A week made all the difference for school cleaner Karen Love after years worrying about losing her job.
She was one of 270 cleaners who has marked her first seven days as an employee of the ACT government after it decided to bring school cleaning in-house last year.
Ms Love said the change has ended a period of job insecurity, when she was too afraid to speak up to her bosses while working for private contractors tasked with school cleaning.
"It feels great. It's everything to me. For a long time, I kept my mouth shut," she said.
"I've seen a lot of other cleaners too afraid. Now we don't have to be."
Ms Love said she felt more secure in her job being a permanent ACT government employee following the decision to "in-source" school cleaning.
"I'm safe for myself, my family. We've got security. We didn't have that before."
Under previous employers contracted to clean public schools, Ms Love said wages and superannuation went unpaid and had to be chased up.
Apart from job security, cleaners would now receive better training, and supervision would be less about pointing out mistakes and would involve more support for staff, she said.
Ms Love had thought about resigning when she worked for contractors but decided that wouldn't change anything for other cleaners.
"I stayed and I started fighting, and that's when change started."
She started a Facebook page and spoke to the United Workers Union representing cleaners.
The ACT government in April 2019 announced it would directly employ school cleaners instead of outsourcing the work to contractors.
Education Minister Yvette Berry said then it had become clear the ACT government's "high standards for ethical, industrially-compliant employment" were unlikely to be met through an outsourced service.
The decision came less than two years after allegations of underpayment and sham contracting forced the government to condense school cleaning contracts and introduce six-monthly audits on compliance with industrial relations and safety laws.
Ms Love has been a cleaner for 12 years and was promoted to supervisor as she started permanent work as a government employee.
Among the cleaners newly employed by the ACT government, 112 are permanent employees, and 160 have accepted temporary roles linked to their individual visa conditions.
The United Workers Union said bringing school cleaning jobs into the public sector had been cause for celebration among school cleaners.
Ms Berry said the cleaners - many of them migrants or refugees - now had employment where they were respected and treated fairly as members of a unified, government-employed cleaning team.
"Canberra has a proud history of welcoming refugees," she said.
"Regardless of where they are from, this decision will improve social inclusion and the response to problems like poverty, deprivation and disadvantage."