume is notated ‘No. 2” inside the front cover (Keller, 1906).
The library is fortunate to have several texts from the early 20th century by, and about, the work of Maria Montessori, a pioneer in the development of early childhood education. Her reforms are still instructive today and sought by Federation members. The Montessori principles and practice: A book for parents and teachers by E. P. Culverwell, 2nd edition, published London, in 1914, has many charming black and white plates featuring children, with captions such as “Putting the chair down quietly” (Culverwell, 1914, p. 225)
Sir Henry Parkes
Of all the historic volumes held by the library one of the most appreciated is Fifty years in the making of Australian history by Sir Henry Parkes, five times Premier of NSW between 1872 and 1891. The book was published in London by Longmans, Green in 1892 (Parkes, 1892).
This book is significant as it contains The Tenterfield Oration, seen as the first appeal to the public rather than politicians for a federation of Australian states.
Also in this book, Henry Parkes outlines the struggles to achieve the passing of the Public Instruction Act of 1880 through the NSW Parliament, an Act which established the Department of Public Instruction, and made for compulsory education for children 6-14 years.
Researchers and historians are aided by having an eBook version freely available from the University of Sydneyi minus the portraits, and a digital facsimile, with portraits, from the National Library of Australiaii but there is something compelling and inspirational in having the original text.
All of these texts are available for viewing in the library.
The library works to preserve the union’s cultural heritage through the TROVE partnership with the National Library of Australia. In 2017, with the assistance of the State Library of NSW, the library commenced digitisation of the Federation’s publication, Education, which has been in publication since 1919. The archive from 1919 – 2019 is available on TROVE, the National Library of Australia’s platform for digital resources. This preserves this unique and fragile resource, brings it to an international audience, and makes accessible the rich history contained within its pages (Education, 1919-).
In 2019, five grandsons and one great-great-grandson of Ebenezer Dash, the Federation’s second President, donated a collection of photographs, illuminated addresses, letters, scrap books and other items that belonged to Ebenezer Dash. These items which date from 1892, are on permanent display in the Dash Archive in the library (Coomber, 2019).
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal
In 2013, Susie Preston, the daughter of the Federation’s former President, Dr Eric Pearson, donated her father’s Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, awarded (posthumously) to Dr. Eric Pearson, in 1977, for service to the trade union movement. (Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, 1977)
Federation members and members of the general public have shown trust in the Federation and the library to care for and appreciate their precious artefacts. Perhaps it’s not just the artefacts that comprise the Treasure, but also the trust transferred with them.
Mary Schmidt has been the Federation’s Librarian since 1975.
My thanks to Mr. Graeme Smart, the Federation’s Deputy Librarian, for extensive research support.
i Parkes, H. (1892). Fifty years in the making of Australian history. Sydney: University of Sydney Library, Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service, 2000. Digital edition. https://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit/pdf/fed0024.pdf
ii Parkes, H. (1892). Fifty years in the making of Australian history. Longman Green. National Library of Australia digitised item. Facsimile edition. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-3578896/view?partId=nla.obj-4109097#page/n58/mode/1up
Find out more about the Cooper Library and the Teachers Federation Library in the library’s catalogue https://library.nswtf.org.au/libero/WebOpac.cls
Acorn. (1929, May 15). Federation library. Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 10(7), 243-244. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-531758096/view?partId=nla.obj-531808477#page/n28/mode/1up
Author list of books in the Cooper Library [A-L]. (1922, July 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(9),25-27. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024841/view?partId=nla.obj-572063636#page/n26/mode/1up
Author list of books in the Cooper Library [L-Y]. (1922, August 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(10),30-31. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024864/view?partId=nla.obj-572070425#page/n39/mode/1up
Bennett, P. J. (1922, June 15). Cooper Library: Rules and regulations. Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(8), 6. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024829/view?partId=nla.obj-572056244#page/n7/mode/1up
Berman, F. (1920, September 15). Teachers’ Institute: Sub-committee’s progress report. Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 1(11), 294-296. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530069878/view?partId=nla.obj-530115416#page/n23/mode/1up
Coomber, S. (2019, March 13). Dash of history to be preserved in library. Education. https://news.nswtf.org.au/blog/news/2019/03/dash-history-be-preserved-library
The Cooper Library. (1910, July 26). Sydney Morning Herald, 3. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/15166830#
Cooper Library. (1922, February 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(4), 9. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024745/view?partId=nla.obj-572040988#page/n10/mode/1up
Cooper Library: Report for year ending July 31st, 1923. (1923, September 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 4(11), 5. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530314417/view?partId=nla.obj-530397916#page/n6/mode/1up
Council meeting. (1921a, November 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(1), 18-19. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024685/view?partId=nla.obj-572027679#page/n19/mode/1up
Council meeting. (1921b, December 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(2), 26-27. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024700/view?partId=nla.obj-572033432#page/n27/mode/1up
Culverwell, E. P. (1914). The Montessori principles and practice: A book for parents and teachers (2nd ed.). G. Bell & Sons.
