Job loss disgrace

SHE has been part of the Grafton community for 23 years, but Corrective Services teacher Sharryn Usher will be forced to uproot her life if jobs at the jail can't be saved.

Last week Ms Usher was among the 107 jail workers told they would either be made redundant or offered a transfer to somewhere else in the state.

The only warning she received was from a colleague who had been politely informed by an inmate that he was about to lose his job.

While she had heard rumours of cutbacks for some time, the confirmation was still a "slap in the face" for Ms Usher who was the first of 10 full-time teachers employed at the jail in 1997.

Since then she has taught illiterate inmates of all ages how to read and write and helped them complete degrees through distance education.

She believes the State Government has created "a massive social justice issue" by ignoring the key recommendations from the Royal Commission into deaths in custody for inmates to be kept as close as possible to their family.

She said 33% of her students were indigenous and moving them away from family and country would be "totally immoral".

"Keeping the connection to family is essential in keeping rehabilitation on track," Ms Usher said

"The people who pick them up often have little access to cars and pubic transport and moving them even further away and bussing them up that Pacific Hwy we all know isn't safe, just doesn't make any sense to me at all."

Apart from the impact the changes will have on her students, Ms Usher still can't comprehend how difficult it will be to pack up and leave.

The mother of four raised her family in Grafton, her husband works at the council, her children still live in the area and she has deep ties with the football and netball communities.

Those who accept voluntary redundancies will be banned from working in the public sector for some time and Ms Usher said as a teacher, she couldn't afford to take the risk.

"I don't have many other options and most of the others won't either," Ms Usher said

"They will leave, take 200 kids out of our schools, there won't be such a need for teachers and it will just flow on and on.

"The impact it will have on this town will be mind-blowing."

Teacher's Federation president Maurie Mulheron said the "inhumane" cuts were an example of the State Government's "obsession with cost cutting".

He said the social and economic impacts would be devastating for workers, inmates and region.

Attorney-General Greg Smith has been repeatedly asked to comment on the job cuts but a response has not been received.

Meanwhile hundreds of TAFE teachers in regional NSW are about to feel the pain of the State Government's budget cuts, union chiefs have warned.

As word spread of massive cuts to programs and staff in the Hunter region on Wednesday, Teacher's Federation president Maurie Mulheron said it was only the beginning.

He predicted at least 500 jobs would go this year and labelled the 73% of casual staff in the TAFE system endangered.

Mr Mulheron said every region in the state would be impacted by staffing cuts and programs being contracted out to "shoddy, fly-by night" training providers. He said the union's biggest concern was that NSW TAFE teachers would be forced to join the thousands of displaced Victorian colleagues in the job queue.

Topics:  grafton jail, job losses, sharryn usher, teacher's federation



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