About 130 members from 10 schools joined our rally at West Tamworth Leagues Club, as Maddy Simmonds provided a Welcome to Country, in language, to commence proceedings.

Members came from McCarthy College, St Nicholas, St Joseph’s and St Edward’s in Tamworth, with the McCarthy contingent almost a rally on its own. They came from St Joseph’s in Quirindi, St Michael’s in Manilla, St Mary’s College and St Xavier’s in Gunnedah, O’Connor Catholic College in Armidale and from as far as St Mary of the Angels in Guyra to ensure their voices were heard.

Our voices certainly were heard across the diocese with other stop-work gatherings held in Barraba, Moree, Glen Innes, Armidale and Tenterfield.

IEU North West Sub Branch President Libby Lockwood (pictured right, second from top, speaking) outlined why members needed to take their first full-day strike action in 18 years. “I love my job, I love being a teacher, I love my students, I love my school,” she said. “But I don’t love being disrespected, undervalued and overworked.”

To nods, cheers and the occasional cry of “shame!” from the crowd, Libby said: “Teachers go over and above the call of duty every day. We are dedicated professionals whose desire to do the best job possible is taken advantage of – parent-teacher nights, excursions, report writing, marking, sacraments, retreats, personal plans, and data, data and more data – the list goes on.”

Organiser Charles Wheeler revved up the crowd with some noisy chants (not that they needed much encouragement), and IEU member and Aboriginal Education Assistant Kim Taggart said support staff are experiencing increasing demands yet they are still paid less than their counterparts in government schools.

IEU member and high school teacher Andrew May spoke about the frustrations many members are feeling. “We are called upon to provide an education that is challenging, differentiated, engaging and individualised; we’re called upon to become coaches, mediators, counsellors and social workers,” he said.

Member Jono Dean (pictured at right, third from top), won best sign for his clever Wordle-themed placard. Jono happily accepted a special Hear our Voice scented candle.

“We’re called upon to compile reams of data that are meant to improve educational outcomes, but are really just intended to punish schools for not meeting some bureaucratic ideal of how funding should be allocated.”

There was considerable media interest in our rally. We thank Libby and Andrew for giving articulate interviews during the days leading up to the rally and on the day itself.

David Towson