Advocating for parents
Viv is a passionate advocate for parents and public education. She has been one of the most active people in Canberra lobbying for the Gonski report recommendations to be implemented and, earlier, opposing public school closures. She has been passionate in calling for improvements for special needs students and better understanding and support for migrant families. Viv also helped steer school canteens towards including healthier options, and lobbied the government to support canteens in making the change while remaining financially viable.
“Viv’s clear and effective advocacy for public school students is longstanding and backed up by a strong sense of fair play,” explains John Haydon, who has served next to Viv on the Council Executive for many years.
“Viv is always ready to provide support to those who do not have the opportunity to best represent themselves, shown especially in her promotion of the needs of refugee and migrant communities. Her integrity shines through together with an infectious smile and an ever-present good humour.”
An area of particular interest and passion for Viv is ensuring that our children have the skills they need to adapt to a changing world and climate. She has worked hard to ensure that more is done in our schools to prepare students, to help them learn about the environment, biodiversity and sustainability, and also to urge that schools lead by example and adopt sustainable practices. She helped create sustainability policies for Council and ACSSO (federal parent body) at a time when climate change wasn’t as widely accepted as it is now, which is a considerable achievement.
Viv was part of the steering committee which established and secured funding for the Youth Parliament on Sustainability (and, of course, a volunteer ‘on the ground’ at the event). This has now become annual event for school children across Canberra, where they can develop creative proposals to make Canberra a more sustainable city and present their ideas to local politicians.
A lifetime of volunteering
Viv has been a steadfast presence at Council for years and the driving force behind several school P&Cs for over two decades. She first got involved at Giralang Primary where she helped in the canteen, with fundraising, craft group and other volunteer roles and positions. She repeated this feat at Kaleen High, serving as P&C President and on the school board, and then Lake Ginninderra College for whom she is still the Council delegate.
Viv joined Council in 2005 and has been a member of Council Executive since 2008, leading as President for three years, and providing a parent view to many Government committees, working groups and reference groups.
As well as advocacy, Viv has had a great impact on the way Council helps its members, instigating improvements to our website and magazine over the years. Realising that many P&Cs needed more support, she was a long-term convener of the Schools and Communities in Partnership Committee and visited many P&Cs to offer advice, from her long experience, on how to make the P&C work best for the school community.
Giving and receiving
When asked why she gives up so much of her time for these activities, Viv tells us: “I’ve always found that by participating in volunteer organisations, I meet interesting people. For all that I’ve given, I’ve got much more back in experiences and learning.”
“Sometimes people tell me that I could be doing something else, but what could be more important than a better education for our kids?”
“It’s rare that, as an individual, you get to make a difference. But with P&Cs and Council you’re an individual working with others as a team for a common goal and we do make a difference, putting forward parent views, keeping a school-focus for the community. I realised as a primary school parent that I could contribute to the education of my kids. Now I can contribute to the school experience of other people’s children.”
“Things don’t happen suddenly, but if there is a concerted, long-term parent voice, if you keep asking, eventually politicians will do something. I think getting the government to look more closely at school road safety, and the new school crossing supervisor trial, is a good example of this and something I’m very proud to have been involved with.”
Viv’s Council Life Membership is obviously wholly deserved and we offer her our congratulations and deepest gratitude.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2018.
Vivienne's committment has now been recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia! Read about it here.