By Hanae Honda and Tim Hanlon
When people get the Gonski message from educators, parents or volunteers in their community, it really sinks in.
That’s why we’ve been running Gonski Doorknocks in target seats – and are preparing for a final one just before the election.
Our doorknock volunteers have loved the experience and the reaction they get. They say there’s a real hunger for information about Gonski and that people are “staggered” when they learn about the impact of Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts.
They say it’s a great experience and a great way to stand up for local schools.
Hanae Honda, teaches at Glenallen School, a special school in Melbourne, and has doorknocked twice in the electorate of Deakin.
“I’d never doorknocked for a cause before but we’d done Gonski morning teas and T-Shirts at our school, and I wanted to keep the momentum going,” Hanae says.
“The first doorknock I was pretty nervous, but I was paired up with someone who had done it before. He showed me what to do and it ended up being easy.
“I’ve been trying to talk to people, friends and family about Gonski funding when I can, or share things on facebook, so this was just an extension of that.
“I can see what Gonski will do for our school and how vital it is – Victoria has only begun receiving its funding, and if we don’t get the 5th and 6th years, our school alone will lose $1.1 million.
“That’s funding we should be able to use to support our students, with things like equipment for those with physical disabilities, or invest in extra staff or training.
She said that for many people it was the first time anyone had explained to them exactly how Gonski funding worked and how local schools benefited.
“I think about 20 per cent of people had a good idea about Gonski, they were mainly people with children at school – the other 80 per cent had only a slight idea, or had not heard of it. This may be because in Victoria funding has not really come through to schools until this year.
“But when you explain that your school, and your kids, will be over $1 million worse off, that gets a reaction. Most people are actually quite staggered that a government would want to cut spending on schools.
“I’ve had one man, who said who was a lifelong Coalition supporter, agree with me and join one of our Call Your MP actions.
It’s a great feeling to think you have changed someone’s mind on this issue, and you hope that the people you talk to will talk about it to someone else, and you’ve started a bit of a chain.
Tim Hanlon is an English and History teacher whose been teaching for 27 years, the last 20 of them at Mansfield State High School in Brisbane.
He said he’d never doorknocked before but he’d got to the point where he could see what was at stake and that it was time for teachers to step up for their students.
“I know that Gonski is the most important funding change I’ve seen in my time at Mansfield, and the whole community needs to know the changes it is making,” Tim says.
“Our school is a secondary school which has grown from 900 students to about 2000 in the last few years. Students who arrive here without good literacy skills have often missed out on help in the past and without the Gonski programs we’re running, they might have missed out again.
“But there’s no point just talking about it in the staff room we need to get the community to understand, and to do that we need to get out of our comfort zone a bit.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I started. I prepared myself for a few negative experiences, but I’ve done two doorknocks now and not had any.
“I start by introducing myself as a local high school teacher – that works well and gets people listening - but I know other people talk about themselves as a local parent.
“Most of the time when I mention Gonski a bit of a light goes on – people have heard of it and know it has something to do with schools.
“What I found that they didn’t know was how it worked, or what it could do for local schools. That was the most satisfying part, giving people a bit of information about Gonski at our school and seeing them start to understand what a difference it could make.
“Where I work has families from a wide range of circumstances but people all understand it is vital for their kids’ future to get a good education, and that means well-resourced schools. That’s not just parents, its grand-parents or anyone who cares about giving kids opportunities for the future.
“I certainly never met anyone who thinks their local school was getting too much money!”
“There’s a lot of election information and political ads or whatever out there and I think that makes people switch off. But when they hear the facts about what Gonski is doing from the mouth of someone who’s local, that’s different.
Gonski is making a huge difference at my school, but we need the full six years to finish the job and build a foundation for the future.
“This election is really all or nothing for Gonski. I want to make sure that I did everything I could for my students. I’ll be doorknocking again before the election because if I don’t spread the word, who will?”