Teachers face wrath over Palestine action in schools

Rachael Ward and Callum Godde |

Plans to invite a Palestinian advocate to speak to students has been slammed by a state government.
Plans to invite a Palestinian advocate to speak to students has been slammed by a state government.

Victorian teachers could be reprimanded for bringing their support for war-torn 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 planned from Monday.

A flyer for the action urged teachers and staff to visibly show their solidarity with the occupied 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.

Protest at the United States Consulate in Melbourne.
Pro-Palestine protesters have targeted the United States Consulate in Melbourne. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

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.

Mr Carroll urged teachers not to invite pro-Palestine speakers into schools, reminding them of their obligations to be apolitical and unbiased.

“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.

Mr Carroll was hopeful it wouldn’t come to staff being sacked for participating but warned the department had disciplinary powers.

The minister has spoken to AEU Victorian branch secretary Meredith Peace, who assured him the broader 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, Mr Carroll said.

Deputy Premier Ben Carroll
Deputy Premier Ben Carroll was unimpressed with the plan endorsed by a small group of teachers. (Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS)

Opposition education spokeswoman Jess Wilson suggested the Victorian government had been caught flat-footed by the planned action, noting the flyer had been circulating widely on Sunday.

“It’s too late now when we’ve seen the commencement of this so-called week of action,” she said.

Hundreds of school students in Melbourne and Sydney defied calls from politicians last week to show support for Palestine amid the conflict in Gaza.

Thousands more turned out in major cities across the nation for a seventh week of Sunday rallies seeking a permanent ceasefire.

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.

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 and signs reading “stop the genocide” and “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.

Protesters also targeted 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 early on Monday on Hatt Road, about 100m from the Stuart Highway turn off to Pine Gap.

By the afternoon, all the protesters were removed from the road and two women in their 30s were issued notices to appear for traffic and summary offences, NT Police said.