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Meet Shaneen Voss Campbell Street Primary School Business Manager

LAST week we found out more about one of our longer term Members, Shaneen Voss.

Shaneen works at the heart of Campbell Street Primary, in the school office.

A School Business Manager, Shaneen has notched up more than three decades as a CPSU Member, joining when she started with the Tasmanian Public Service in 1984.

At the end of July Shaneen attended a CPSU function to celebrate Members who’d achieved 30, 35, 40 and 45 year milestones during the 2014-15 financial year.

We sat down with Shaneen to find out about her role, what’s changed during her three years in the public sector and her experience with the union during this time.

During the chat it became apparent that technology was one of the biggest drivers of change for her role. However there are also two constants: children and her union.

“I don’t think kids ever change,” Shaneen said. “Kids are kids; they go outside and play, have their morning tea and want Band-Aids and icepacks.”

 

Back in 1984 typewriters were the technology de jour.

“When I first started we were called school secretaries, and that was probably the right term because we did typing on an electric typewriter and filing.”

“Our finances were done in big books and using cheques. We started using computers in schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s but they were pretty much word processors, not how we know them now.”

Fast forward 30 years, Shaneen can now do the numbers on the one machine, as well as enrolments and a bundle of the other tasks she’s assigned.

“Now technology brings the information to you really quickly. That’s a real bonus.”

“There’s an example of technology,” Shaneen said, pointing at a TV screen showing security footage from around the school grounds. “Back in 1984 there were no cameras; security came down to your eyes, common sense.”

Like most things in life, there is a downside.

“With all this information and everything at your fingertips, sometimes you forget to come up for air.”

When it comes to the old promise of a paper free office, Shaneen thinks this is and always was a pipe dream. “They always said computers would make things paper free but that’s never happened.”

One of her favourite parts of her job is something that a lot of people dread – working with numbers.

“I might be the minority but I love the finance side of my work. I love to see the numbers all come together, and if it’s not right hunting down and investigating why it’s incorrect. The numbers and bringing them all together, it’s wonderful.”

There’s also a pet peeve that really bothers her since working in the public sector.

“It’s irritating to read negative things in the paper about people who work in the public service because it’s not what I see at the coalface every day. I always say, come and walk a mile in a public sector worker’s shoes; I’d guarantee almost 100% of people work really hard.”

Over the years her role has morphed, with increased responsibility creeping in bit by bit.

“Financially there’s a lot more duty that what we have now. We’re managing bigger budgets, the roles have really diversified and a lot of responsibility has come back on to us, and a lot of decisions day to day are made by myself and the principal.”

This greater responsibility that Shaneen now has in her position compared to when she started has also taught her a great life lesson – to have more confidence in herself.

 

“When our bands were changing, I was a band four and didn’t see how I’d be a band five. However, one of our previous principals read out my statement of duties in simpler terms than what it was written. I realised I was underestimating what I was doing. Because she was standing back from what I did, she could see all that I did in my role, it really taught me something. Hearing those duties read out I thought, “I really do that, don’t I?” The role has changed so much since I started but you don’t notice all the new things you have to do along the way.

“When the Building the Education revolution came in I wasn’t confident but I had no choice but to sit with architects and builders. I really felt small in those meetings but talking with these people I didn’t think I should be sitting in the same room with really grew my confidence.”

Her office walls also reflect that there are many who think highly of her.   There’s a bit of a theme, with a number of drawings depicting her as superwoman from the children who went to the school and a staff member who worked there. “I don’t see myself as that; I wish I did have super powers because I’m a bit fond of Captain America!”

 

Shaneen has watched many children grow up over the years, and sometimes they make their way back to Campbell Street Primary School, as parents or to work.

“There is one student in particular, she enrolled in prep then went off, did her high school, college, university and came back as a volunteer for a practicum teacher and now she’s a teacher. I’ve known her and her family for 20 years, and it’s not uncommon to see the kids come back as adults. I ended up having to say to her, jokingly, “it’s taken me 20 years to get rid of you” when she left Campbell Street! She’s a good teacher and she’s done really well for herself, which is so nice to see.”

For Shaneen, the most important things she likes to see in the past Campbell Street Primary pupils is that one, they’re doing okay and two, they’re happy.

“Education is a chunk out of your life, and you can understand teachers making that mark on a child’s life rather than the office staff, so it’s nice that every so often when the kids come back and say “I remember you”.”

 

Of course, signing up when she started in the Public Sector, her union membership has also been a constant during her work history.

Back in 1984, Shaneen can’t pinpoint exactly why she joined the CPSU. “That’s just what you did back then, you just joined the union. You just did it without thinking about it. I just thought it was a good thing to do at the time; there wasn’t anything romantic or glamourous about it, with someone sweeping in!”

Although she only had to call on her union for help once, this School Business Manger wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Not every day is always rosy and it’s good to know that the CPSU is there in the background, and the union supports a lot of people. With the union you’ve got that back up, you’ve got someone to help and to talk to, I’ve only had to call the office for help once and touch wood I never have to again. It’s about mateship.”

“Whether you work in the private sector or public, if you’re police officer, nurses, ambulance driver, garbo or working at McDonalds, you need someone to support you and be on your side. I think the public sector has a good union – long may it last.”

 

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