Doran, S. (2019). On the voices: 100 years of women activists for public education. John Dixon [for NSW Teachers Federation].
Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation. (1919-). https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-525471579
Federation House: A two purpose building designed to accommodate club premises and commercial offices. (1939, March 1). Decoration and Glass: A Journal for Architects, Builders and Decorators, 4(10), 10-15. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-374111330/view?partId=nla.obj-374563077#page/n11/mode/1up
Federation House. (1967, November 29). Education: Journal of the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation, 48(20), 167. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-710434295/view?partId=nla.obj-710471049#page/n6/mode/1up
Federation Library: Services to members. (1979, February 14). Education: Journal of the NSW Teachers’ Federation, 60(2), 41. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-721805454/view?partId=nla.obj-721866279#page/n16/mode/1up
Fitzgerald, D. (2011). Teachers and their times: History and the Teachers Federation. University of New South Wales Press.
General business: Various matters debated during later hours of conference. (1941, January 28). Education: Official Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 22(3), 87-96. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-531917337/view?partId=nla.obj-531943712#page/n24/m ode/1up
Gift to Cooper Library. (1936, August 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 17(10), 319. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-531758814/view?partId=nla.obj-531886953#page/n8/mode/1up
Hancock, H. S. (1931, September 15). Cooper Library. Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 12(11), 355. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-533182648/view?partId=nla.obj-533274908#page/n22/mode/1up
Hastings, V. (1968, December 4). Federation library. Education: Journal of the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation, 49(20), viii. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-717087475/view?partId=nla.obj-717129136#page/n10/mode/1up
Jones, D. J. & Radford, N. A. (2005). Radford, Wilma (1912-2005). Obituaries Australia. https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/radford-wilma-14113
Keller, H. (1906). The story of my life: With her letters (1887-1901) and a supplementary account of her education, including passages from the reports and letters of her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan by John Albert Macy. Hodder & Stoughton.
The late Mr. D. J. Cooper: Memorial at Waverley. (1910, November 14). Sydney Morning Herald, 8. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/15207658#
Library catalogue. (1934, November 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 16(3), 25. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530448660/view?partId=nla.obj-530521837#page/n26/mode/1up
Maguire, C. & Schmidmaier, D. (2015). Dorothy Peake 1930-2014: Inspirational librarian, visionary leader, artist. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 46(2), 135-137. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00048623.2015.1040149
Minutes of adjourned Council meeting, held at 9 a.m., Saturday, 25th May, in the Assembly Hall, Education Department. (1935, June 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 16(8), 269. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530448802/view?partId=nla.obj-530561706#page/n38/mode/1up
Minutes of Council meeting, held in Science House, Gloucester Street, on Saturday, October 9, at 9 a. m. (1937, November 15). Education: Official Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 19(1), 432-434. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-534083414/view?partId=nla.obj-534108688#page/n33/mode/1up
Minutes of Executive meeting held in the Federation Club Rooms, O’Brien House, July 26, 1935. (1935, August 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 16(10), 323-326, 340-341. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530448844/view?partId=nla.obj-530569891#page/n12/mode/1up
Mitchell, B. (1975). Teachers, education and politics: A history of organizations of public school teachers in New South Wales. University of Queensland Press.
