Public Education Dinner 2016: less predictable than your last classroom

No one knows what will happen on public education's night of nights.


Irreverent MC Wendy Harmer

Each year the AEU ACT Branch takes a night to celebrate public education members and the tremendous dedication put in for the sake of our children and our nation's future. We do this because it is easy to forget these stakes during what is often daily managed chaos: where so much effort is put into refining syllabus, appreciating pedagogical aspirations of one's particular school, and managing the personalities of kids, parents, colleagues, the network of acronyms and industrial requirements of the job.


Trina Cleary gathers her crew from Hughes Primary School

So it seemed symbolically relevant to have Wendy Harmer as our MC this year, our irreverent ringleader for a good deal of chaotic revelry and cheer throughout the night. Lisa Wilkinson had a message for women: don't be afraid to "pipe up" and lean in; that taking risks and forging ahead into the unknown can lead to great fortune and happiness.


Left: AEU ACT President Lana Read sets the tone.
Right: Public Education Award winners Andy and Heather Wardrop check in with ACT Education Minister Shane Rattenbury.

It was especially pleasing to see this year's award winners taken by surprise, perhaps none more so than Friend of Public Education Award recipient, St Vincent de Paul Society Chief Executive John Falzon. Our Public Education Award winners, teaching couple Heather and Andy Wardrop (Lake Tuggeranong College and Erindale College, respectively), made their presence felt with Heather's unscripted choice feedback for our presenters.

Meanwhile, it was wonderful to hear executive member Don Bemrose's heartfelt accolades for our Reconciliation Award winner Vicki Lucas, identifying her as a trailblazer and inspiration. Don kept everyone guessing by singing Lisa Wilkinson to the stage in operatic Italian. Our guests, ACT Greens Education Minister Shane Rattenbury, and Federal Labor Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh were likewise greeted by members in unpredictable ways and spoke well.


Don Bemrose, seemingly everywhere with Reconciliation Award Winner Vicki Lucas, and keynote Lisa Wilkinson.

A number of other ad lib vignettes are better left in the memories of attendees, but take heart that the good cheer in the room on the night was a fitting reflection of how we'd like public education to be celebrated every day. Let us take pride in our collective work, for our children, for the good of the nation and our collective future. Give yourself a pat on the back, and make a note for next year to book your tickets early -- especially if you missed out this year!

Read the Canberra Times' write-up of the night here.

Check out more photos here.

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