By Melanie Sjoberg
ADELAIDE — More than 1000 school service officers (SSOs), teachers, parents and supporters rallied at Parliament House steps on September 21 in an ongoing campaign to save 500 SSO positions destined to be cut in 1996.
Organised by SAIT (South Australian Institute of Teachers), the rally was one in a series of actions being carried out by PSA (Public Service Association), the combined school principals' organisations and school council bodies.
SAIT president Clare McCarty addressed the rally and condemned the Liberal government for its continued attacks on education.
The CPSU Women's Conference organised a rally contingent. Participants distributed postcards to send to education minister Rob Lucas.
The previous week, 500 parents turned out to hear speakers from the South Australian Association of State School Organisations condemn the Brown Liberal government for its attacks on education. A proposed reduction of 250 equivalent full-time staff will impact on every school in the state. Devolution has placed more work on school councils. Parents who participate on the councils are realising that decision making over resources and funding has not been devolved.
SSOs are mostly women working part time, and provide a wide range of essential services. A council treasurer may handle budgets of over $1 million, and run highly sophisticated computer software programs. SSOs are responsible for storage and record keeping of chemicals, health and safety in laboratories, book room coordination, library and classroom support and many other activities.
An impromptu rally of 200 at Findon High School on September 19 responded to Liberal MP Joe Rossi's comments in the Messenger Press that SSOs could be replaced with "unemployed parents as volunteers".
"Rossi believes that anyone can step in and carry out SSO duties", Jan McMahon, general secretary of the PSA, told Green Left Weekly. "This overlooks the code of conduct on confidentiality of personal information. Can Mr Rossi guarantee that volunteers will have the same sense of responsibility towards personal records? Mr Rossi would also need to find volunteers with high skills and an understanding of students' learning needs and school processes."
On September 22 another 50 placard-waving picketers forced Liberal government politicians to run the gauntlet at the entrance to their Murray Bridge retreat.