An ACT public school principal has come out against the ACT Government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers in a Facebook video chat with One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts.
In the video posted on an anti-vaccination page, Charnwood-Dunlop Primary School principal Rob Lans tells Senator Roberts the mandate is coercion and teachers feared for their careers.
“I’ve been working with a group of teachers in the last week that are extremely worried about their livelihood,” Mr Lans says.
“I’m working with teachers in my school to try to support them in this context.”
He has been helping teachers deal with the mandate and questions government plans to redeploy teachers away from front line settings if they refuse to get vaccinated.
“Whether they have enough leave to manage this, whether redeployment is a suitable thing for a job that you’ve applied for, I applied for and won my job on merit and I don’t want to have to step aside and do that,” Mr Lans says.
Mr Lans says he has been forced to make a stand that means he won’t be there at a crucial time for students when they return to school.
“I’m in a position where I won’t be there to support my school and my community through it and that’s a choice that’s been taken away from me.
“I feel like the trigger’s been pulled, but I haven’t pulled that trigger and yet I have to respond to it. And so I am, I’m going to stand up for what I believe in.”
Mr Lans agrees with Senator Roberts that it is an “absolute human right” to have the choice not to get vaccinated.
“I actually feel ashamed that I haven’t stood up sooner, that I haven’t made more noise earlier to support all the other people in Australia and across the world who’ve been faced with this same context,” he says.
Mr Lans also describes how he has friends with children who have had extreme adverse reactions to vaccines and that the issue has ripped his family apart.
Calling the COVID-19 vaccines experimental, he says he has weighed the risks and catching COVID was a risk he was willing to take.
“I’m now forced to make a decision for my livelihood because the government has said this is what’s got to happen,” he says.
Mr Lans says the mandate does not make sense considering the extremely high voluntary vaccination rate.
“As a principal, I have lots of parents and lots of kids who are worried about what’s going to happen,” he says.
A government spokesperson said the Education Directorate was aware of the video and was following up on the matter in accordance with its internal procedures.
But the government would not say whether Mr Lans would face any sanction or counselling.
“Vaccination coverage is a key component of the return to school plan. High levels of vaccination combined with public health social measures are the best protections against COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.
The ACT Chief Health Officer has issued a public health direction requiring full vaccination against COVID-19 for staff working across early childhood education and care services, primary schools, out of school hours care, and specialist and flexible education settings for the remainder of 2021.
Staff need to provide proof of vaccination to their employer and have their first dose by 1 November 2021, and a second by 29 November 2021.
The spokesperson said all school staff could continue normal duties next week ahead of their vaccination status being collected before 1 November.
“Public school staff in these settings who choose not to be vaccinated without an exemption will be supported to work from home where suitable duties can be identified, or redeployed to suitable duties within the Education Directorate or broader public service,” the spokesperson said.
“ACT school-based staff already have very high vaccination rates. When we surveyed public school teachers and staff, approximately 97 per cent of people who responded were vaccinated.”