After a week of constant rain, the sun shone brightly on MacCabe Park in Wollongong as about 350 Catholic systemic IEU members gathered in solidarity before marching to the Catholic Education Office on Market Street.

Members from as far south as Nowra and up into the Macarthur region and the Sydney Archdiocese arrived in jovial spirits as t-shirts, paddles and song sheets were distributed in anticipation of the rally.

Jodi Edwards from the Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation offered a deeply moving Welcome to Country which stilled the atmosphere. Jodi spoke of connection to place and the struggle First Nations people face to have their voices heard. She encouraged rally participants to seek the same, saying it would take strength and endurance.

IEU Organiser Tina Smith motivated members with a range of rhyming chants:

Two point zero four! Teachers walking out the door!

What do we want? Time to teach! When do we want it? Now!

We have no choice! Hear Our Voice!

IEU member Jenna Hogan surprised and wowed the crowd with an impromptu version of John Farnham’s 1986 hit “You’re the Voice” – on the ukulele. IEU members, union affiliates and Labor’s federal member for Whitlam, Stephen Jones (pictured right, second from top, in red tie) all joined in.

We thank all our South Coast members who joined in solidarity with their Catholic systemic colleagues across NSW and the ACT, postponing other commitments for a few hours in the knowledge that collective action generates the power for real change.

Valerie Jones, Tina Smith
Pam Smith
Assistant Secretary