“More Than Thanks”: Twenty Thousand Teachers Rally In Sydney’s CBD

"For too long this government has ignored the crisis facing the education system."

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Thousands of public teachers have taken to Macquarie Street in Sydney’s CBD in a dramatic protest against systematic overwork and low pay in the education sector.

Public teachers represented by the Teachers Federation Union were joined by several Catholic schools under the Independent Education Union in a historic joint strike across New South Wales. The two unions haven’t participated in joint action since 1996.

As teachers gathered at the northern end of Hyde Park, Deputy Principal Lisa told Junkee that she watched conditions in public education worsen throughout her career.

“For too long this government has ignored the crisis facing the education system,” Lisa told Junkee. “Our teachers are overworked, they’re not paid commensurate with the work that they do, they don’t have enough time to do their work effectively and as a result, our students in public education are suffering.”

Teacher Lisa (left) with her daughter.

As more people began to swell into the park, the number of primary school children usually in the classroom on a Thursday morning became more noticeable. Joined by Lisa was her teenage daughter.

Ultimately it’s for the students,” Lisa said. “My daughter goes to a public school and we have classes that haven’t hade a regular teacher all year. We have schools where multiple classes are on minimal supervision which means they’re all in a big group and they’re not getting the expertise of a class specific teacher.”

Teachers and Unions in New South Wales were deeply disappointed last week after the result of striking action and countless meetings with Department of Education representatives only resulted in a three percent increase in teachers’ wages. President of the Teachers Federation Angelo Gavrielatos labelled the increase as a “pay-cut”, which added “insult to injury” for teachers already exhausted from overwork.

Another public school teacher at the demonstration, Eva told Junkee that time was another precious resource that educators were sorely lacking in the classroom.

“This week I haven’t actually had time to plan most of my teaching,” Eva told Junkee.  “There are certain admin tasks that are burden on the teachers that have to get done so that wider school programs can happen. So that’s what I’ve been spending my evenings doing, organising events and excursions and all the admin that goes with that.” 

When asked if she had ever received overtime pay for the administration work she had completed after school hours, Eva laughed.

In my twelve years of teaching that has never happened,” Eva said. 

Eva says that the terms of the temporary contract she’s employed under has given her high levels of anxiety as she is forced to go “above and beyond” to ensure her job is renewed each year, even while missing out on crucial benefits like long service leave and maternity leave.

“I always been passionate about education,” Eva told Junkee.  “The actual teaching side of my job I love doing, but it does require a lot of energy, a lot of emotional energy, a lot of physical energy, a lot of time.

“When that all gets sucked out of you from working overtime or on the weekend, and having to spend hours and hours doing admin tasks and not actually having that time to plan your teaching, that passion sort of gets stomped on.”