History 1889 - 2023

The history of the QTU : 135 years of achievement and success

On 9 January 1889, 23 teachers and principals from schools across the colony of Queensland met in Brisbane to establish the first teachers’ union on this continent – the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU).

Today, more than 48,000 educators in Queensland schools and TAFEs choose to belong to the QTU. We are here to help you in times of difficulty, to negotiate better pay and conditions, and to work on your behalf to promote the teaching profession.

This is something we have done for 135 years, and something that we will continue to do for many more to come.

QTU Milestones


Responding to widespread dissatisfaction with salaries and a promotion system based on the autocratic whim of bureaucrats, a group of teachers form the West Moreton Teachers’ Association, encouraging colleagues elsewhere in the state to follow their lead.


The East Moreton Teachers’ Association is launched.


Teacher’s associations are formed in Maryborough, Toowoomba, Gympie and Rockhampton. When a Royal Commission into the Civil Service is launched, the various associations work together on their submissions, and the value of a united voice becomes obvious.


Between January 9 and 12, 1889, seven teachers’ associations gather for a conference at the School of Arts, Brisbane, and the Queensland Teachers’ Union is born.


 A limited legal defence fund is launched.


The Queensland Education Journal, the fore-runner of today’s Queensland Teachers’ Journal, is published for the first time.


Queensland's public service superannuation scheme begins operating, following a long campaign headed by the QTU.


Union membership reaches 1,007, 55 per cent of the state’s teacher total.


 The state government introduces the Industrial Arbitration Act, which brings in compulsory arbitration and official recognition for unions registered with the new arbitration court. The QTU registers almost immediately.


The QTU is granted industrial registration, giving it exclusive coverage of the state school system. Later that year, the first teachers’ award is registered, becoming the first in Australia.


The QTU secures union preference.


As a result of the Union’s successes, membership soars to 4,317. The Union’s first full-time secretary, William Geraghty, is appointed to deal with the extra workload.


QTU Conference rejects affiliation with the Australian Labor Party


The QTU opens the first Teachers’ Building, on Elizabeth Street, Brisbane.


The onset of the Great Depression sees the Country Party government remove teachers from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, slash salaries by up to 26 per cent, and remove union preference. The salary losses are not made up until 1939.


 The QTU library is opened


Equal pay for male and female teachers becomes QTU policy.


The Union’s application for equal pay is rejected by the Industrial Court.


Ruth Don is the first woman to become QTU President.


The Queensland Teachers’ Credit Union is established.


A Union application for equal pay for male and female teachers is finally granted by the Industrial Court.


Teachers vote for strike action after the state government responds to a teacher shortage with the Emergency Teacher Scheme, which would have placed teachers in high schools after just eight weeks training. The plan was withdrawn, but the dispute prompted the Union to call for compulsory teacher registration. 


The QTU appoints its first regional organiser (then called an itinerant officer). Keith Storey travels across Queensland helping members resolve their problems.

Gavin Semple is elected as the QTU’s first full-time President.


Equal pay for male and female teachers is finally a reality.

The Queensland Teachers’ Union Health Society begins operations from an office in the Teachers’ Building.


Threats of strike action force the state government to agree to the progressive reduction of class sizes, down to 36 in 1974 and eventually to 32 in 1977.

Around 10,000 teachers stage a half day stoppage in protest at the state government’s unacceptable salary offer of between 7.5 and 12 per cent. The Industrial Commission later grants rises of up to 23 per cent.


The Union withdraws teachers from schools in Laura and Pasha because of unsatisfactory accommodation. As a result of the dispute, the state government commits to providing housing for teachers in country and remote areas for the first time.

The QTU moves into a new Teachers’ Building on Boundary Street, Brisbane.


After years of QTU pressure, compulsory teacher registration is finally introduced


The state government under Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen sacks three Charters Towers teachers for smoking pot. Rolling strikes take place at 52 schools as a result.


The Bjelke-Petersen government bans MACOS, a social study course, and SEMP, a social education materials project, from Queensland schools. A public outcry led by the QTU forces the government to appoint a select committee on education.


Bjelke-Petersen introduces the Essential Services Bill. Aimed at banning strikes, the bill includes severe penalties for strikers, unions and officials.


The QTU conducts its first statewide rolling strikes in support of a work value claim. Salary increases of 6.5 per cent are granted as a result of the case.


Undaunted by the Bjelke-Petersen government’s hard-line view on industrial action, teachers in Moranbah strike for five days to secure improved locality allowances. In spite of Joh’s threat that they could “strike till the cows come home”, they win a review of the system.


Teachers strike for 24 hours in support of striking railway workers, after the state government invokes its essential services legislation.

QTU members again take industrial action over class sizes, after which the government agrees to bring the target for years 4 to 10 down to 30.


