A teacher’s ability to inspire students and community members was the subject of a presentation by writer, feminist, activist and self-proclaimed troublemaker Van Badham at Federation's Women's Conference said on Saturday.
She said teachers who were "on strike a lot" during the 1980s had an educative influence on her: "You taught me that collective action was the difference between suffering in silence and realising your goals. You taught me that the power of union is the power to demand more, to get more, to be listened to, to influence government and the community."
Van said that when teachers, who are "absolutely socially entrenched into the lives of so many people", take collective action, it sends a powerful message to others to organise to fight for equality.
Being a member of an Australian union was not just about the discount movie tickets or the extra $100 a week you are likely to earn as a union member compared to a non-union member because you have a collective agreement, Van said, but the experience of being able to influence public debate and being one of the main engines of change in society.