Incentives needed to attract and retain teachers in remote Northern Territory schools is the subject of frequent discussion between the Education Department and the Australian Education Union (NT).
The issue was first addressed in the NT by a group drawn from the Education Department, the Territory Branch of the Australia Teachers Union and the NT Principals Association in 1978. From that time onward, incentives and rewards for service in centres outside Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs have been regularly enhanced.
Some factors that lead to teachers feeling isolated and cut off from mainstream society have been overcome by technological advances. Nowadays, most communities have mobile phone and internet connections to the outside world. Connections are sometimes unreliable, but until a few short years ago these links were non existent.
The definition of ‘remoteness’ has been broadened to recognise all locations beyond Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs on a sliding scale of distance from these cities.
There have been other negotiated enhancements offered to those living and working in remote areas. They make teaching at distance from NT cities far more attractive than used to be the case. Benefits include the following.
• Rent free accomodation and furniture for all teachers other than those living in Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs. Teachers used to pay rent for houses and furniture in all NT communities.
• Leave for special purpose needs (emergency and compassionate leave).
• Up to four business days per year available for employees to take leave in order to access services not available in their communities.
• Parental (maternity and paternity) leave entitlements have been enhanced and provisions modified to recognise family needs.
• Teachers and their families receive two or three fares out of isolated locations each year for recreational purposes in either Darwin or Alice Springs. A kilometre allowance is available for those driving their vehicles rather than flying.
• Special allowances have been introduced for some positions in remote teaching locations.
• Teachers receive a fortnightly remote incentive allowance to help offset freight costs for perishable foods and other necessary goods.
• Remotely located teachers accrue points toward generous paid study leave.
• Depending on location and the time they have been in remote areas, teachers are offered a remote incentive allowance (between $1,212 and $9,239) and remote retention payment (between $500 and $1,000) each year. These provisions reward length of remote area service.
• (Source: Teach in the Territory Employee Benefits)
Living and working in remote Territory locations is challenging. However 21st century communications have reduced the tyranny of distance. Benefits offered have been enhanced over the years and need to be appreciated when conditions of service are being discussed.