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Issue #1746      August 31, 2016

Action builds on jails

A public forum on August 23 at state Parliament House provided a major opportunity to press the Baird government to reverse its decision to sack prison educators, following a day of solidarity on August 11 by NSW Teachers’ Federation school, TAFE and Corrective Services members to condemn the government’s move.

Corrections Minister David Elliott announced in May that 138 of 158 NSW Correctional Centre Educators will be made redundant and replaced with unqualified trainers (see Guardian, August 24 – “Fighting for qualified teachers in NSW jails”).

The public forum on the issue, titled “Public Forum in Prisoner Education”, organised by the Community Justice Coalition, took place at NSW Parliament House. Federation President Maurie Mulheron was one of the guest speakers at the event. Other speakers were shadow minister Guy Zangari, Greens Spokesperson David Shoebridge, and the Honourable Elizabeth Evatt AC former Chief Judge of the Family Court Australia.

The forum continues the campaign by Federation and its supporters to retain the highly-qualified and experienced Senior Correctional Education officers, Education Officers and teachers in NSW jails.

Members across NSW have been holding meetings to support the “Public Education Beats Crime Every day” campaign, passing resolutions, signing the petition of protest to government and joining action on social media.

Members are concerned that this attack on the teaching profession seeks to replace highly-qualified public educators in jails with outsourced trainers. The Minister has stated that qualified teachers are not required in NSW jails. Our members have sent a clear message to the Baird government that losing qualified experienced teachers risks endangering the vital role that education plays in reducing recidivism and rehabilitation.

The Day of Solidarity on August 11 focused on the risk of outsourcing education to the scandal-prone private tertiary industry. For-profit providers in the vocational education and training sector have undermined quality educational services. Federation will continue to campaign to ensure prisoners have access to quality public education delivered by permanently employed teachers.

The resolution to Minister Elliott outlined that research shows prisoners who engage in adult education while incarcerated have a 10-15 percent less risk of returning to jail. This is a vital consideration in NSW, where the prison population is expected to reach 13,000 by December this year.

On August 12, primary, high school, TAFE and Corrective Services teachers combined with community members to protest outside the office of Bathurst MP Paul Toole. Members demanded that Mr Toole stop the loss of more than 20 permanent jail educators across the four gaols in his electorate: Oberon, Lithgow, Kirkconnell and Bathurst.

* NSW Teachers’ Federation

Next article – Strike action Sept 9 – CPSU statement

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