New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation. (1921, September 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 2(11), 32. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-571297941/view?partId=nla.obj-571303404#page/n37/mode/1up
N.S.W. Public School Cookery Teachers’ Association. (1919, December 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 1(2), 42. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530069699/view?partId=nla.obj-530077740#page/n19/mode/1up
NSW Public School Teachers’ Federation. (1938). Annual report and agenda paper.
NSW Public School Teachers’ Federation. (1941, June 7). Report of Library Investigation Committee to Council on Saturday 7th June 1941. NSW Teachers Federation Documents collection (No. 502), Sydney, NSW.
NSW Public School Teachers’ Federation. (1945). Annual report.
NSW Teachers’ Federation. (1967). Annual report.
NSW Teachers Federation. (1993). Annual report.
NSW Teachers’ Federation. (1999). Annual report.
NSW Teachers Federation. (2008). Annual report.
NSW Teachers Federation. (2022). Annual report.
N.S.W. Teachers’ Federation: Council meeting. (1935, May 6). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 16(7), 225-228. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530448781/view?partId=nla.obj-530555014#page/n26/mode/1up
N.S.W.P.S. Teachers’ Federation: Executive report of 22nd and 25th September to Council, 6th Oct. (1933, December 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 15(2), 36-39. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-530447190/view?partId=nla.obj-acce530469353#page/n5/mode/1up
N.S.W.P.S.T.F. Cooper Library accession book: 1 – 10,000. (n.d.).
Obituary: Sudden death of Mr. D. J. Cooper, M. A. (1909, November 17). Australian Town and Country Journal, 79(2076), 53. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/263710468?searchTerm=%22sudden%20death%20of%20mr.%20d.%20j.%20cooper%22
Observations. (1936, January 29). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 17(3), 102-103. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-531758653/view?partId=nla.obj-531831190#page/n39/mode/1up
Parkes, H. (1892). Fifty years in the making of Australian history. Longmans, Green.
A pleasant evening at the Cooper Library. (1922, March 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(5), 8-9. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024768/view?partId=nla.obj-572044490#page/n9/mode/1up
Positions vacant. (1937, July 17) Daily Telegraph [Sydney], 14.
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal. (1977). https://library.nswtf.org.au/libero/WebOpac.cls?VERSION=2&ACTION=DISPLAY&RSN=16462&DATA=TFB&TOKEN=keCm9WMJqv6304&Z=1&SET=1
Schmidt, M. & Carr, K. (2022). Library books its place in history. Education Quarterly: Journal of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, 2022(1), 30-31. https://news.nswtf.org.au/education/editions/education-quarterly-online?c=issue-1-2022-quarterly-magazine&page=30
Schmidt, M., & Stanish, F. (2001, March). From horse and cart to heritage building. Incite: Magazine of the Australian Library and Information Association, 22(3), 18. https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/journals/inCiteALIA/2001/37.html#
School teachers’ union. (1924, October 31). The Daily Telegraph [Launceston], 4.
S.E.H. (1921, December 15). Assistants’ Association. Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(2), 12. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024700/view?partId=nla.obj-572031615#page/n13/mode/1up
Spaull, A. & Sullivan, M. (1989). A history of the Queensland Teachers Union. Allen & Unwin.
Stein, H. (1996). From the Barn on the Hill to Edwards & Shaw: 1939-1983: The story of two young men who built a master printery and publishing house that became a major influence on printing and book design in Australia. State Library of New south Wales Press.
Taylor, A. V. (1922, February 15). The Cooper Library. Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 3(4), 9. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-572024745/view?partId=nla.obj-572040988#page/n10/mode/1up
Taylor, A. V. (Compiler). (1933). A short title class list with an author & a subject index of the books in the Cooper Library. N.S.W. Public School Teachers’ Federation.
