IFWEA General Secretary Sahra Ryklief visited Worker Education Associations (WEAs) in Australia and New Zealand as part of the Executive Committee’s mission to build dialogue and improve international links. Here are some of the highlights of her field trip.
The WEA Sydney – WEA Sydney was founded New South Wales (NSW) in 1913, originally working in partnership with the University of Sydney. The aim was to promote the higher education of working men and women. The WEA has since grown to become one of the largest and most prestigious adult and community education organisations in Australia and every year attracts thousands of students from all walks of life. They offer a wide range of short courses and have a strong Arts and Humanities focus. They also have a library and classroom facilities in their building, located in Bathurst Street in central Sydney. Read more on WEA Sydney at www.weasydney.com.au
The Sydney Trades Hall – The Sydney Trades Hall is located in the city centre at 4 Goulburn Street, Sydney. This historic building was the cradle of trade unionism in NSW. The Trades Hall houses several organisations and unions, and has preserved the key symbols of trade union history. In 2002 ownership was sold to the Labor Council of New South Wales who are refurbishing and restoring the building. Trades Hall information assistant, Carmel Delprat is responsible for the upkeep of the Facebook page and is always happy to respond to any request for information. Visit their page to find out about the “Green Bans”campaign at Facebook Sydney Trades Hall
The WEA Adelaide – The Adelaide WEA is over 100 years old and is the largest provider of adult education short courses in South Australia. It offers over 1000 courses per annum in lifestyle activities; liberal arts, career advancement and continuing education. This includes a one day course called “Living off the Grid” which is very useful in a city with a high risk of drought. They also provide a course on researching through Google, and one on cyber security, amongst other computer literacy courses. The WEA provides an educational cultural tour programme, which both educates and contributes to the organisation’s continued sustainability. Visit their website at www.wea-sa.com.au
CFMEU Melbourne – The Education and Training programme of the CFMEU Construction union provides Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) courses from induction to diploma; High-Risk work licences and other training related to pre-and post-apprenticeship skills. CFMEU also provides OH&S compliance assessment and first aid courses. The trade union has a state-of-the-art training centre located in the Melbourne Port district, which also includes an immense electric luffing crane, acquired in 2012 for $1.3m and used for training purposes. The crane is 38 meters high and in order to operate it, the union had to sink pylons 38 meters down due to the silt soil on their location alongside the river. www.vic.cfmeu.org.au/training-better-future
Victoria Trades Hall, Melbourne – The Victoria Trades Hall in Melbourne is the oldest continuous Trades Hall in the world according to UNESCO. The Trades Hall is a hub of activity and is the organising centre of trade union resistance and campaigning in the state of Victoria. They have an active and dynamic Youth and Women’s organising programme. The hall is the rallying point for the “Change the Rules” campaign of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The campaign was launched this year and its goal is to regulate insecure, low paid work. Join the campaign and see more at Facebook Victoria Trades Hall
NEW ZEALAND/ AOTEAROA (Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand)
Kotare Trust – Kotare Trust’s activities are offered from their residential education centre in the rural setting of Hoteo North near Wellsford. Kotare Trust emerged as a response to the call for a ‘school for social change’ which came out of a national dialogue of people and sectors working for change in the 1990s. The Trust was set up in the Highlander and Folkskool tradition. They are an individual membership based association and have links with the Unemployed Workers Movement, some churches and participatory adult education networks. Read more about them at www.kotare.org.nz
WEA Auckland – WEA Auckland is located in Gilmore House, Waitakere. WEA Auckland has renamed their business unit West Auckland Skills and Training (WEST), and revised its programme and strategy to focus on education for work – readiness and economic well being. They target youth who are neither in education or employment, and focus on workplace skills and access to employment. They target small businesses and provide support for their development and growth. Read more www.west.org.nz
Literacy Aotearoa, Auckland – Literacy Aotearoa is a well-established NGO, with national reach and staff – www.literacy.org.nz Their goal is to develop, promote and deliver accessible, quality literacy services designed to ensure the peoples of Aotearoa are critically literate and able to realise their full individual, social, cultural and economic potential. They work with grassroots communities and have a strong cultural dimension. They collaborate with the WEAs and participate in the ACE (Adult and Community Education) Aotearoa policy network.
ACE Aotearoa, Wellington – ACE Aotearoa is a membership organisation which represents both its members and the wider sector. They provide the secretariat for the Adult and Community Education (ACE) sector Strategic Alliance, representing the main ACE providers in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The members collaborate on key strategic issues which benefit ACE learners, such as advocacy, policy development and its implementation. www.aceaotearoa.org.nz
WEA Wellington – The WEA Wellington is run by experienced and dedicated volunteers, some of whom are pictured in the accompanying photograph. The association encourages community and union collaboration, and collaborates with New Zealand Confederation of Trade Unions (NZCTU) in organising education forums and training days. They offer a weekly access radio (which is called community radio in some countries) programme called ‘’Education for change”. Facebook Wellington Workers Educational Association
WEA Wellington participates in the ACE Aotearoa’s strategic alliance and the NZ FWEA, and convenes most of its activities at Education House, the head office of NZCTU in Te Aro, Wellington – www.union.org.nz
New Zealand Federation of Worker’s Education Association (FWEAs) – Sahra Ryklief’s field trip concluded with her attendance and address at the Annual General Conference of the New Zealand Federation of Worker’s Education Associations www.wea.org.nz . The Conference had 18 delegates representing 5 WEAs in NZ.
It was held in the historic building and head office of the Southland WEA www.southlandeducation.org.nz in the South island city of Invercargill. Presentations from the FWEA’s affiliates gave a good indication of the diverse range of education the WEAs of New Zealand are offering to remain relevant and responsive to their communities.
WEAs attending the AGM discussed the future of the FWEA in NZ. They revisited their values and also interrogated the role of group education in modern 21st century society which has become much more individualized and fragmented. They agreed that the formative values of the WEAs are still unique in NZ society and that alternative forms of education are essential and necessary for both individuals and groups. FWEA members re-committed themselves to building a functional federation, to strengthen links and joint projects and to share resources. They also committed the FWEA NZ to encourage the start-up of new WEAs and a renewal of the WEA culture.
WEA Southland director Jeff Walker, was re-elected as President of the FWEA. Gordon Cameron from Kapiti WEA www.kapitiwea.org.nz was elected Vice President and Bill Hardy as Treasurer.