Nancy Spence

Nancy Spence was a tireless supporter of government schools and the Heidelberg community.

Honour Roll

She devoted her whole life working in a volunteer capacity on numerous parent organisations, school councils, area committees, statewide committees and organisations such as the Victorian Council of Schools Organisation.

She fought hard to ensure funding by governments of quality programs for schools with a high number of students from poor socio-economic backgrounds and for effective and meaningful parent consultation and involvement. The key motivating factor for Nancy becoming involved in education and becoming an activist was her concern that the special needs of her foster son, Rodney, were being ignored at school.

In her attempts to ensure that he gained appropriate support she quickly came to see that the regional and statewide frameworks and policies were too often ill informed and made the situation worse rather than being of assistance. This led her to join the Mothers' Club and, as a natural community networker, she extended this and soon became a key local contact for the state bodies working for progressive educational reforms.

She then represented statewide organisations on the local area committees of the Supplementary Grants Program (later the Disadvantaged Schools Program). As the local area representative, Nancy worked closely with a number of local schools, with the Waterdale School Support Centre and the Northern Metropolitan Regional Office of the education Department in ensuring the funding and delivery of quality programs.

She carried out a continuous war for over a decade against notional funding, insisting that it was quality programs that had to be the focus. She saw her role here as a natural extension of her parenting and community activities, and never lost sight of children in the schools. Nancy also became committed to Supplementary Grants because a key element of the submission process was that it included parents, students and teachers in the decisionmaking process at every stage.

And apart from all students having every opportunity possible regardless of economic background, what Nancy was most passionate about was real parent participation. Nancy was also a major participant and contributor to the West Heidelberg Community Education Network and supporter of its Officer, Barbara Romerill. She worked closely with and supported Heidelberg Technical School, Heidelberg High and LaTrobe High schools through her service on the Heidelberg Technical School Council and was part of the amalgamation committee which oversaw the three schools becoming Banksia Secondary College.

She also became involved with the East Preston Community Health Network and was part of the group that fought for and succeeded in getting a Community Development Officer funded to work with the Waterdale group of schools and the local community. From 1982-83 she became a member of the State Executive of VICCSO. She represented them on departmental statewide committees specifically the School Reorganisation and Quality Provision committees. In 1984, Nancy joined the Northland Secondary College Parents Association.

After Lydia Horvat resigned, she was the school's Community Development Officer, and later became involved in the volunteer reading program listening to children read. She also worked as volunteer teacher aide for three days a week. She was so impressive in her relationship with students and worked so well with them that after a number of years, in 1990, Bill Maxwell, the Principal, organised for her to be employed as an Integration Aide, first for one day a week, then more and finally at 0.7.

Nancy was given some of the most difficult students to work with - and she thrived on it. She had a magic touch with kids and had students who wouldn't work for anyone else, wrapped around her little finger. Students loved having her support them in class and were always incredibly respectful of her even when they might have been swearing at someone else in the same breath.

She resigned the position once the school was forcibly closed by the Kennett Government in December 1992 because she didn't want to work anywhere else and returned to Northland to work as a volunteer when it reopened in 1995. She was School Council President from 1995-99. Nancy was a true believer in people and the power of people to change lives for the better.