Food for thought

New bite-sized ethical dilemmas for children at home

The not-for-profit organisation that runs ethics classes in NSW schools has developed a selection of ethics exercises, called Bites, for children to participate in at home. Each week in term 2 Primary Ethics will upload two new Bites for children; one designed for students from kindergarten to year 2, and another for those in years 3 – 6.

Primary Ethics CEO Evan Hannah says the lessons will help provide continuity for students who take ethics classes.

“Around 45,000 students in NSW have to miss out on their usual ethics classes for some weeks yet, so we’ve put together these lessons to help children to keep exercising their questioning skills until their usual volunteer teacher can join them in classes at school,” he said.

“These activities to help children with their thinking and reasoning have a role to play in helping them to process the current changes that we are all experiencing due to the impact of COVID 19,” Evan added.

They will also introduce a number of new students to the practical study of philosophical ethics.

“Primary Ethics Bites will be available for every child and their family, and like our school-based program, it will be free of charge. We hope the Bites provoke some deep thinking around the dinner table.”

Each Bite provides an ethical dilemma presented in audio or audio visual format along with a written version. Children are encouraged to read, watch or listen to the stories which provide a context for the dilemma, and ponder the questions provided. Siblings and others in the household are encouraged to participate, too.

“These fun Bites use engaging stories to encourage the use of questions and considering alternative views to help build skills in critical thinking and ethical reasoning. At schools we use a ‘community of inquiry’ approach, and Bites are written to extend that into home-based lessons.”

“We’re grateful for the assistance of Primary Ethics Volunteers who, along with their children, have offered to voice the various parts in our stories and provide a range of diverse views for the discussion aspect of the recordings,” Evan said.

The first four Bites are available to download in audio, audio/visual or print format from

Facebook bite 4

Ethics lessons finish early for term 1

Ethics volunteers and schools have been working together to end their Term 1 ethics lessons by 20 March – if they haven’t already – to allow schools to establish best-practice social distancing and to protect our volunteers.

We look forward to seeing our volunteers return to classrooms at the start of Term 2.

Primary Ethics and its volunteers wish to support the wider community effort to ‘flatten the curve’ – the term used to describe social distancing techniques that will lower demand on critical health services during the pandemic.

Other organisation-wide measures Primary Ethics has established include:

Postponing all upcoming training sessions

Work is underway to have our courses available for volunteers to complete virtually. Further information will be provided for training participants and their support teams.

Social distancing measures

Our regional managers and ethics coordinators are encouraged to complete interviews by phone or Zoom/Skype, and to host virtual get-togethers or delay regular catch-ups.

Phone-based classroom support

Our classroom support team members continue to mentor ethics teachers by phone but are postponing in-class visits until classes resume in Term 2

Staff to work remotely

Our team of full and part time staff are now working almost entirely remotely, with skeleton staffing of the office by team members who live close-by and commute on foot or by bike.

Contacting Primary Ethics

Our phone cover will be more limited at times than usual, but if you leave a message or send an email, we’ll get back to you shortly.

Ethics teacher training comes to Mt Annan

We’re working together to make the Primary Ethics program available to more children in South West Sydney schools.

A training session for volunteer ethics teachers will be held in Mt Annan on 13 & 14 February  – the first to be held in South West Sydney.

Five new schools in the Camden/Campbelltown and Wollondilly regions are in planning to start ethics classes this year, so the demand for volunteers is high.

Are you keen to help children in your local community learn to think critically, to reason, to listen and engage with others different points of view? We’re currently seeking applicants for the Mt Annan training workshop.

Ethics teachers are volunteers who run an ethics class each week in their local school using the curriculum materials provided. Lessons are usually half an hour and on at the same time each week.

The ethics teacher role is suitable for people of all ages from a range of backgrounds such as parents, grandparents, retirees and other community members. You don’t need teaching experience but a love of lifelong learning and a good grasp of English.

Applicants will complete background checks, an interview to confirm suitability and several short online units before attending the face-to-face workshop.

For more information and to apply visit: or contact regional manager Marbecc Webb

Mt Annan February 2020

The courage to think differently

School libraries to loan Lenny’s lesson

When you look at a squishy, black banana, do you see it as something destined for the compost bin or the basis of a delicious meal? In OzHarvest’s book Lenny and the Ants, we follow Lenny the Kangaroo as he rediscovers food through the perspective of a resourceful team of Harvest Ants.

Miranda 2

Primary Ethics volunteers Jessica Hicks and Naziah Gargan present Lenny and the Ants to Miranda Public School principal Narelle Chaplin.

Thanks to the generosity of philanthropist Rob Keldoulis, not-for-profit education provider Primary Ethics was able to distribute a copy of Lenny and the Ants to the libraries of 500 NSW public primary schools.

