Building knowledge and capacity for action on climate change

Worldwide, children are making an impact as they enter into conversations and take action on climate change.

Schools, too, are playing an important role in providing access to facts and building knowledge about our environment and the impact of human behaviour.

In NSW, students start learning about the environment in kindergarten, with specific content included in the k-10 geography and the k-6 science and technology syllabuses. There are also opportunities to learn about sustainability in all NSW syllabuses in line with the requirements of the Australian Curriculum.

We must also to look to our First Peoples for guidance and knowledge regarding responsible stewardship of our earth. Cultural knowledge is a vastly under-appreciated resource, and we could all learn much more from generations of experience of sustainable land management if we listen. In doing so, we also have an opportunity to create a more just and sustainable world.

A vital and unifying aspect of achieving change is the capacity to talk, plan and take action alongside others who have differing points of view or experience from your own. Talking together allows us to challenge long-held beliefs that may be rooted in inaccuracy, to bring fresh ideas into the conversation, and to consider how choices we make, whether personally or at a policy level, impacts others and our environment.

“How to talk about climate change (without losing friends)” was a talk given last month by year 7 student Belle at her local climate action meeting.

In her talk, Belle emphasises the importance of engaging in conversation, and particularly in respectful disagreement, with others.

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2019 Volunteer of the Year Awards

The Centre for Volunteering Awards were established 12 years ago to recognise the incredible amount of volunteering that occurs across NSW and the importance of volunteering to our communities. This year a massive 123 000 people were nominated, with awards presented at ceremonies across the state.

Local representatives of government , including Mayors and Members of Parliament attend the ceremonies to acknowledge the valuable contributions of volunteers. Without volunteers and the organisations they work with, a lot of services simply wouldn’t be available.

Volunteering also fosters caring, connected local communities. The awards receive a lot of attention and also raise the profile of the organisations involved.

Its really important that we recognize the great work of our Primary Ethics volunteers, 450 of whom were nominated this year from across our regions.

The awards are a wonderful way for volunteers to meet up and for us to attend and acknowledge the contribution they make to their schools on behalf of Primary Ethics. They also provide an opportunity for volunteeers to see what other great work is being done in their local area and to feel a part of a larger fraternity of volunteers and organisations.

Volunteers don’t do their work for a reward or public recognition, but its important that we thank them and they feel appreciated. The ceremonies provide a great opportunity for us to all the volunteers doing amazing work in the community. Continue reading

Complaint demonstrates overall success of ethics program

It takes a village to raise a child – and many of those who enrich our children’s lives do so as volunteers.

P&C committees, canteen, reading groups, garden club, uniform shop, sport coaches, Scouts, Guides, playgroups – volunteers make a huge contribution to children’s lives and are being celebrated in Volunteer of the Year Award ceremonies held this month around the state.

“Yes we are volunteers, but we take this role very seriously,” said Suzan Fayle, who has facilitated ethics classes for the past six years at Orange Grove Public School.

Ms Fayle is one of 2800 Primary Ethics volunteers who help 45,000 students each week to think for themselves and develop the skills to disagree respectfully with others. Lessons based on philosophical ethics give children skills in critical thinking and ethical reasoning.

The children who complained about the teacher at Dulwich Hill Public School (“Ethics teacher stood down for saying Stolen Generations due to bad parents”, Sydney Morning Herald, September 9) used just those skills, and should be commended. Continue reading

The Diversity Project

Primary Ethics has embarked on a project to ensure that our curriculum is inclusive of the diversity in our target audience – NSW school students.

In order to make sound, best-practice adjustments, we are undertaking a project with the following phases:

Phase 1 Research best-practice and scope the diversity review.
This phase is now complete.

Phase 2 Review lesson materials to gain a full understanding of current state of curriculum.
This phase is now underway and we’re asking for assistance.

Phase 3 Determine appropriate changes and update lesson materials.
This will commence when Phase 2 has been completed.

We want to incorporate best-practice inclusion and representation into our lessons and we plan to achieve this by modifying existing lessons where required, altering the characters and stories to provide positive diverse representation both within each topic and across the full curriculum.

A review of academic literature as part of Phase 1 shows that it is appropriate to consider Primary Ethics curriculum as children’s literature in the context of child development. It also shows the curriculum to be a legitimate and appropriate mechanism through which to represent diversity to primary school-aged children. Continue reading

Why pilot ethics classes for year 7 students?

High schoolPrimary Ethics is the single approved provider of special education in ethics (SEE) to NSW Department of Education public schools.

While our primary focus is primary schools, we’ve fielded many requests over the years from high school principals, parents and students themselves, who have sought a secular alternative to Special Religious Education that helps young people to make sense of the world. In those early years, it was not possible for us to act on those requests.

2020 will mark the 10th anniversary of Primary Ethics’ establishment, and we’re pleased that next year we will be able to offer high school communities the opportunity to participate in a pilot ethics program for year 7 students.

