On Tuesday the 27th of March, thousands of educators from around Australia walked off the job for equal pay. Here in Tasmania, more than 250 educators from 30 centres, including mine, participated in this action.
It was an amazing and empowering experience seeing whole centres walking off the job and sharing their stories.
The very next day, I had the opportunity to go to Canberra and talk with federal politicians regarding the extremely low wages we are paid.
As this was my first time talking with politicians, I was incredibly nervous, but I knew it was something that I had to do. I have been struggling with these low wages for years and I wanted to meet with politicians face to face to tell them about the everyday struggles faced by early childhood educators everywhere.
Upon meeting the other educators from around Australia, my nerves began to settle, as it quickly became obvious that these women are intelligent professionals within their field, and have no concerns about voicing their own struggles about our low wages.
The response I got from the Labor party was very positive, with Anne Aly being a personal favourite of mine. It is very clear that the Labor party is on our side and agreed that we deserve equal pay. The politicians agreed that this wouldn’t be a discussion that we would be having if it wasn’t for the fact that the sector is 97% female.
I was saddened by the fact that no one from the Liberal party agreed to meet with us, but at the same time was not that surprised, given Simon Birmingham’s negative comments about educators being “manipulated by their union” (sic) into doing these walk offs. The fact that he wouldn’t even meet with educators who flew all the way to Canberra really speaks volumes about his character.
A highlight for me was question time with the politicians in the Parliament gallery. I felt a sense of comradery as I sat around watching on with educators from around Australia who are dealing with the same sort of struggles and issues as me.
I don’t think anyone was surprised when Malcolm Turnbull completely deflected Amanda Rishworth, MP’s question, regarding how he justifies our low wages. It was nice sharing this experience with other educators; however I did become a bit angry, disappointed, and upset when Malcolm and the rest of the Liberal party refused to even acknowledge us, let alone discuss the low wages that we’re expected to be able to live on.
I do feel like we made progress with the Labor Party. As I said before, meeting Anne Aly was wonderful, and she is such a great voice to have behind our campaign. I really felt like she could see all the hard work we do and when talking to her, she really listened and didn’t just nod along because she thought that that’s what we wanted to see.
I believe that with a Labor government, equal pay will happen. By educators being honest about our realities and joining our union, we will win this campaign.