Teachers’ Association. (1910, May 18). Daily Telegraph [Sydney], 15. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/239402225
Teachers’ Institute Committee: Report to council. (1921, August 15). Education: The Organ of the New South Wales Public School Teachers’ Federation, 2(10), 14-15. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-529384765/view?partId=nla.obj-529438509#page/n15/mode/1up
A teachers’ library. (1910, May 11). Daily Telegraph [Sydney], 12. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/239397125
Teachers’ union library. (1929, August 23). The Advertiser, 19. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/29616046?searchTerm=%22teachers%20union%20library%22
Tragic death of Mr. D. J. Cooper, M.A. (1909, November 13). Sydney Morning Herald, 10. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/15110704?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FS%2Ftitle%2F35%2F1909%2F11%2F13%2Fpage%2F1306473%2Farticle%2F15110704
The University of Sydney. (2021, March 2). Beyond 1914: The University of Sydney and the Great War. https://heuristplus.sydney.edu.au/heurist/?db=ExpertNation&ll=Beyond1914
In 2007 the Executive of the Federation confirmed the library’s role in supporting the work of the Federation, assisting in recruitment of new members, supporting the professional development needs of members, and conserving and preserving the cultural and heritage artefacts of the union (NSW Teachers Federation, 2008, p. 51).
Since 2013 the library’s Web based Libero catalogue has enabled members anywhere to discover the library’s resources and make a request online for resources to be posted to them. In a way this is nothing new. In 1933, the library’s catalogue was made available to members throughout the state in printed form. Using current technology, the catalogue is delivered to members online, the commitment to member professional learning continues.
Members can have resources posted to them at no cost. If members need assistance with returning resources to the library, pre-paid mail satchels are provided for returning borrowed items.
Recommendations for purchase
Members can also make recommendations for purchase of new resources, not held by the library. Professional learning resources are expensive, and this service, where members can access the resources they need, without any cost to them, offers great support for members’ professional learning.
Members can discover the library’s resources through the online Libero catalogue. Another convenient way for members to discover the library’s resources is by using the library’s Hot Topics guides. These short guides, lead members to the most popular and up-to-date resources on professional learning themes. The library currently maintains nearly 90 Hot Topics, which are available to members both online and in print form.
After refurbishment of the 1st floor in 2017 the library is now situated in close proximity to colleagues from the Centre for Professional Learning (CPL) which provides for a synergy between library and professional learning activities. Hot Topics on relevant themes and class sets of resources are provided to support members attending Centre for Professional Learning courses.
The library works closely with the Aboriginal Education Coordinator, the Women’s Coordinator, the Multicultural Officer, and the Trade Union Training Officer to develop collections of relevant resources and focused Hot Topics guides to support members attending their training programs and events.
Library tours and briefings on library services, are provided to members participating in training, targeted to their interests. This also provides the library with the opportunity to meet and interact with active Federation members and learn directly about their interests and information needs.
Support for Councilors
The library provides a specific service for Councilors attending the Federation’s Saturday Council meetings. The library is open, and a Library Bulletin of new resources is distributed to delegates. Many delegates are from country areas, distant from any library. Access to the library for professional reasons, for Federation business, or recreation, is a valuable opportunity.
Members may visit the library for relaxation or study. A comfortable lounge area is provided, as well as computers, WiFi and study areas. Members may book the library meeting room at no cost.
The library premises are open to members throughout the year, including during vacations. The library opens from 9 am – 5 pm Monday to Friday. The library also opens on the Saturdays when the Federation Council meets, from 9 am – 1.30 pm.
Mary Schmidt is the Federation’s librarian.
Mary completed a Bachelor of arts Degree at the University of Queensland in 1972, followed by a Graduate Diploma of Librarianship at the University of NSW in 1973.
Having worked in the University of NSW Law Library while a student, and after graduation at Sydney Teachers College, Mary commenced work at the NSW Teachers Federation in 1975, International Women’s Year, an inspiring time to begin work with one of Australia’s leading trade unions.
Highlights include: the expansion of the library’s services to include support for the union’s industrial and campaigning work, as well as providing professional learning resources for members; the publication of the library’s online catalogue in 2013; digitisation of the Federation’s journal, Education, in partnership with the National Library of Australia, for the Federation’s centenary in 2018. Currently, the archive from 1919-2019 is available on TROVE.
