Teachers vote to walk off for refugees

Photo: Teachers for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum QLD

Australian Education Union (AEU) members in Queensland will be joining their Victorian colleagues in walking off the job on November 20, Universal Children’s Day, to demand the federal Coalition government gets kids and their families off Nauru.

Three state AEU branches—NSW Teachers Federation, AEU Victorian branch and the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) — have passed resolutions condemning the government’s refusal to immediately evacuate asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and Manus Island and resettle them in Australia, where they can receive urgently required medical treatment and other services.

As teachers, the treatment of refugee children on Nauru is an anathema to our professional ethics and the care with which we support the learning and welfare of our students every day.

Regardless of what Prime Minister Scott Morrison and home affairs minister Peter Dutton say, these children are Australia’s responsibility. As a country, we have a responsibility to act to ensure that their suffering ceases immediately.

All children, including those who are refugees and asylum seekers, have the right to an education, decent health care, and a safe future.

The campaign to free the children and their families being held in Australian prison camps on Nauru is at a critical stage.

While intensive media reporting has highlighted the deplorable conditions and critical medical condition on Nauru, action by civil society groups appalled at the more than five years of detention suffered by people legally seeking asylum has made this issue an electoral liability for the government.

Unions and community organisations therefore must maintain the pressure on the government. 

As a longstanding QTU member, I am proud that on November 3 the QTU State Council unanimously endorsed an action plan to get kids off Nauru.

Along with supporting the November 20 walk off, QTU members will be participating in “Blue for Nauru” on November 13. People are being asked to wear blue as part of “Blue for Nauru” week (November 13-20) to draw attention to the detrimental impact indefinite detention is having on the physical and mental health of refugees and asylum seekers.

QTU members will also hold workplace meetings to discuss asylum seeker policy and vote on a series of motions, including one that QTU issue a directive to delegates to walk off the job at 2.30pm on November 20 and join the QTU “Change the Rules for Refugees” rally at 4pm in King George Square, Brisbane.

All unions and refugee action groups are being invited to attend.

[Neil Frost is a QTU workplace representative and a member of the Socialist Alliance.]