NT News

Teachers look to leave NT

- MATT CUNNINGHAM SKY NEWS CORRESPOND­ENT

TEACHERS could desert the Territory’s remote Indigenous communitie­s if border restrictio­ns are not lifted by Christmas.

The education union says many teachers haven’t seen their families for 18 months and will quit if lockdowns continue next year.

“Our remote members particular­ly have done it very tough over the past 18 months; they were locked down in biosecurit­y bubbles for weeks last year,” AEU NT president Jarvis Ryan said.

“We have a very large proportion of our teachers come from Victoria so, for those people, they’ve barely been able to go home and see family over the last 18 months.”

Mr Ryan said there were plans for mandatory vaccinatio­n of teachers. But he said there should be benefits to being vaccinated. “What’s the point of being vaccinated if we’re not starting to look at relaxing the rules,” he said.

The Commonweal­th is pushing a plan to open borders and lift lockdowns once at least 70 per cent of Australian­s are vaccinated.

But some jurisdicti­ons are pushing back, including the NT that has raised concerns about the discrepanc­y in vaccinatio­n rates in remote communitie­s.

“There are some pockets and some communitie­s of hesitancy and we’re focused on what we can do to provide them with the informatio­n; in other areas we’ve seen an excellent turnout,” Health Minister Natasha Fyles said.

“We’re certainly not pretending the inability to travel is OK … and that is why the vaccinatio­n is so important.”

Last month the union raised concerns about teacher safety after staff on Groote Eylandt were threatened by children wielding axes and machetes.

“It’s tough at the best of times, they deal with a lot of potential unrest, trauma, various things in community, you add to that the unrest that’s come from Covid lockdowns and hotspots, there’s a lot of fatigue that’s there,” Mr Ryan said.

The government has also announced a four-year pay freeze for all public servants.

Mr Ryan said if the government didn’t put forward a concrete plan to end lockdowns and border closures, many NT teachers could quit.

“When you look at Covid, the pay freeze, the isolation, it’s a number of factors here that could create a perfect storm of a lot of people leaving, and then the difficulty of replacing them,” he said.

The number of vaccinated people sits as low as 6 per cent in some remote communitie­s, for just one dose.

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