A Tribute to Jo Vaughan

6 June 2018

Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane

The Totara has fallen in the forest of Tane

Jo Vaughan

Jo Vaughan, an active union campaigner and champion of school support staff, has succumbed to cancer at the age of 47.

Family, friends and colleagues farewelled Jo at her funeral on Wednesday, where she was remembered as a passionate advocate and leader of support staff in Invercargill and nationally. Jo worked at Newfield Park School until last year when she became too ill.

In giving her eulogy, NZEI Te Riu Roa Lead Organiser Dayle Belcher spoke of the many hours and great passion Jo put into her many roles within the union.

“Jo’s involvement in the New Zealand Educational Institute was far reaching and extensive and the respect and love she generated and gained throughout her time with us was equally so. Not only was she an active union member at her schools, but she worked tirelessly at a local and national level for the betterment and benefit of all her colleagues, friends and the children of our country.”

Jo held a number of positions within NZEI and the wider union movement, including Murihiku Southland representative on the Support Staff National Caucus Kaiawhinua Tautoko.

Jo was also the local Council of Trade Unions women’s representative from 2008 to 2016.

In 2012 Jo stepped up to be the Area Council chair – the person who runs and coordinates the local events, leads the planning and meetings and works with all three local branches, with other area council chairs, with national executive and national office.

NZEI Te Riu Roa Support Staff National Caucus Chair, Sue Nimmo, remembers her colleague and friend with much love and respect.

“We worked alongside Jo on SSNCKT (Support Staff National Leadership Group) and the Negotiating Teams of which Jo was a valued member. The first meeting Jo attended, she was late arriving due to flight delays. We were all seated waiting for the new representative from Murihuka/Southland to arrive, and with that, the doors flew open and this loud voice says, ‘I am Jo, and that was my first flight and I am glad to get here.’

“From that beginning Jo proved she could achieve many goals, and she grew both personally and professionally. Jo represented the Southern support staff with a passion, working tirelessly with the members to engage in our campaigns.

“Working alongside Jo was a privilege, she always had a huge infectious smile and an even bigger heart. Her kind soul was always evident. Her humour created many laughs. Her determination was evident through her work and in latter times with her illness. She was a proud team member and a proud Mum. Fly with the angels Jo, we will always miss you.”

In 2013 Jo was nominated to be on the support staff negotiation team.  This is the team that works through the claims of members, collates them, learns about negotiation techniques and then sits across the table from the Ministry of Education negotiators in Wellington and negotiates the collective agreement. Not only was Jo picked to be on the team – she was asked to be the team leader.

This is not a small role. The Support staff collective agreement covers just about every support staff member in the country - teacher aides, administration support, laboratory technicians, librarians, sports coordinators and more.

The conditions of the collective agreement cover more than 25,000 support staff in schools and determines their working conditions and pay.

In September 2016 Jo stood up on stage in front of just about all of Invercargill’s educational professionals – PPTA secondary teachers, NZEI teachers from Primary and Early childhood, support staff and special education workers and E Tu school caretakers and cleaners. In front of a full house at the Civic Theatre Jo took to the stage and spoke about her role as a teacher’s aide and how meaningful and important it was. She spoke about how poorly funded these roles are by the government and how that impacted on her and her colleagues and the children and schools they worked with.

“She did fantastically and opened the eyes of many that day – but that was Jo - got out there and did it – and did it in style!” said Dayle.

“Jo’s work with our Support Staff Caucus had a massive effect – she invigorated our local networks to the extent that at our first dinner celebrating support staff day we had over 75 attendees and for a dinner in Invercargill drawing that many members from across Southland, in June - that’s huge. Jo was the shining star of the event – meeting and greeting, networking, asking questions and supporting her colleagues.

“During her time as the support staff  representative Jo was approached by many support staff throughout Southland for her advice and listening ear on dealing with workplace situations, regarding not only working conditions but also on how to work with their children.”

Jo’s experience and knowledge was backed up by the ability to relate to everyone and be able to see through the murk and get to the real issues.

In 2016 Jo was made an Associate of the New Zealand Educational Institute for her long and valuable contribution to union activism at a local and national level.

Jo was known for her vivaciousness, openness, intelligence and integrity above all.

Since her death many of her colleagues have expressed their support for her family - especially for her  children Larissa and Connor - and their sadness at such a loss.  The impact Jo had on our union, its members and staff across the country has really been shown these past few days in the number of members and staff touching base to express their sadness at her passing.

E te manawa popore, te ringa tohau nui nei ngā kupu poroporaki e rere ana. Tangi hotuhotu te ngākau kua wehe atu tētahi manawa tīti.   E Jo, hoki atu ki te okiokinga i o tātou tupuna. Haere, haere, haere.

To you Jo an extremely considerate person, an industrious and hard working person these are the words of farewell we send you as we try to console ourselves now that your shining light has been dimmed. Safe travels to your resting place alongside your ancestors, farewell, farewell, farewell.