The state government announces plans to abolish 17.5 per cent leave loading for teachers and other public servants. The QTU successfully leads the fight to have the decision reversed.


Centenary of the QTU, the oldest teacher’s union in Australia. Wayne Goss forms the first Labor state government in 32 years.


The Union wins an award restructuring agreement, securing a single salary scale and, with pay rises of between 8 and 20 per cent, bringing Queensland teacher salaries up to par with their interstate colleagues.

Around 130 schools take stop work action after the state government reneges on a promise to introduce the Remote Area Incentive Scheme (RAIS). It is the first widespread industrial action since 1982.


The state government backtracks and brings in a limited version of RAIS.


QTU signs up its 30,000th member.


A 24 hour strike, the first in over a decade, is staged in response to cuts to the education budget, including the loss of 500-600 teaching jobs and a ban on inservice training in school time. Around 10,000 teachers attend mass meetings.

For the first time, the QTU takes sides in a federal election campaign, launching the “For Our Children’s Sake, Put The Coalition Last” campaign in response to the threat its policies pose to the union movement.

The QTU launches a TAFE division, featuring separate TAFE branches and council.


A QTU campaign succeeds in ensuring that teachers facing allegations from students are no longer suspended without pay.


For the first time, all Queensland teachers have access to non-contact time after 10,000 QTU members in pre-schools, primary and special schools take industrial action. The Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) grants two hours non-contact time to all teachers.


More than 900 teachers in 30 schools in remote areas stop work for 48 hours in protest at the state government’s inadequate RAIS scheme. The action forces the state government to almost quadruple the RAIS budget.


The QTU reacts furiously when the state government introduces the Leading Schools plan into EB without consultation. The Union believes that the school-based management pilot could result in funds currently used to employ teachers being diverted, effectively making schools choose between staff and resources. Around 5,000 teachers attend a rally in Brisbane and the QTU stages its first statewide, full-day strikes in four years, demanding guarantees that changes to staffing will only be made if the majority of staff endorse it. The government eventually relents.

The third Teachers’ Building, the former Australian Federal Police building in Graham Street, Milton, is officially opened by ALP leader Kim Beazley. He launches the Union’s website – – on the same day.


Salary demands go to arbitration, and the IRC imposes increases of up to 17.5 per cent.

The hated Leading Schools scheme is finally killed off by the incoming Labor state government.


EB negotiations are in stalemate after a “take it or leave it” offer of 3 per cent is rejected. A statewide strike is called, forcing the state government to accept arbitration.

Queensland Teachers’ Education Centre (QTEC) launched to provide membership training.

The QTU’s Cairns office opens.


QTU opens new Mackay office.


Strikes planned over an EB impasse are blocked by IRC orders. Instead, the Union launches a Class Size Counts publicity campaign. It bears fruit, as EB4 includes a class size reduction from 30 to 28 in years 4 to 10.


The Next Step, a document laying out a strategy for the future of the QTU, is published.

QTU membership hits 40,000.


The QTU signs up to the Your Rights At Work campaign, launched to counter John Howard’s proposals for draconian IR laws

Queensland Teachers’ Advice Desk (QTAD) and the Campaign Action Group (CAG) are established, both as part of the Next Step strategy.


In the face of the the Coalition’s disastrous IR and education policies, the Union decides to play an active role in the forthcoming federal election.

The Retiree Action Group (RAG) is launched.


QTU members take to the streets for the Your Rights At Work campaign, playing a vital role in ensuring that the Howard government loses the federal election.


QTU members in some of Queensland's remotest areas take strike action over the appalling state of teacher accommodation, forcing the state government to pump an extra $20 million into the departmental accommodation maintenance budget.


The Queensland Teachers' Union celebrates its 120th anniversary.

The QTU stages a statewide strike, the first in almost nine years, over the state government's refusal to improve on an unacceptable EB offer. Further strikes are halted when the state government takes the issue to arbitration. The Union continues to campaign for salary justice, however, and eventually succeeds in securing an agreement that, among others things, makes Queensland's new teachers the highest paid in the country.


The QTU joins with teacher unions across Australia in placing a moratorium on NAPLAN testing. The move was made in protest at the federal government's My School website, which uses NAPLAN results to unfairly compare schools, something for which they were never designed. Despite an intervention by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, which attempts to ban the action, the campaign forces the federal government into setting up a working party to review the website.


The QTU Natural Disaster Relief fund processes more than 400 claims and almost $320,000 is paid to members in the wake of floods and cyclones. The Right to Teach, Right to Learn campaign is launched.


QTU members rejected the Government’s only offer made during enterprise bargaining negotiations and vote to take industrial action. After a campaign punctuated by several public rallies, the Government revises their position by maintaining the 2.7 per cent increase in pay per year as well as protecting more than 20 working conditions previously at risk. 


