Governor’s speech

Primary Ethics Reception

Thursday, 8th February 2018

Government House

I welcome everyone from Primary Ethics to Government House. We gather on the traditional lands of the Gadigal of the Eora Nation and I respectfully acknowledge their Elders, past and present, and all Aboriginal people of our State and nation, and their emerging leaders.

 This evening we come together to recognise volunteers within a contemporary organisation that has made – and will continue to make – a difference using the principles of an ancient discipline and the teaching of a method of enquiry.

The choice of the Primary Ethics education program enables the teaching of a method of enquiry to our young students which stretches back to our ancient philosophers – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, St Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Hegel.

I am delighted to thank everyone here who has been instrumental in teaching this valuable program.

We are fortunate to live in a secular democratic society, with a healthy respect for our religious, moral and ethical frameworks.

Our democracy is built on ethical constructs concerning liberty, equality and justice, yet each day, we may be faced with a number of ethical and moral choices and oppositions to our philosophical viewpoint.

Learning to respond in a rational and ethical manner to – and in – these situations will promote and embed greater respect within our organisations, our communities and our public education system.  Not only will this benefit the individual student, it will contribute to greater community well-being and harmony within our diverse community.

I congratulate Primary Ethics on recognising the importance of all children having the opportunity to explore moral or ethical dilemmas in a safe and structured context …

To learn the core skills that involve both Reason and Respect and that promote rational and respectful discourse:

  • Critical thinking;
  • Ethical reasoning;
  • Empathy;
  • Respectful discussion;
  • Moral decision-making;
  • Appreciation of diversity.

Since Primary Ethics was established in 2010, it has proven itself to be an organisation that is much valued in our New South Wales public schools and by our children and their parents.

Some data points to this:

2,500 volunteers across NSW deliver Ethics classes to more than 36,500 students in 450 schools across New South Wales with continuing planned expansion to South West Sydney and regional schools.

This is a program that is not only successful but recognised internationally.

Indeed, in 2016, the Obama-led United States Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues singled out this NSW-based program as an innovative example of how Ethics education can be delivered from an early age.

As Primary Ethics volunteers, I thank you for undergoing the training to become a Primary Ethics teacher and volunteering to bring this program to New South Wales primary-school aged children from Kindergarten to Year 6.

You are a committed and unique group of community minded people with a dual interest in the lives of children today, and the future of our society tomorrow.

We recognise people – a number of you are present today – whose passion for Ethics education has seen 4, 5 and 6 years of consistent volunteering, often in several roles.

Thank you for striving for a better system for children where students have the opportunity to be actively engaged in Ethics education.

To those who teach our children and provide the opportunity to participate in Ethics classes, I especially convey my thanks. Ethics classes teach skills that are needed now more than ever before.

In this rapidly changing world, you, as volunteers, are helping to equip children with the skills to think things through and make well-reasoned decisions; the skills to listen to each other; to express views and give reasons; to listen to the reasons of others; and to build on each other’s ideas – or to disagree respectfully.

… The skill to question, be curious, to be empathetic and consider what a decision means to all of those involved.

Many of our State’s leaders we will see in 10 or 20 years in the fields of business, politics, or in our schools and services, may be children who have undertaken Primary Ethics classes.

Primary Ethics has also forged new and cross-generational networks and connections in schools and communities.

I understand you have become the catalyst for more widespread community connection; what is being discussed in the classroom is also being discussed in the playground, in the home and in the general community.

On behalf of the people of New South Wales, Linda and I thank the parents and carers here today, the grandparents, retirees, tertiary students, and other members of the community, who volunteer their time in a capacity that will make a real difference to the children of today and the decision-makers of tomorrow.

Thank you.

This Speech Transcript may not be exactly as delivered