This year’s Midsumma Pride March was held in St Kilda on Sunday 5 February, starting at the Ian Johnson oval, winding its way colourfully down Fitzroy Street, and ending in Catani Gardens. The parade celebrates diversity, solidarity and inclusion – and this year, the union contingent was strong, vocal and super bright. Fortunately, the weather was on our side, too. The sun was out but, unlike in previous years, it was not stinking hot.
It was the AEU’s biggest turnout ever – more than 100 AEU members from across the sectors gathered. Primary and secondary teachers, education support, principals, TAFE and early childhood members, sub-branches and school groups marched, along with students, families and their friends, to celebrate our LGBTQIA+ members and community. The day was characteristically festive, with AEU members chanting and dancing and celebrating together alongside our fellow unions in a bright array of costumes and cleverly crafted placards.
Pride marches have been taking place since the 1970s, and unions have long led the way when it comes to anti-discrimination against minority groups, including with respect to sexual orientation and gender issues. AEU organiser Max Grarock was happy to see so many union faces. “I am excited about how many members have got involved this year,” he said, holding the union’s Pride banner high.
“We have a very open staff, and trans kids, and we’re very proud.” Edgar Wegner
AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace was also delighted to see such a large group, reflecting the breadth of AEU’s membership. “Today is a great day to recognise the diversity and value of our members,” Meredith said, leading the contingent.
Chris Tricker, AEU organiser, considers it central to the union’s broader values. “I’m excited for inclusivity. Pride, First Nations voices… inclusivity is the theme of the year,” he said, acknowledging the union’s support for a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
Edgar Wegner, teacher at MacRobertson Girls High School, was a consummate flag waver. “We at MacRob have the privilege of an out, diverse culture and we’re here to share that. We have a very open staff, and trans kids, and we’re very proud,” Edgar said.
Some arrived by train from rural and regional areas, and locals stepped from packed trams, to join an estimated 10,000+ participants in Melbourne, including Premier Daniel Andrews, for the peaceful march.
Nic Hall, Docklands Primary School Grade 4 teacher and team leader, had a blast. “What an amazing day! So many beautiful people filled me with absolute pride for my profession and the future of our community.” Nic thanked “all those in our LGBTQIA+ world who have gone before, all those who celebrated with us, and all those yet to come.”
The AEU cohort were a brilliant show of union force, with members surrounded by members from other unions, demonstrating our combined strength. The message was clear – as Mitchell Webster, teacher at Newport Lakes Primary School, put it: “We are visible now. If you’re not on board with this, you’re not reflecting teaching values. It’s a show of support for the kids we teach, to know that we’re on their side.” Mitchell added, proudly: “We wear our AEU rainbow lanyards for visibility.”
His colleague, Alanna Maguire, agreed. “We are the norm. Even if it’s not the norm at home. Any prejudice they see is not normal.”