The day began with a big truck carrying our giant video screen getting bogged, followed quickly by a quick change of the stage’s position to accommodate it. We knew things could only get better.

And they did. Before long, Lang Park was awash with yellow “Hear our voice!” t-shirts and red “More than thanks!” t-shirts as over 2300 members of the IEU and the NSW Teachers Federation from about 120 schools united for a historic rally.

Dr Jodi Edwards welcomed us to Country and spoke of the age-old link to Dharawal land and its significance to her people as she welcomed our people, union people, to this place.

Speakers from both unions emphasised how tired they are of crushing workloads; of endless administrative tasks that detract from teaching; of constantly feeling like they don’t have enough time to cater properly to students’ needs. They’re tired of low morale and being told to do more.

“We have a deep care and commitment to the welfare of our students,” said one speaker. “But we’re also tired of this commitment being weaponised against us to compel us to accept unsustainable working conditions.”

After the mustard (IEU) and ketchup (NSWTF) marched through the centre of Wollongong, IEU member Jenna Hogan once again got the crowd singing at full voice with a reworked version of the old union standard Solidarity Forever, and Taylor Swift’s 2014 mega-hit Shake It Off:

But you keep choosin’

Policy that’s bruisin’

That’s why you are losin’

So many of us

And it’s not gonna be alright!

Clever signs set the tone: “I’d rather be teaching but this is important”, said one. “If Teacher Librarians are using their outside voices, this is serious”, said another. And: “Teachers don’t need praise they need a raise”.

Valerie Jones, Tina Smith