It’s Complex: Working with Students of Refugee Backgrounds and Their Families in NSW Public Schools
Professor Megan Watkins and Professor Greg Noble present a research-based examination of the complexities involved in working with students of refugee backgrounds in our schools. They discuss why it is both inherently difficult and necessary for NSW public school teachers to strive to meet the needs of these students and their families . . .
In mid-2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated the total number of refugees world-wide was 27.1 million (Refugee Council of Australia, 2022). This number has risen dramatically in recent years due to the increasing number and intensity of conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia, forcing many to flee their homelands and seek safety elsewhere. Many of these refugees are under 18 years old, and many are unaccompanied minors. While Australia’s proportion of this number is relatively low, thousands of young refugees (Refugee Council of Australia, 2017) enter Australia each year on humanitarian visas and face the daunting prospect of beginning school in their newfound home with limited or no English, limited or no literacy in their first language, disrupted or no previous schooling, and the scars of trauma resulting from the experiences of war, the death of loved ones, poverty and protracted periods of displacement in refugee camps and/or one or more countries of transit (Yak, 2016). Once settled, many may be under pressure to earn an income or to help other members of their family, which affects their attendance and progress at school (Refugee Council of Australia, 2016). In addition to contending with these difficulties, issues around gender, faith and racism may affect their capacity to ‘fit in’ (Yak, 2016).
The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education (DoE) now records that there are more than 11,000 students of refugee backgrounds in NSW schools (NSW DoE, 2020). While many of these students are located in metropolitan Sydney, in particular in the western and south-western suburbs, there is an increasing number settling in regional areas, posing considerable challenges for schools and their communities to ensure that these students’ complex needs are met. Schools are often the first point of contact with wider Australian society for young refugees, so how schools position and serve them has enormous consequences (Uptin et al., 2013).
Various community, government and non-government organisations have provided considerable assistance to schools, but a number of studies suggest that not only is far more needed (Sidhu et al., 2011; Block et al., 2014), but that further research is required to gauge refugee students’ experiences of schooling and whether current practice is addressing their needs and those of teachers (Ferfolja and Vickers, 2010).
In 2019, the NSW Teachers Federation commissioned researchers at Western Sydney University to undertake such a study to help fill this gap and to yield data to inform how they may best support teachers working in these complex environments. The report, It’s Complex! Working with Students of Refugee Backgrounds and their Families in New South Wales Schools, (Watkins, M., Noble, G., & Wong, A. ,2019) is the product of this research. Its title, drawn from a comment made by one of the teacher participants, reflects not only the complex needs of refugee students and their families but the inherent complexity of meeting these needs often within schools already grappling with the challenges of socio-economic disadvantage, increasing cultural and linguistic diversity and students with physical and intellectual disabilities. Meeting the needs of students of refugee backgrounds is undertaken alongside those of other students, making the task for teachers a complex one indeed.
It’s Complex aimed to capture this complexity. The research informing the report included interviews and focus groups with executive staff and teachers, students with and without refugee backgrounds and the parents or carers of students of refugee backgrounds in ten public schools. These schools included primary schools, high schools and Intensive English Centres (IECs) in Sydney and regional locations in NSW, with high and low populations of students of refugee backgrounds and varying numbers of students with a Language Background Other Than English (LBOTE) amongst their broader populations. The study also involved observations in classrooms, playgrounds and at school community events. In addition to school-derived data, interviews were also held with relevant personnel in organisations supporting refugee students and their families.
The study examined the challenges faced by school communities as a result of their increasing number of students of refugee backgrounds. It looked at the educational and broader needs of these students; the programs in place to support them within schools; the links between educational experiences and other aspects of the settlement process and the social contexts in which settlement occurs; the consequences for teacher workloads and their professional capacities; and a range of other issues. This article provides a broad overview of the project’s key findings with a link here to the full report for more detailed examination of these from the perspectives of each of the various informant groups that participated in the study.
