Education International
Education International

Australia: Support staff celebrated as vital for quality education

published 17 August 2016 updated 7 September 2016

From 15-19 August, Australian teacher unionists will show their appreciation to support staff, recognising that, while schools could not function without support staff, they often do not get the professional recognition they deserve.

During the national Support Staff Week, members of the Australian Education Union (AEU) will acknowledge the work support staff do and their importance for the long-term health of the national school system. The AEU will also reaffirm their commitment to fight for support staff’s rights.

Behind the scenes work

“As a teacher, I know that without their work behind the scenes and in the classroom, students would not have the foundation they need to be able to achieve their best,” AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said. She added that Support Staff Week was a chance to recognise the contribution to schools made by thousands of staff, from librarians and teachers’ assistants to laboratory technicians.

“Good schools work as a team, and good support staff are a crucial part of that”, she said. The AEU will continue to push for better treatment of support staff, to ensure that their contribution to schools is recognised through decent pay and conditions and job security.

Job insecurity

“Ensuring that support staff have more opportunities for permanent employment will benefit them and make it easier for our school system to retain staff in the long term,” Haythorpe said. However, in spite of some gains by AEU branches in recent years, support staff are still less likely to be on full-time contracts than other staff and suffer from the insecurity that comes from this treatment. This makes it difficult for support staff to plan for the future, pay mortgages or rent when they are out of work, and many may miss out on parental leave, she explained.