“The community should be outraged”: Teachers strike over ‘human rights’ issue

Teachers at Yeronga State High School in Brisbane are striking over their ongoing campaign protesting the Federal Government’s detention of Iranian student, Mojgan Shamsalipoor.

Shamsalipoor was just months away from graduating when she was forcibly taken from the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre in August and held at a Darwin detention centre after her visa application was refused.

Shamsalipoor said she fears returning to Iran. She arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 after fleeing sexual abuse and an arranged marriage to a man in his 60s.
Her asylum claim was rejected last year after she had lived in Australia for two years on a bridging visa.

Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) president, Kevin Bates, told The Educator that the Government’s move to deny children who are seeking asylum access to an education was unacceptable, and called for broad community support.

“The community as a whole should be outraged that young people are detained, denied access to education and mistreated in a variety of ways,” Bates said.

“Only through a mass movement of people demanding changes to the policies of both major political parties can we hope to change the situation faced by these most vulnerable people.”

Bates warned that industrial action would continue if the government did not budge.

“Members at the school have already voted to stop work again if the Immigration Minister moves to deport Mojgan to Iran where she will face certain persecution and possible death,” Bates said.

“On the broader issue of children in detention, QTU members have expressed condemnation of the practice and may consider moving to an industrial campaign on this issue as well.”

Bates added the movement to free Mojgan was growing at the same time as the union movement is beginning to mobilise behind the broader issue of human rights for refugees and asylum seekers.

“All children deserve the advantage of a quality education to provide them with the foundation for a successful future,” Bates said.

He added that while the industrial action by the QTU “goes some way” to raising awareness, it is only through a political campaign that the union can hope to make major changes to the approach of the community.

“As a student leader from Yeronga said at the rally today, people only put their children on the water because it is safer than the land,” Bates said.

“We as a nation must develop a more compassionate response to refugees and asylum seekers and the next part of that journey commenced today.”