One of the key findings of the research was that the needs of students of refugee backgrounds are not simply the pragmatic requirements of educational performance, these students also have complex linguistic, social, cultural, psychological and economic needs. In discussion with principals and other senior executive across the 10 project schools, the area of greatest need identified was that of welfare, not only ensuring students were fed, housed and felt safe but that there was support for those who experienced psychological trauma as, without addressing this, it was considered difficult for students’ educational needs to be met. Yet these respondents also stressed the highly individualised nature of these students’ needs with one teacher remarking: ‘all refugee students struggle but struggle in different ways. We have very capable students, students that have, you know, not as much capacity to learn as others. And some are very bright – a full range of learners’.
While not news to school executive and teachers, the research revealed how schools are much more than educational institutions. This may have always been the case, but with increasing and diversifying refugee intakes, they have become complex sites of refugee and community support, with greater expectations and challenges. As one principal commented: ‘I guess we are kind of, we have almost become a community centre, and this is something that I find quite challenging … So, we get a lot of requests that are far removed from our brief as a school’. Schools, therefore, are grappling with a range of issues that result from these greater expectations: teacher workload, professional learning, funding issues, interagency coordination and community liaison.
The research also found that there were uneven levels of expertise and support across schools, both by region and by type, and related to school and community contexts, and individual teacher’s experiences. There are schools, such as IECs, which are set up well to meet these challenges, developing significant banks of expertise and resources, and there are schools which, by dint of their location and demographics, are not well set-up nor well-funded.
Many teachers are providing additional support beyond the classroom in terms of arranging homework clubs, extra work, support services, community liaison, etc, creating increased and intensified workloads which have stressful consequences for work-life balance and some teachers’ mental health. Many teachers are providing this extra support but with varying degrees of experience and expertise. Many do not have English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) qualifications, for example, exacerbating the stressful circumstances in which they are working. Many are also finding themselves in classrooms with an increasing complexity of student populations, posing challenges for classroom teaching.
This was matched with very uneven levels of understanding in schools – amongst teachers, non-refugee students and the wider community – of the complex experiences and challenges faced by students of refugee backgrounds. Staff in schools often struggled to ‘get the right balance’ between addressing the pastoral, the academic and the socio-cultural needs of students of refugee backgrounds with huge implications for these students’ learning. One executive staff member reflected on the problem of an overemphasis on the pastoral:
“I think that when we are dealing with our students one-on-one and we start to hear and get to know them more and hear the history of where they have come from and their trauma, there can be a bit of a tendency to make excuses for them not improving academically and as strongly as they could and … I am going to use the word ’pity’, like there can be an element not from all teachers but from some teachers.”
An executive member at another school suggested such an approach raised questions about the nature of wellbeing itself: ‘So, it is striking that balance between wellbeing as welfare and wellbeing as self-esteem and achievement’.
As a consequence, students of refugee backgrounds have very varied educational experiences: some are settling well, and some are not ‘fitting in’. While most value the efforts undertaken at their schools, as do their parents and carers, many are also suffering from a lack of support. These students are also faced with the dilemma of in\visibility: they often stand out – for various reasons – but their needs are often ‘invisible’, and they can fall through cracks in the system. Many students recounted the enormous challenges of English language and literacy acquisition and often felt underprepared for their educational experiences. Many students continued to experience enormous problems in the transition from IECs to high school and there appeared little progress in addressing these issues, despite being well documented in previous research (Hammond, 2014).
Many students of refugee backgrounds reported the ongoing incidence of racism, though this is not always acknowledged by staff in schools. This racism varied in scale and type from microaggressions of other students avoiding contact and making veiled derogatory comments, to forms of structural racism often resulting from well-intentioned programs that actually reinforced these students’ lack of belonging. In one example of the former, in a school with a predominantly Anglo-Australian student population attended by a small number of refugee students of African backgrounds, a teacher referred to students making racist taunts in the form of ‘back door kind of comments’. The teacher explained how students would say: ‘So, they are asking for a black pen, like they will disguise the racism and emphasise certain things like, “Can I have a black pen?” or something like that. Whereas I shut that down immediately’.
While schools provided various forms of assistance, many continued to struggle with developing and sustaining productive relations with parents of refugee backgrounds and their wider communities.
