Teachers face wrath over Palestine action in schools
Plans to invite a Palestinian advocate to speak to students has been slammed by a state government. Photo: AAP
Victorian teachers could be reprimanded for bringing their support for Palestine into school classrooms as part of a union-linked move.
A week of action in schools to show solidarity with Palestine, endorsed by the inner city and Maribyrnong regions of the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch, has been organised from Monday.
A flyer for the action suggested teachers and staff visibly show their solidarity with the war-torn Middle Eastern nation, including by wearing a keffiyeh, Palestine badge or T-shirt.
Other plans ranged from inviting a Palestinian advocate to speak to students and taking a photo or video of teachers holding signs or flags.
The Victorian government has condemned the plans, with the education department to make its stance clear in a statement to schools on Monday afternoon.
“It’s inflammatory, it’s divisive and only sows more seeds of disharmony in our community,” Education Minister Ben Carroll told reporters.
Carroll urged teachers not to invite pro-Palestine speakers into schools, reminding them of their obligations to be apolitical.
“It’s very clear in the code of conduct that strangers and political activists cannot attend school grounds and it will be enforced by the school principals,” he said.
The deputy premier was also seeking advice on whether the department could direct staff not to wear pro-Palestinian attire such as badges.
Carroll was hopeful it wouldn’t come to staff being sacked for carrying out the action but warned the department had disciplinary powers.
He has spoken to AEU Victorian branch secretary Meredith Peace, who assured him the wider state branch did not endorse the action.
The motion was passed by a group of about 20 to 25 teachers from areas such as Flemington, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Princess Hill, Carroll said.
Hundreds of school students in Melbourne and Sydney defied calls from politicians last week to show support for Palestine amid the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
Thousands more turned out in major cities across the country for a seventh week of Sunday rallies seeking a permanent ceasefire, with a four-day truce between Israel and Hamas set to end on Tuesday afternoon (Australian time).
More than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its bombardment of Gaza in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas militants who killed more than 1400 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages.
There are hopes a four-day ceasefire that began on Friday will result in the release of at least 65 Israeli and foreign hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners.
It comes after two Palestine supporters were arrested for staging a demonstration on Monday morning outside the United States Consulate in Melbourne.
The entrance to the consulate’s office on St Kilda Road was splattered with red paint.
Signs reading “stop the genocide”, “close Pine Gap” and a Palestinian flag were hung from temporary fencing and placed on the ground.
More than a dozen demonstrators attended and some made speeches.
Victoria Police said two people were arrested for obstructing police.
Protesters are also targeting the Australian-US military facility Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, claiming Israeli defence forces rely on information gathered there.
Police confirmed they had received reports of protest activity on Monday morning on Hatt Road, about 100m from the Stuart Highway turn-off to Pine Gap.
No arrests have been made and traffic diversions are in place.