I wrote yesterday about my take on why Victoria’s public sector teachers were taking unprecedented strike action. Today was the day, and I am so impressed with the amazing show of strength Australian Education Union (Victoria) demonstrated!

At 12:35 the police were ready – and the first nurses were on the scene (in red, on the stairs, just above the pedestrians)

Two of our fantastic staff members and ANF Job Rep Damien Hurrell and his kids (their mum’s a nurse, too!) down from Bendigo to support quality education in Victoria’s public schools

12:39 And across the street more nurses are coming, but I can’t greet them because I’m distracted…

…coming from the north end of Spring Street and chanting loudly, here come hundreds of Independent Education Union members who, though taking unprotected action, have left their Catholic schools to support their public sector colleagues

12:50 It’s all happening – as I turn away from the marching, chanting, purple-clad IEU teachers, here come yet more red-clad nurses and midwives!

While across the road are members of the Community and Public Sector Union – it’s 12:51 and we’re ready for the teachers!

And, right on cue, here they come!
The nurses and midwives hurry up the stairs of Parliament House to greet the teachers after their long march from Rod Laver Arena. In the foreground, dressed in orange, is teacher, comedian and MC Damian Callinan

IEU members also move in, to make room for the thousands of teachers marching on Parliament House

Teachers have a lot in common with nurses and midwives, but they don’t move as quickly as us – while waiting for them to meander up Collins Street I was irresistibly reminded of ANF (Vic. branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick’s reminders to walk out slowly, “not like a nurse” 😉

But what they lacked in speed they  teachers more than made up for in numbers!

My vantage point was better than those in the crowd, but not a good as that of the Opposition politicians standing high on the steps of Parliament House…

This photo was taken by MP Jenny Mikakos (used with permission) and shows the scale of the crowd – at this point teachers were still turning into Collins Street from Swanson Street

Though the sky was overcast, no rain fell until it was all over – but the wind was gusty. So strong, in fact, that after several AEU marshalls were called on for crowd duty it took several nurses to hold the banners up

ANF (Vic. branch) Assistant Secretary Pip Carew shows her support by holding up a post of an enormous AEU banners after a member was almost blown over!

While the teachers squashed in as tightly as possible, I asked AEU (Victoria) President Mary Bluett if I could take a photo:

Here she is with her proud daughter, standing up together for the future of our state and the future of our state’s teachers (thanks to Daniel Cohen, who corrected my original designation of Ms Bluett as AEU State Secretary)

The speeches that followed were short and to the point, starting with:

Federal ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver: the casualisation of the education profession (where 18% of teachers and half of aides are on short-term contracts) is emblematic of a wide-spread and growing problem in Australia

I won’t post photos of the rest of the speakers, because they’re also the backs of heads. In distillation:
● Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Brian Boyd emphasised that the presence of so many other union members showed that we are none of us fighting alone – that’s right, Brian: touch one, touch all!
● Independent Education Union (Victoria/Tasmania) General Secretary Debra James spoke about the common fight teachers have, regardless of sector, and praised her members, whose overwhelming presence in solidarity was no protected action.
● Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews relayed for those who hadn’t heard it the Premier’s belief that the strike would achieve nothing – doing nothing, said Minister Andrews, is something the Premier knows all about. He went on to promise that he would listen and respond to the concerns of teachers – as at our Delegates conference, he was clear that he would not be making any promises about other outcomes.
● Australian Education Union (Victoria) President Mary Bluett, perhaps inspired by the sign below, or perhaps the inspiration for it, promised the crowd that they’d continue to fight, term after term.

The best sign I’ve seen in this or any campaign since the Kennett years 🙂

She was interrupted by thousands of people spontaneous chanting One Term Ted – and that seems a fitting note on which to end: 815 days to go, Mr Baillieu.

I’d be delighted to have a source for this amazing photo of striking teachers at Rod Laver Arena today: it’s all over Twitter but uncredited

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