The work of Refugee Support Leaders (RSLs), a temporary measure introduced in response to the arrival of large numbers of Syrian refugees in 2016, proved increasingly important in many schools and their broader communities. RSLs took up roles in the wake of the loss of the NSW Department of Education Multicultural Education/EAL/D consultants that occurred in 2012, a loss which has been detrimental for many schools. A pleasing development, following the publication of It’s Complex, and because of the NSW Teachers Federation’s advocacy, has been the appointment of EAL/D Leader roles seemingly filling the void of the previous Multicultural Education/EAL/D consultants. These are much needed positions which, it is hoped, are ongoing, supporting schools in meeting the EAL/D needs of not only refugee students, but the many students who require specialist EAL/D teaching.
Finally, while much work has been done to address issues around the coordination of governmental and non-governmental agencies in the area of refugee settlement, this has not always been embedded well in daily practice in schools. For this work to be consolidated and extended we must enable multiple, critical conversations – between the Department, support organisations and schools; between teachers, students, parents/carers and their wider communities – around students’ educational, pastoral and social needs, and the capacities of schools to address them. Failure to facilitate such dialogue will threaten the stability of life that students of refugee backgrounds and their families so urgently need.
A useful starting point will be looking at the full report, which can be found at:
If you are interested in applying to the It’s Complex: Working with students of refugee backgrounds in NSW public schools professional learning course run by the Centre for Professional Learning, please click here.
Block, K., Cross, S., Riggs, E. and Gibbs, L. (2014). Supporting schools to create an inclusive environment for refugee students. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 18(12), 1337-1355.
Ferfolja, T. and Vickers, M. (2010). Supporting refugee students in school education in Greater Western Sydney. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), 149-162.
Hammond, J. (2014). The transition of refugee students from Intensive English Centres to mainstream high schools: Current practices and future possibilities. Sydney: NSW Department of Education and Communities.
New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education (DoE)(2020) Supporting Refugee Students https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/multicultural-education/refugee-students-in-schools.
Refugee Council of Australia. (2016). Education and training. Retrieved from https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/getfacts/settlement/learninghere/education-and-training/ (viewed 13 November, 2018).
Refugee Council of Australia. (2017). UNHCR global trends 2016 – How Australia compares with the world. Retrieved from https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/getfacts/statistics/intl/unhcr-global-trends-2016-australia-compares-world/ (viewed on 13 November, 2018).
Refugee Council of Australia. (2022). How many refugees are there in the world? Retrieved from https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/how-many-refugees/ (viewed on 5 September, 2022)
Sidhu, R., Taylor, S. and Christie, P. (2011). Schooling and Refugees: Engaging with the complex trajectories of globalisation. Global Studies of Childhood, 1(2), 92-103.
Uptin, J., Wright, J. and Harwood, V. (2013). ‘It felt like I was black dot on white paper’: examining young former refugees’ experience of entering Australian high schools. Australian Educational Researcher, 40(1), 125-137.
Yak, G. (2016). Educational barriers facing South Sudanese Refugees in Australia, Refugee Communities Advocacy Network conference, Melbourne, 28 May 2016. Retrieved from http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Gabriel-Yak-RCAN.pdf (viewed 13 November, 2018).
Watkins, M., Noble, G., & Wong, A. (2019). It’s Complex: Working with students of refugee backgrounds and their families in New South Wales public schools (2nd ed.). NSW Teachers Federation.
Megan Watkins is Professor in the School of Education at Western Sydney University. Her research interests lie in the cultural analysis of education exploring the impact of cultural diversity on schooling and the ways in which different cultural practices can engender divergent habits and dispositions to learning. Megan began her career as an English/History teacher working in high schools in Western Sydney. Her most recent book is Doing Diversity Differently in a Culturally Complex World: Critical Perspectives on Multicultural Education (Bloomsbury, 2021) with Greg Noble.
Greg Noble is Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Greg has been involved in research in multiculturalism and education for thirty years. His interests have centred around the relations between youth, ethnicity, gender and schooling, as well as aspects of curriculum and pedagogy in multicultural education. He also has broader research interests in issues of migration, ethnic communities and intercultural relations. He has published eleven books, including: Doing Diversity Differently in a Culturally Complex World (2021) and Disposed to Learn (2013), both with Megan Watkins, and Cultures of Schooling (1990).