North’s School Grants Program fosters appreciation of Unions in our community

Published: 7 Feb 2017

While our Union has a reputation second to none for serving its membership’s industrial rights and interests on the job,  our contributions to supporting broad sections of the community is equally impressive, as the Northern Mining and NSW Energy District  continues to show.

A great example of this is the District’s School Grants Program that commenced in 2011 as a way to encourage High School students in years 9–12 to become aware of the role Unions play in society by participating in an annual essay competition. District Secretary Grahame Kelly told Common Cause that fostering an appreciation of the role of Unions in society is essential, particularly among young people who are approaching working age.

“In our Program, the Union provides the added incentive for the Schools to participate because they are then eligible to apply for a grant of up to $5,000 for any worthwhile project. Since the Program commenced in 2011 there have been 28 grants made to schools nominated by our CFMEU Mining and Energy members and the total donations and prizes have exceeded $123,000”, he said.

The Program is as simple as it is effective. Grahame Kelly told Common Cause that members first nominate a secondary school that is then invited to make an application for a grant of up to $5,000 by participating in an essay competition.

“The essay questions is ‘What have Unions ever done for us?’ and when the students google it they invariably find a copy of our Union’s internationally awarded short film What have the Unions ever done for us? as source material for the essay. Each school must submit at least three essays on the theme and the schools that do are eligible to be awarded a $5,000 grant.”

“Applications and essays are then assessed by a Rank and File Committee from our District’s Board of Management with the successful schools receiving their requests for the $5,000 grants and the  overall individual essay competition winning student receiving an iPad.

Grahame Kelly told Common Cause that this year alone our Union delivered grants to six schools – St Mary’s Maitland, Gloucester High School, Singleton High School, St Joseph’s Lochinvar, Maitland Grossman High School and Muswellbrook High School.

The money was used for the following:

  • Resources for the study of aeronautics
  • Table and seating for a breakout area for Years 11 and 12 students
  • Barista facilities for students studying hospitality
  • Workbooks for Business Studies and Economics
  • A Smartboard and
  • Landscaping the entrance to the school.

”The winner of this year’s essay competition was Kate Rowlands from Muswellbrook High School” Grahame Kelly told Common Cause. “As in previous years, the standard was very high. We believe that this Program helps foster a much better appreciation among young students of the essential role that Unions play not only in the workforce but in our communities too. Our District believes that we have a responsibility to help develop an understanding of the importance of Unions in our society through our education system as the young people of today are the decision makers of the future”.

Grahame Kelly said that, as with all projects funded by the District, this program will be reviewed before the next Delegates AGM in March 2017. “The District’s Board of Management will review the program to confirm that we are getting value for money for our members while also considering other programs¯, he said.