A year of protests with Union members across the state turning out to send a strong message to the State Government about:  job security across the public sector; failure to support public education; its attacks on TAFE; a lack of support for the Gonski recommendations; and its continued support of the flawed ‘Great teachers=Great results’ initiative. Despite the State Government’s decision to move the Labour Day public holiday from May to October, the QTU saw record numbers participate in the annual Labour Day celebrations in May.


QTU celebrates 125 years of promoting and protecting public education.


Workload concerns prompt QTU members to vote overwhelmingly to ban implementation of new learning areas of the Australian Curriculum. It is lifted later in the year when Education Minister Kate Jones agreed to an implementation pause and renegotiated timelines.

QTU representatives return to principal selection panels, two years after being removed by the Newman LNP state government.


Teachers at Yeronga State High School make QTU history, becoming the first members to take industrial action over a human rights issue. They stopped work for one hour in support of a student threatened with deportation.


Two far-ranging projects emerge from the successful EB8 enterprise bargaining negotiations. A Promotional Positions Classification Review (PPCR) is set up, to be completed by the end of 2018. In addition, highly accomplished and lead teacher classifications will be created, with the process beginning with a pilot in 2017, a memorandum of agreement by 31 December 2017, and a work-value assessment in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to establish salary levels by 30 June 2018. The first HATs and LTs will receive these salaries in 2019.


More than 20,000 QTU members vote to ban NAPLAN Online and call for a full review of the NAPLAN testing regime. The ban is not lifted until the state government backs a review and agrees to negotiate an enforceable joint statement controlling the high stakes test’s undesirable impacts

The Department of Education agrees to update the student dress code procedure for state schools to allow girls to wear shorts or pants, something for which the Queensland Teachers’ Union has long advocated for.

The QTU opens its new Springwood office.


The QTU celebrates 130 years as the professional and industrial voice of Queensland’s teachers and school leaders in state schools and TAFE.

Membership of the QTU reaches 47,000 teachers and school leaders.

Schools enterprise bargaining agreement (EB9) settled. Included in the schools’ agreement are: mechanisms to address workload including the formation of the Workload Advisory Council and extra NCT for new teachers and primary and special school teachers; annual progression for part-time teachers; and pay rises above the national average including Queensland’s school leaders being among Australia’s best paid.

TAFE enterprise bargaining agreement settled after two periods of protected industrial action, totalling 26 hours, by TAFE members.

Launch of QuEST – Queensland Education Support and Training – the new professional development arm of the QTU.

Further commitment by the QTU to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the launch and implementation of its Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan.


The QTU issues a directive banning all activities associated with NAPLAN after 94 per cent of participating members vote to do away with the tests in all its forms.

After three years of QTU campaigning, during which members around the state completed regular climate control surveys, the Queensland Government commits to air-conditioning every library and staff room in every state school.

COVID-19 hits Australia, leading to regular lockdowns, border closures and anxiety. As the pandemic escalates, the QTU successfully argues for the immediate closure of all schools. The QTU persuades the Chief Health Officer to release advice on the operation of schools and remote learning, wins flexible working conditions or special pandemic leave for vulnerable workers, and secures a health directive enabling to send sick students home.


The Industrial Court overturns the QTU’s NAPLAN ban. Undeterred, the Union refocuses on ensuring strict adherence to the NAPLAN Joint Statement.

With COVID-19 maintaining its grip and lockdowns remaining commonplace, the QTU ensures that educators have priority access to vaccines. A snap three-day lockdown in Brisbane forces the 2021 QTU Biennial Conference to wind-up a day early.


A QTU survey of school leaders reveals a shocking teacher shortage, with understaffing of schools has been growing by 5 per cent a year. 73 per cent of respondents admit the impact on staff wellbeing was “high” or “significant”. The Union launches a campaign highlighting the issue.

EB10 negotiations produce a new certified agreement. The agreement includes annual 4 per cent, 4 per cent and 3 per cent pay increases and the possibility of one-off lump-sum cost-of-living payments should surging inflation exceeds these base rates. The department also commits to reviews of the duties associated with all teaching roles, the transfer rating system and school resourcing arrangements.


QTU TAFE members stage a two-hour stop-work meeting in response to an inadequate TAFE Queensland EB offer, and the union opens a protected industrial action ballot. The employer backs down, conceding improved salaries, a 3 per cent upfront cost of living adjustment, and a variety of improved conditions. After a campaign that began in 2021, QTU members working at Central Queensland University also secure a new certified agreement.

The QTU joins the rest of the union movement in campaigning vigorously for a “Yes” vote in the national referendum on a First Nations Voice to Parliament. Unfortunately, the referendum ends in a victory for the “No” campaign.

The QTU succeeds in persuading the Queensland Government to delay the implementation of the latest version of the National Curriculum (Version 9), giving schools more time to complete the complex process of updating curriculum programs.

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