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Cohuna-born Meredith Peace takes AEU helm

Cohuna-born and raised Meredith Peace is looking forward to her new role as Australian Education Union president.

RUTH CLAYTON December 28, 2012 4:22am

Meredith Peace is taking the role of AEU president in January. She is originally from Cohuna.


 

Cohuna-born and raised Meredith Peace will soon embark on the biggest challenge of her career.

From January 1, Ms Peace will take over as president of the Australian Education Union from long-standing official Mary Bluett.

Ms Peace has been deputy president since 2010.

‘‘I’ve been happy to do the position I’m doing, but the current president has obviously decided not to stand again and she encouraged me to stand,’’ Ms Peace said.

Ms Peace said her main priority as president would be to resolve the current industrial dispute with the Victorian Government.

The AEU is currently lobbying to make Victoria’s teachers the highest paid in the country.

The latest instalment of the Keep the Promise campaign saw more than 100 district teachers and support staff protest outside Member for Rodney Paul Weller’s office earlier this month.

The union is demanding better wages, better working conditions, reasonable class sizes and non performance-based pay.

‘‘In terms of our other sectors, we’ll continue to campaign around the TAFE cuts and ensuring we will continue to have a strong TAFE system which has been damaged by the Baillieu Government,’’ Ms Peace said.

‘‘In terms of...early childhood (education), we’re going to be negotiating (a) new agreement starting early in the year.

‘‘That will kick off quite early in the term.’’

Another big priority for Ms Peace is campaigning to have the Gonski review recommended.

The final report, released in February, is the most comprehensive investigation of the way schools are funded in Australia in almost 40 years, and revealed Australia was investing too little in education, particularly in public schools.

‘‘The Federal Government had committed $6.5billion to go into schools and State Government needs to come to an agreement with Federal Government to pay that money,’’ Ms Peace said.

‘‘The money will go to students and schools who are most in need.’’

Ms Peace said she had a strong commitment to public education, which she described as ‘‘vitally important in country areas’’.

She said she remained ‘‘strongly connected’’ to her family, many of who live in Cohuna.

‘‘I have very strong social justice values too, which I’ve no doubt developed from the parents and family.

‘‘I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what faces our education workers both in city and country areas.’’

Growing up, Ms Peace attended Cohuna Consolidated School and Cohuna High School.

She left Cohuna when she was 18 to attend university in Melbourne.

After she completed her university studies in teaching, Ms Peace secured her first teaching position at Wanganui Park Secondary College in Shepparton, teaching geography and science.

She enjoyed going back to the country to teach and felt ‘‘very lucky’’ to have developed strong mentors while at the school.

‘‘As a new teacher, it was hard work (but) I had some supportive teachers at the school,’’ Ms Peace said.

‘‘One thing is you learn an enormous amount in first years of teaching that you can never learn at uni.’’

After four years at the school, Ms Peace accepted a position at Melbourne Zoo’s education centre, where she was part of a team teaching zoo-related curriculum to students on excursions.

Four years later Ms Peace began work for the Victorian Secondary Teachers’ Association, a teacher’s union which existed before the amalgamation of unions.

For three years, Ms Peace worked in the Joint Union Department Committee, which resolved industrial disputes arising out of schools.

She also worked heavily with teachers who had been placed on contracts when the Kennett Government was in power.

Ms Peace left the position at the end of 1994.

In 1995, Ms Peace went back to teaching, this time at Kew High School, teaching biology, geography, environmental science, maths and general science.

She spent six years at the school before being elected into the AEU at the start of 2001.

Since then, she has taken on a variety of elected positions at the union, all full-time roles.

Ms Peace will be president for a three-year term.

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