Principals told to stop teachers walking off for refugees

Teachers For Refugees is calling on teachers and education support staff to walk off for refugees on November 20.

The Department of Education and Training Victoria today advised school principals to oppose leave for teachers who wish to participate in the Walk Off for Refugees on November 20.

Teachers For Refugees (TFR) has called on teachers and education support staff to walk off the job on Universal Children’s Day and demand that the federal government remove all children and adults from offshore camps and resettle them in the community.

TFR’s Lucy Honan said in response to the education department’s decision: “In the face of the human rights catastrophe that has lasted more than five years, this is an unacceptable response from educational leaders.

“We are calling on principals to ignore this advice and to support any teachers who are planning to attend the walk off.”

Teachers have pledged to go ahead with the November 20 unless all children and adults have been removed from Nauru by then.

TFR highlighted the disparity in the education department’s response to teachers attending the Australian Council of Trade Union’s Change the Rules rallies and the proposed walk off.

“Premier Daniel Andrews rightly allowed delegations of teachers to attend the Change the Rules rally on work time,” the TFR statement said.

“Andrews himself marched on that rally.

“It is appropriate to take action over broken workplace rules, but the rules for refugees are even more broken. Andrews and his government must stop threatening teachers and principals, and stand up for refugees.”

The statement adds: “Teachers in Victoria operate under a law requiring us to promote and protect human rights, and take human rights into account when making decisions or taking action in our day-to-day work.

“[Human Resources] executive Tony Bugden and Minister for Education James Merlino may want to ignore the Victorian Charter of Human Rights.

“But we will not, and we call on principals, who know as well as we do about the atrocities in offshore detention, to show leadership in this moment.”

The Australian Education Union Victorian Branch Council unanimously passed a motion in support of the November 20 Walk Off for Refugees last month. 

Teachers will assemble outside the State Library in Melbourne at 2.30pm that day, where members of the National Tertiary Education Union will join them.

[Mary Merkenich is a member of the Socialist Alliance and an AEU branch councillor.]

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