2020

Justice of the Peace and other Australian formalities

Weeks 32-34

Before telling you about the new part-time job I started a week ago, I wanted to write about some casual relief teacher procedures (CRT) in Australia as I was finally offered a gig after months of silence. Due to Covid-19 and school closings, there haven’t been any teacher aide gigs so I was curious to at least see an Australian school from inside and meet some other educators.

This one-day exam supervising gig was something similar to the Finnish Matriculation Exams or the Swedish National Exams. General Achievement Test (GAT), as it’s called here, is a 3h-long national exam for all year 12 students. My job was to supervise students who undertake GAT and assist them in case they needed to go to the bathroom during the exam. So nothing special about the job itself but accepting the gig was a rather interesting process. Wait for it…

GAT policies

To accept the supervising gig I needed to have a document proving that I’m not related to, or associated with, any of the students undertaking GAT. Also, I had to prove that I wasn’t related to, or associated with, any person engaged in teaching these year 12 students or organising the exam. However, being employed as a casual relief teacher or an administrator by the particular school would have been fine. But what’s the logic of this? I assumed that even as a CRT or admin of the school you would get to know the students and staff but guess not…

Imagine if in the Finnish Matriculation Exams or the Swedish National Exams some random people were supervising the exam. Wouldn’t it feel a bit strange? Usually, the teachers who teach the year 12 students supervise the exams. After all, they are the people who know the exam protocol best. I wonder how come they trust random people (like myself) more than their own teachers to supervise the national exams.

Statutory declaration

The document I needed was called a statutory declaration form. The purpose of this document is still a mystery to me as it doesn’t seem to be a reliable proof of anything. Basically how it works is that you state something on this form, go to an authorised witness (pharmacist, lawyer, police, or doctor for example) and have it signed. You need to prove your identity with your ID card or passport.

Because of the Covid restrictions, getting this one document signed took me three days. Firstly, I had to send it to the nearest paper shop to be printed out. Since they are not allowed to be open normally, it took one day to have the document on a physical paper. 

When I received the document, I had to find an authorised witness. I went to the nearest police station where they told me that they couldn’t sign declarations due to the Covid rules. They advised me to check out something called “the Justice of the Peace” (nope, not kidding) because apparently, that was the place to sign statutory declarations. I googled it and found out that the nearest “Justice of the Peace” was that very same police station. 

I decided to try a pharmacy instead. The pharmacist got angry at me because I had signed the document before her. Apparently, that is something you should never do with statutory declarations. After begging for mercy (since it was already the third day I was dealing with this task), she signed and stamped my declaration, proving that I didn’t know any of the students nor staff members of the school. But wait, how did she know that?

Dress code

In the job description, it said that the dress code for an exam supervisor was “neat and professional”. I asked my housemates what it meant in practise since I hadn’t been given any specific dress code as a teacher before. The teachers knowing how to dress practically and appropriately it usually taken for granted in Finland. 

My housemates said no to sneakers and jeans which I would normally wear as a teacher. So I ended up choosing neat black trousers, blouse, long open-knit cardigan, canvas shoes, and a mask, of course. In my eyes, this was an appropriate outfit for a job where I had to stand and walk for several hours. 

Well, I learned that what is usually considered as common sense in Finland, is not the same in Australia. We had a large team of supervisors working that day and “the professional and neat dress code” was understood as basically anything from classical pencil skirts and heeled leather boots (which by the way, made a heck of a noise when walking around the exam location) to pyjama-looking silk pants, worn-out sneakers, and belly button revealing crop tops.

I did have a fun day at the school and it was lovely to meet other educators. Just funny to notice how differently things are done in other countries. After this another interesting experience in the Australian red tape jungle, I’m happy to start with something a little more stable. From now on, I’m working as a part-time mentor teacher for early childhood educators at HEI School Australia while continuing my own business and having Finnish and Swedish lessons online. I’m excited to meet Australian educators and contribute my Finnish pedagogical expertise in a new context so HEI let’s go!

But how can the authorised witness, the nearest pharmacist for instance, confirm this information?

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