Australian boarding school supervisors : a voluntary position?

O'Brien, John (2013) Australian boarding school supervisors : a voluntary position? International Journal of Law and Education, 18(2), pp. 43-59.


This paper aims to examine how Australian boarding supervisors (particularly non-teachers) are defined in regards to employment. The practices of Queensland’s School X (real name withheld) are used as an example of the difficult issues involved – although whether this case study is repeated elsewhere in the industry would take further research. The paper illustrates that the employment of boarding supervisors is dealt with at a basic level by a modern award, however its provisions do not represent what occurs in practice. If there is no enterprise bargain which improves upon the award, two possible explanations are put forward to explain the difference between award conditions and practice. The first is that the contract between boarding supervisors may not be one of employment. Relevant case law regarding whether a person is an employee or independent contractor is examined, and when applied to a typical boarding situation, it is concluded that any contract should be one of employment. The second explanation is that there is no legal contract at all between boarding supervisors and a school. Drawing on School X’s example where supervisors were classed as ‘volunteers’, the paper examines what the legal effect of that term might be. It could be seen to be a denial of an intention to create legal relations, a critical element in contract formation. Again, important cases are analysed on the topic of intention, and applied to a boarding context. It is argued that given the objective circumstances of a typical agreement, there is an intention to create legal relations. In particular, a little known Queensland case involving the non-employment status of boarding supervisors, which may be the cause of the confusion, is critically examined to determine its usefulness in answering the issue. Finally, the implications of not classifying boarding supervisors as employees are briefly discussed.

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ID Code: 77677
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: boarding, employment, volunteer, intention, contract, schools
ISSN: 1836-9030
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Commercial and Contract Law (180105)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Labour Law (180118)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Law not elsewhere classified (180199)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 14 Oct 2014 23:22
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2015 04:06

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