The stately Tamworth Town Hall was the site of the historic IEU-NSW Teachers Federation rally in the NSW north west. Speakers from both the IEU and the Federation clearly outlined the impact teacher shortages are having on teachers and students.

“I am one of the estimated 28 percent of teachers who will retire in the next four years, so what does this mean for the future of our profession?” said Fiona O’Neill, the IEU rep at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth (pictured right). “To our employers, I say let us see some action.”

The IEU rep at St Nicholas Primary School in Tamworth, Tim Unwin, said that when he started teaching in 2012, competition for teaching jobs was “fierce”; but now, he said, regional cities such as Tamworth really struggle to find staff.

Tim spoke of the impact of teacher shortages and work intensification on his colleagues. “The system is breaking, and it is breaking teachers,” he said. “When the system fails teachers, it also fails students and families.”

Uralla Central School principal and Teachers Federation member Michael Rathborne said he was “incandescent with rage” about the NSW Government’s disinterest in the crisis education is facing. He went on to express his disappointment at discovering support staff in Catholic schools were paid less than their counterparts in government schools.

About 400 members from the IEU and the Federation marched on NSW Nationals MP Kevin Anderson’s office (Mr Anderson is the member for Tamworth). To his credit, he addressed the crowd, saying he would “take your voice to the Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell”. He thanked members for their work in schools. Unionists in bright yellow and red responded loudly in unison: “More than thanks! Hear our voice! More than thanks!”

David Towson