Mary Merkenich

The recent media attention given to the case of “baby Gammy” — the child of an Australian couple born to a surrogate mother in Thailand, and left in her care by his parents allegedly because he was born with a disability — has led to suggestions that rules around surrogacy should be changed. The rates of surrogacy in Australia are very low. In 2011, only 80 women volunteered for it, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on August 10.
Three quarters of Victorians believe improvements in public transport are more important than the construction of the East West Link. Although its stated aim is to ease congestion, in particular on one of Melbourne’s most congested roads, a government report revealed late last year that it would actually attract more cars and trucks and consequently increase traffic.
Pasi Sahlberg is an educator and past policy advisor in Finland, author of books on education and currently a visiting Professor of Practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He spoke to a meeting of teachers and union activists in Melbourne on June 19. He agreed with what Australian teachers have argued for years: that great schools are well funded on a needs basis, are not publicly ranked for performance, have small classes, have teachers that are highly regarded and trusted and value all subject areas equally.
Victorian planning minister Matthew Guy approved stage one of the East West Link toll road on June 30, ignoring key recommendations from the planning panel to reduce impacts from the project. Guy said he had granted relevant approvals for the project on the condition that the Linking Melbourne Authority redesign parts of the project.
Trade unionists and community activists held a forum called "After the budget, build the fightback" in Melbourne on May 24 organised by the Socialist Alliance to discuss joint actions to campaign against the federal budget.
Many people are looking for effective ways to fight and get rid of the conservative governments in power in Australia. Some have chosen the tactic of a marginal seats campaign. This involves intensive campaigning in the individual electorates where a politician holds the seat by a very small majority and is therefore insecure.
Five hundred ambulance workers rallied outside the Doncaster Ambulance Station in Victoria on January 22. Led by Ambulance Employees Australia (AEA), workers have been fighting for pay equity with ambulance workers in other Australian states and to protect their conditions for 18 months. The rally began with spirited chants, such as “won’t surrender, won’t back down, paramedics stand their ground.” Many car drivers passing the rally blew their horns in support.
The following is an edited version of a speech by Mary Merkenich at the December 15 rally against the Victorian government's proposed East-West Link tollway tunnel. Merkenich is on Manningham Council’s Residents Advocacy group for Rail to Doncaster, speaking here in personal capacity. Our residents group in Manningham is campaigning for a new rail line to Doncaster because it will reduce traffic and congestion on the Eastern Freeway.
In mid-October, principals in Victorian public schools told their staff they had been instructed to identify underperforming teachers and education support staff (ES staff) by the end of that month. These staff members would not immediately be told they were underperforming, but would only receive a letter in March next year informing them they would not receive a pay rise. Some staff might even be fast tracked out of the profession. The government told principals that between 20% and 40% of staff were to be identified as underperforming.
Paul Mees, well known to many Victorians, was an academic specialising in urban planning and public transport. He was an associate professor in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University. He died of cancer on June 19. Mees was an indefatigable campaigner for sustainable public transport. One of his last public appearances was in a video shown at the launch of the Yarra City Council’s “Trains Not Toll Roads” campaign, just days before his death.
About 400 people filled the Fitzroy Town Hall for the launch of the “trains not toll roads” campaign on June 13. The Yarra City Council organised the launch to advocate for a rail line from the CBD to Doncaster Hill, as well as to oppose the state government’s proposed East-West road link.
Najaf Mazari, an Afghan refugee, rug-maker and author addressed a meeting of about 70 people at the Eltham College in Melbourne on May 17. He described his life in an Afghani village and his journey to a new life in Australia, including his time in a detention centre. The event was organised by the Diamond Valley Oxfam group and supported by the Eltham bookshop.
In an article in the Australian on April 20, Adam Creighton asserted that: “Teachers’ unions in Australia and worldwide have been astonishingly successful at hoodwinking the public into thinking smaller classes matter.” As a teacher with over 30 years’ experience and a member of the Australian Education Union, I can say articles such as that display ignorance about what it is really like to be a teacher in front of a class.
The Victorian state council of the Australian Education Union (AEU) held a special meeting on April 17 to consider an offer from the Coalition state government to commit to a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The AEU and the state government have been in dispute over the EBA for more than two years. AEU members had previously voted to continue the industrial campaign until their demands for improved working conditions and pay were met. This decision was taken at a mass stopwork meeting of over 12,000 teachers and education support staff on February 14.
For many years the Manningham council in Melbourne’s northeast, which consists of 10 suburbs, the largest being Doncaster and Templestowe, has been advocating for some form of mass rail transport. Manningham is the only Melbourne metropolitan municipality without train or tram services. At the 2011 census, Manningham had a population of 111,300 people, 41% of whom are classified as low-income earners — a higher percentage than Melbourne’s average.
I have always found tests and exams, whether the NAPLAN or Victorian Certificate of Education, very problematic. For one thing, it only tests English and numeracy, as if other subjects are not important and do not contribute to numeracy and literacy skills. For several years, educators have known that there are different learning styles and techniques. Some people have one dominant learning style, others use different styles in different situations, and styles are not fixed.

Pages

Subscribe to Mary Merkenich