For everyone My Favourite Things: The Commons Social Change Library

  • By Louise Swinn
  • This article was published more than 8 months ago.
  • 31 Jul 2023
Activists Zelda D'Aprano and Bon Hull paying 75% of the tram fare to protest only getting 75% of the wage paid to their male collagues.

Preparing to campaign for a cause or planning a lesson on the history of political activism? The Commons Social Change Library is your one-stop shop, offering a wealth of knowledge and a fascinating insight into the history of protest in Australia. Here’s a mere taste of its cracking yarns and some fun teaching resources.

A HISTORY of teachers fighting for social justice

Revolution is for us
GAY LIBERATION, UNIONS AND THE LEFT IN THE 1970s

During the 70s, Penny Short was kicked out of her teaching trainee course for writing a poem about same-sex desire. The NSW Teachers Federation pledged its support, the Builders Labourers Federation threatened to stop work, and fellow student-teachers protested outside the Education Department. Meanwhile, in Queensland, Greg Weir was denied employment as a teacher and waged his own campaign for gay rights.

Supporting Indigenous land rights
THE NATIONAL MORATORIUM FOR BLACK RIGHTS

On 14 July 1972, as part of a national Moratorium for Black Rights, 500 Indigenous Australians led a march numbering 6000 from Redfern into central Sydney under the banner of “Ningla-na – we are hungry for our land”. Amongst the crowd were students, labourers, ship painters, dock workers, teachers and others who undertook a half-day strike in support of Indigenous rights.

William (Bill) White (above) was a schoolteacher who lost his job with the NSW Education Department because of his stance against conscription.

Brave Enough to Say ‘No’
WILLIAM WHITE AND THE FIGHT AGAINST MILITARY CONSCRIPTION

During the Vietnam War, William (Bill) White (above) was a schoolteacher who lost his job with the NSW Education Department because of his stance against conscription.

In November 1965, White applied to be registered as a conscientious objector, stating his inability “with a clear conscience, [to] kill a person, or be part of any organisation that is able or willing to kill or make war.” A group of parents, teachers, students and other supporters formed the Bill White Defence Committee to support him through his long-running legal battle.

Chaining themselves to the cause
FROM LITTLE THINGS BIG THINGS GROW

After hearing about now-legendary activist Zelda D’Aprano’s act of chaining herself to the Commonwealth Building to demand equal pay for women, school teachers Alva Geikie and Thelma Solomon joined her second stunt, chaining themselves to the Arbitration Court on 31 October 1969.

The trio undertook the action on the day of a statewide teachers strike so that Alva and Thelma wouldn’t be penalised.

Alva and Thelma went on to join other stunts led by Zelda (above, with activist Bon Hull) such as only paying 75% of the tram fare to highlight that they were paid 75% of the wage earned by their male co-workers.

Useful resources

Facilitation/groupwork teaching

Political campaigning

Creative activism

Promoting diversity and inclusion

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