An Introduction to the Australian Principals Federation:
The APF is a Federal organisation dedicated to advancing the industrial interests of members, with State branches in Victoria and Western Australia. Membership is open to Principal Class Employees in the Government school sector of the two constituent states. We exist to protect and support members in employment related matters, and much of our activity is in industrial representation, advocacy, advice and support in dealing with issues such as complaints, conflict resolution, discipline, remuneration, superannuation, contract renewal, workcover, conflict of interest and performance matters to name a few. We provide support for our members working in difficult situations and strive to improve their conditions of employment.
Background and History of the VPF and APF
For many years in Victoria there had been associations representing the industrial interests of Principals. The Victorian High School Principals Association more than forty years ago submitted a salary claim for Principals to the then Victorian Teachers Tribunal. The combined professional associations ultimately decided to form a separate organisation to pursue the industrial interests of Principal Class Employees in 1988 which was called the Victorian Principals Federation (VPF).
The VPF operated as an organisation with its members being organisations and not individuals for a decade. In response to changes to Commonwealth and State legislation and the management of industrial relations, and the administrative transformation of government schools in Victoria at that time, a group of Victorian Principal Class Officers in February 1998 resolved to establish an Association of Principals to be known also as the Victorian Principals Federation. It was established for the purpose of seeking registration as an organisation under the Federal Workplace Relations Act. It adopted objects directed to securing improved terms and conditions of employment and to representing its members individually and collectively in negotiations with the employer and before the relevant industrial tribunal.
The application for registration by the VPF was granted by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) in November 1999 but overturned by the Full Bench of the Commission following an appeal lodged by the Australian Education Union (AEU). Influential Western Australian Principals, similar to their Victorian counterparts, frustrated at being excluded from industrial forums by the employer and dissatisfied with the AEU’s performance in representing Principal Class Officers’ industrial interests, sought to join the VPF in a fresh application for registration.
This came to be following a change of name to the Australian Principals Federation and the extension of membership to Western Australian Principal Class Officers. A fresh application for federal registration was lodged by the APF in December 2003. Registration was granted by Vice President Ross in January 2006, a decision upheld by the Full Bench of the AIRC in September 2006. However, in yet another twist, following a further appeal lodged by the AEU to the High Court which was remitted to the Federal Court, the Full Bench of that court in a majority decision quashed the registration on highly technical and contentious grounds concerning APF rules in July 2008.
The APF is a Federal organisation dedicated to advancing the industrial interests of members, with State branches in Victoria and Western Australia.
The last word in this sequence of events however was to be made by the Australian Commonwealth Government. It legislated in the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009, an Act that became law on 1 July 2009, to render irrelevant the perceived defect in our rules by validating our registration status and that of every other registered organisation in the country because of the Government’s fear of the wider ramifications of the Federal Court’s decision quashing our registration in 2008. The Commonwealth legislation not only validated our registration but deemed us to have always been validly registered.
A series of legal challenges by the AEU to the application of the Commonwealth’s legislation in the Federal Court and High Court were finally dismissed by the High Court in May 2012.
The Australian Principals Federation has thus been registered continuously since 30 January 2006 providing it with all the legal powers of registration to support and represent its members.