Faux Park was the location, but there was nothing faux about the solidarity between members of the IEU and the NSW Teachers Federation, or their mutual frustration at their employers’ inability to grasp and address the issues teachers and support staff in both sectors are facing.
More than 250 members gathered along the banks of the Tweed River for speeches from both unions. Common ground and shared experiences were immediately apparent.
Everyone recognised the gravity of the current teacher shortage and the rate of burnout among school staff.
“I believe we have reached a threshold,” said the IEU Rep at Mount St Patrick Primary School in Murwillumbah, Simon Smith (pictured middle row, right). “It feels quite ‘frontierish’ as we stand here today, united, fighting for the future of quality education for our students. Without quality Catholic and public education systems, the disadvantage gap will only increase.”
The impact of unnecessary meetings, paperwork and data collection was also a common theme.
“Just trying to hold a chapter meeting in our school was a struggle,” said Stewart Grant, IEU rep at Mount St Patrick College Murwillumbah (pictured middle row, left). “Finding an afternoon free from a staff meeting, faculty meeting, PLT, welfare meeting, COI meeting or LOL meeting was difficult. Needless to say, the irony of not being able to hold a meeting about teacher workload because of teacher workload was not lost on our members.”
Members of both unions joined in chanting each other’s slogans (“Hear our voice!” and “More than thanks!”) as they marched on the office of NSW Nationals MP Geoff Provest. We were accompanied all the way by a symphony of car horns, as locals enthusiastically supported our cause.