70 years strong in 2024: A little history

This year marks an important milestone for the IEU: our 70-year anniversary. And we need you to tell us your stories.

But first, a little history. On 24 September 1954, a group of male teachers held a meeting at Sydney Grammar School. They adopted a draft constitution of the Assistant Masters’ Association (AMA) and elected an interim committee of eight men to “conduct the AMA’s affairs”. A full election for office bearers was to be conducted in March 1955.

By mid-November 1954, membership of the AMA stood at 51. The committee thought the AMA needed a minimum of 150 members to be viable. In April 1955 there were 157 members; but numbers fell below 150 later that year.

While women could join the AMA, they were not inclined to as they generally weren’t employed in independent boys’ schools. In 1965, a Mrs Martin from Queenwood accepted an invitation to attend AMA Council along with 20 other representatives from seven other independent girls’schools.

In 1966, in what was to be a pivotal year for our union, the AMA’s annual general meeting agreed to admit women teachers from girls’ schools by a vote of 21 to 8. A vote to change the name of the union to the Assistant Masters’ and Mistresses’ Association (AMMA) was subsequently carried 18 to 3. It would remain the AMMA until 1972 when it became the NSW Independent Teachers’ Association (ITA).

In 1994, the ITA became the Independent Education Union, to reflect coverage of support staff in non-government schools.

From these humble beginnings, in 2024 the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch enjoys a collective strength of more than 32,000 members supported by 80 staff across five offices.

As we approach our 70-year anniversary, we’re planning to share our history in the pages of Newsmonth, with the help of former office holders from the Assistant Masters’ and Mistresses’ Association (AMMA), the Independent Teachers’ Association (ITA) and the current IEU.

But we need to hear from our members too. If you have any stories, articles or memorabilia that may be of interest to our IEU history project, please email us: history@ieu.asn.au

Our first strike: 1967

In February 1967, 12 teachers from De La Salle College, Revesby, and five from Christian Brothers High School, Bondi, took strike action.

At the core of the dispute was a Sydney Catholic Education Office decision to centralise the wage payment system for all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. Until then, school principals had responsibility for paying their staff; and principals determined suitable pay rates to attract staff to their schools (we had yet to win the first non-government schools teacher award). As a result of the change to payments, some teacher wages went backwards of up to $5 per week – roughly equivalent to $80 today.

The principal of De La Salle College, Brother Dunstan, wrote to parents supporting the teachers’ strike and urging the parents to support them by writing to Cardinal Gilroy to outline their concern in attracting and keeping quality lay teachers in Catholic schools.

The striking teachers joined a ‘steering committee’ with teachers from other schools to pressure the Sydney Catholic Education Office to adjust their salaries to what they had signed on for by the next pay period.

These first strikes highlighted the need for the Assistant Masters’ and Mistresses’ Association (as the IEU was known in 1967) to focus on industrial issues. They gave impetus for those who sought to negotiate an award to ensure salaries and conditions could not be arbitrarily diminished as had just occurred.