An ethics program for year 7 students will:

  • support students to develop skills in critical thinking, respectful discussion and ethical reasoning – skills which are transferable to the key learning areas of the secondary curriculum
  • support students in making the transition from primary to secondary school,
  • assist with development of interpersonal and decision-making skills as well as the consideration of ethical dilemmas that can loom large in the adolescence years
  • give choice to families by providing a high quality and valued secular alternative to SRE
  • promote lifelong interest and learning through providing a foundation in philosophical ethics that may assist students to undertake philosophy as a secondary elective or as part of a tertiary course of study

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Research supports growth of ethics classes in South West Sydney Schools

The six-month research phase of South West Sydney Schools Project (SWSSP) has concluded. It’s the first location-specific project of Primary Ethics to increase the awareness of and engagement with our ethics program across south west Sydney.

It has been generously funded by the Fred Archer Charitable Trust, through Perpetual Impact.

We’d like to thank Rebecca Iliffe for coordinating the project, and Riley Stewart who assisted with data collection.

We’d also like to acknowledge the many Primary Ethics volunteers across the project area who generously contributed with their ideas and time – particularly those who helped bring their team together to contribute. They include regional managers Marbecc Webb and Dick Harfield, and ethics coordinators Bet Turgut, Catherine Maher, Christy Nguy, Elizabeth Rowlings, Leanda Lazarevic, Lylian Francis, Michelle Stack, and Rebecca Wise.

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Primary Ethics News | April 2019

Welcome to our first Supporter News for 2019.
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In this quarterly update we launch the 2018 Annual Report, the Diversity Project, and complete our research into South West Sydney Schools. Our 2019 Conference Date has also been locked in for Saturday 26 October – save the date!

We have translated information on ethics classes into 33 languages – click through to read or share.

Plus, Primary Ethics is on the move!

Read our April News here.

Primary Ethics News | December 2018

Welcome to our December Supporter News. View the full edition here.


Dear Supporter,

Welcome to the final Quarterly Supporters’ Newsletter for 2018.  It’s been a big few months and we’ve some significant news to share.


We are thrilled to say that at the end of November, the Minister for Education, Rob Stokes, signed off on a new enrolment process that removes the added barriers that parents of children seeking ethics classes have been forced for years to endure.

The steps to enrol a child into ethics have effectively been reduced from three into one.  Read more


4 new directors 2018

The Primary Ethics Board is delighted to announce the appointment of four new directors who will formally join us at our last meeting of the year next week. Please join us in welcoming:

  • Christina Erskine (Chris): General Manager, Marketing, Sydney Opera House
  • Justine Felton: Director of Social Impact, PwC
  • Amanda Morgan: General Manager Audit, NAB & Primary Ethics teacher
  • Roger Reidy: Principal of an HR consultancy and former volunteer head of the Primary Ethics Classroom Support Team.

Read more


Conferences were held in Newcastle in July and Wollongong in September and provided excellent opportunities to share a range of ideas from creating quality learning environments to program development both locally and across the organisation Read more 


Primary Ethics South West schools project

Primary Ethics is already an option at 13 schools in south west Sydney.  In the first research project of its kind for us, currently under way, we will explore ways to assist planning for the future growth of Primary Ethics in more of the 116 schools in this diverse and rapidly growing region. Read more


Thank you for a great year of supporting ethics education for tomorrow’s decision makers,

The Primary Ethics team.

Primary Ethics receives no government funding and relies on donors to deliver ethics education to children in NSW schools, if you are able to make a donation we would be very grateful. Thank you.

New Role: eLearning developer (contract)

Develop two online courses to support volunteers in the delivery of ethics education to children.

About Primary Ethics

We are an independent not-for-profit organisation delivering an engaging, age-appropriate, interconnected philosophical ethics curriculum to children in Kindergarten to Year 6. We provide this free of charge via a network of trained and accredited volunteer teachers. Ethics classes have been enthusiastically adopted in over 500 schools in NSW and we take pride in our reputation as an effective and well-regarded education provider within the public school system.

Based in Potts Point, we currently have a staff of 9 (7.5FTE) managing approaching 2500 volunteer teachers, coordinators and regional managers across NSW.

Role Description

Design and develop two short online CPD courses for our volunteer ethics coordinators, using content provided by our subject matter experts.

Courses are to be developed using Articulate Storyline software, which will be available on a PC in our office in Potts Point. Continue reading

PrimaryEthics@Home for Parents and Carers | October 2018

Welcome to term 4, and to PrimaryEthics@Home! This October edition covers a selection of topics taught in ethics classes in terms 3 and 4.

Visit the parents and carers hub for more about the program.


Intentions and knowledge: what might a whale know?

This topic begins with a humorous Norwegian folk tale that builds on previous discussions about the difference between doing something ‘on purpose’, and doing something ‘by accident’. Intention and knowledge form the basis of our discussion about the story of Kio’s Grandfather, who, when at sea, was saved by a whale. Did the whale, Kio wonders, really know what he was doing? …read more

Making things up, being cross and hurting someone

One reason we use meerkats rather than (human) children to explore motives and behaviour is to avoid any awkward situation that can arise if children recognise the described behaviour as fitting that of one or more members of the class. Another reason is that meerkats have complex social structures and communication, and in thinking about ethical issues, it is important that children understand the ways in which they are similar to and different from others – not just to other humans, but to animals as well…read more


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