Legislative Council: Thursday, December 01, 2022


World Teachers' Day

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. L.A. Curran:

That this council—

1. Notes that World Teachers' Day is celebrated in Australia on 28 October 2022 and acknowledges the work of our dedicated teachers across South Australia; and

2. Recognises the commitment of our teachers and education staff over the past two years to keep our schools open and our children safe during COVID-19.

(Continued from 7 September 2022.)

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (16:11): I thank the honourable member for moving this motion, and I rise to support it. Apart from my parents, I think it is safe to say that no-one has had a greater impact on my life than a small number of teachers I was lucky enough to have. Their guidance and ability to shape a young student like myself cannot be underestimated. Mrs Hand, a teacher at Largs North Primary School, shared her love of Antarctica with me and went out of her way and out of her work hours to provide me with extra resources and extra materials to fuel the fire of knowledge. I pay tribute to all of her work.

Mr Day was a teacher who had a fierce reputation of being a strict authoritarian amongst all the children at our primary school, right up until the point where they had him as a teacher and realised that he was a brilliant mind. His methods of engaging the children, building resilience and creating a culture that rewarded hard work had a big impact on me. He later went on to be a quizmaster, who I ran across in a pub a couple of times, and I hope I did well in those things to make him proud.

Mr Weaver was a generous, kind-hearted year 12 maths teacher, who went above and beyond to help his students prepare themselves not just for the year 12 exams but for their future after high school. He actually predicted that I would end up in parliament, and at least somewhat due to his influence that prediction has come true. I recognise these amazing teachers and thank all of the teachers who taught me, every one having had a positive influence.

But, apart from the ones who taught me, a number of others have also had a large impact on my life. My mother-in-law, a teacher for over 40 years, has been a teacher librarian, an English teacher and has specialised in English as a second language. Her dedication to her students is immense, and she is an absolute credit to her profession.

Two teachers who I came to know after they had retired—Michael Cowling and Barbara Burr—were two of the most generous people you could ever meet, and it was clear to anyone who did meet them that they were dedicated teachers who always put their students' interests first. Since their retirement they have been as busy as ever, and their contribution to the Labor Party, via the running of the Labor Academy, has been inspiring. I have done all I can to support them, and I take this opportunity to thank them for all they have done.

In my first speech to parliament I talked about the importance of education and further equity in education. Every child deserves the opportunities that a good education opens up, and supporting and resourcing our teachers is as important now as it ever has been, as we find ourselves in an increasingly competitive global economy. Recognising and acknowledging the amazing work that our teachers do is important, but so is matching our words with our deeds. I thank the honourable member again, and I commend the motion.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:14): I also rise in support of the motion on behalf of the Greens. The Greens believe that a strong public education system for all stages of life is key to building a just and cohesive society. The most vital components of this system are, of course, its teachers. At all levels, teachers guide, they nurture, they educate, and they facilitate. They are required to be many things to many people, and they are integral to the functioning of our community.

Over the last few years, we have seen the growth of the teacher workforce not matching the increase of student demand. According to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, fewer people are entering the teacher workforce. According to their statistics, the primary reason cited by teachers for wanting to leave the profession is their workload.

Just this month, the University of South Australia released a report commissioned by the Australian Education Union of South Australia titled 'Teachers at breaking point'. This report found that South Australian teachers were working on average more than 50 hours per week. Teacher job satisfaction has almost halved, down to 52.9 per cent being satisfied with their jobs.

Disturbingly, only 6.8 per cent of teachers feel their views are valued by policymakers in the state of South Australia, so urgent action is needed to ensure that our teachers feel supported, valued and fully resourced to undertake the vital role they play in our community. Staff working conditions influence student learning conditions. The Greens have continually called for smaller class sizes and more teachers and support staff.

South Australian public schools are terribly underfunded. South Australia receives 95 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard, the standard that determines the minimum amount schools need per student to provide a quality education. As a proud product of public education, having been to Aberfoyle Park High School and Flagstaff Hill Primary, I am always proud to advocate for public education. The Greens' policy is to fully fund public education with 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard to ensure that our schools have what they need to support teaching and non-academic staff.

The motion calls for us to recognise the commitment of teachers and education staff over the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report by UniSA, teachers have felt the negative impacts of increased student absences, higher workloads, staff shortages and, of course, the effects on their social and emotional wellbeing. Teachers have had to step in at late notice to relieve others with COVID, often losing vital planning and marking time. They have been exposed to the virus through poorly ventilated classrooms and lecture halls, and they have had to manage hybrid teaching models, sometimes at very short notice.

I know all members of this place will agree that we owe teachers across our state a great debt of gratitude for the vital work they have done during this very challenging period. We certainly thank them for the significant contribution that they have made. I commend this motion and acknowledge the work of South Australian educators, and I do want to thank the Hon. Laura Curran for bringing this proposition to the chamber. As indicated, the Greens are proud to support it.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (16:17): I, too, rise to speak briefly on behalf of SA-Best on this motion celebrating World Teachers' Day. In doing so, I thank the honourable member for bringing this motion to this place and also pay tribute to the selfless, dedicated, kind-hearted teachers who go above and beyond for their students each and every day and, like me, their students' very appreciative families. We also pay tribute to the teachers who recognise the impact that food insecurity, hunger and period poverty can have on a student's ability to learn.

In particular, we acknowledge and say thanks to the many teachers who regularly reach into their own pockets to provide food to kids who turn up to school with empty tummies or without anything for lunch, not even a snack or something from home; who buy period products for girls in need and keep stashes in their drawers to ensure that no girl in their class falls behind her peers; who put food and period products in students' backpacks for their siblings at home; who make sure that students have the supplies, shoes and clothes they need; who lend a few dollars, knowing it will not come back; and who encourage them to be the very best version of themselves in spite of the challenges they face in their upbringing or personal family lives.

We pay tribute to the teachers who do what they can when they see kids who are struggling through circumstances no fault of their own. Finally, our immense gratitude to the teachers who went above and beyond during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that their students had what they needed at home, in particular to the very special teachers who dropped parcels at the doors of the homes of kids they knew would be struggling, lent their own iPads or laptops to students who could not access one for online learning, and selflessly kept their classes open for the kids for whom school is the safest place.

A teacher's influence and role in a student's life can never be underestimated. I remember each and every teacher who ever taught me a valuable lesson and am reminded of those very valuable lessons to this very day. So many of them play an integral role not only in educating their students but also in helping shape the person they grow up to be and their career choices. For that, we should all be very grateful. With those words, SA-Best wholeheartedly supports this motion.

The Hon. L.A. CURRAN (16:20): I thank honourable members for their support and their contributions, but in particular I would like to thank the Hon. Mr Martin, the Hon. Mr Simms and the Hon. Ms Bonaros for their contributions to this motion and their support of teachers. Our teachers leave an imprint on us, they leave an imprint on every single one of their students. They educate, they guide and they go above and beyond, often, to provide pastoral care.

I think we all have had at least one teacher in our lives who has left that imprint on us and has helped to shape the way that we see the world, helped us to think critically and to feel that hunger for knowledge that we all have, and perhaps even given us that push that we needed to go that extra mile and work that little bit harder.

Our teachers have had to go above and beyond throughout the last few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both to keep schools open and also to keep our children safe. As honourable members have also touched on, our teachers are faced with additional challenges. Today, we thank our teachers and we acknowledge them. With that, I commend the motion to this place.

Motion carried.