“Ethics classes help children to understand that there are often different perspectives on an issue, and by engaging with others we’ll often come up with new ways to solve a dilemma,” said Evan Hannah, CEO of Primary Ethics.

“We’re great supporters of the work OzHarvest do to reduce waste and help make nutritious food more accessible, and it’s exciting to open up this thinking to the thousands of children who’ll have access to this fantastic book,” Mr Hannah said.

Primary Ethics volunteers distributed the books in their local schools.

OzHarvest Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn said the book is a first step in engaging children and their families on the fun ways we can save food from being wasted and the rewards of being resourceful together.

Lenny and the Ants helps children understand the precious nature of food in a way that is joyous and fun. Whether a child or an adult reads this book, I believe the message resonates with everyone – wasting food makes no sense. It also reinforces the fact that there is a way to live in harmony with what we have, with awareness and resourcefulness. Food is about sharing, caring and love and Lenny and the Ants completely embraces that notion!”

Some copies are still available for donation to school libraries.

“If you’re a staff member, parent or carer who’d like to have a copy for your school library, please get in touch,” Mr Hannah said.

Lenny and the Ants is also available to buy from the OzHarvest Soul Shop.


Ronni with her grandson and author of the book Jessica Chapnik Kahn

Ethics classes coming to Batemans Bay

Three volunteers for Batemans Bay Public School were among 12 who attended ethics teacher training held at Narooma over the weekend.

It was great to meet other like-minded and enthusiastic people,” said Heidi Thomson, who has put up her hand to coordinate the program at her children’s school next year.

Primary Ethics is a not-for-profit organisation that works with the Department of Education to offer discussion-based classes to those students who have opted out of weekly religious education classes. There are currently 500 primary schools in NSW that offer the program with the help of trained volunteers like Ms Thomson.

“The program gives students skills and practice in thinking about issues for themselves and engaging in thoughtful conversations on a huge range of topics,” Ms Thomson added.

“The teaching techniques will be useful not just in ethics classes but inmy work and family too,” she added.

Christine May from South Durras also attended the training and plans to facilitate an ethics class at Batemans Bay Public School next year.

“When I was involved with the NSW Federation P&C Associations 15 years ago we initiated discussions with NSW Department Education about the introduction of ethics classes and it’s great to now be involved on a practical level in teaching.” Ms May said.

“Ethics classes are a chance for children to learn to talk and listen to each other respectfully, even when they have quite different views. And they can learn to work together to make logical or well-reasoned decisions rather than just go along with something because of peer pressure,” she said.

Other attendees at the training came from Gerringong, Bermagui, Narooma and Pambula.

For more information about the program or becoming a volunteer visit or email

Narooma Training_16_17 November_2019

Photo (clockwise from left):
Diana Zickefoose (Surfside), Justina Legoe (Bermagui), Heidi Thomson (Long Beach), Robyn Koller (Gerringong) and Christine May (South Durras) at ethics teacher training on the weekend.

Conference 2019: Reflecting on past challenges, planning for the future

As the world grapples with major economic, political and environmental change, our hope for the future lay in the ability of our emerging leaders to make well-reasoned decisions on issues with far-reaching consequences. This was the message Dr Simon Longstaff of the Ethics Centre had for the 160 attendees at Primary Ethics State Conference held on Saturday October 26.

On a personal level, we all benefit from the ability to think critically and to reason. Education in ethics is crucial in helping us, regardless of our age or stage in life, be better equipped to tackle the various challenges we face.

Not-for-profit group Primary Ethics’ second state conference was generously hosted by Western Sydney University in Parramatta. Ethics volunteers from around the state converged to participate in a day of ideas about the work they are engaged in and the path that lay ahead.

Keynote speaker Verity Firth, head of UTS Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion and former Minister for Education, revisited the challenges leading up to achieving legislative change in 2010 that permitted ethics classes to be delivered in NSW public schools alongside special religious education classes. Almost 10 years later, Primary Ethics represents the largest ethics education movement in Australia.

So where to now? Renee Bilston from Farmhouse Montessori spoke about the benefits of ethics classes to her school under the recent partnership with Primary Ethics. Primary Ethics’ Elizabeth Allen spoke of the workplace volunteering project that has seen 14 UNSW staff trained and supported to deliver ethics classes in schools near the university’s Randwick campus, not simply to engage and contribute to local community, but as a mechanism for staff wellbeing and meaning.

Meaning was a theme developed by Mitra Gusheh, Executive Manager, Social Impact at UTS in her presentation of the study by Dr Gianni Zappalà on the outcomes of volunteering in the lives of Primary Ethics volunteers.

Curriculum author Dr Sue Knight and philosopher Kelby Mason discussed the philosophical framework behind the Primary Ethics curriculum, with Classroom Support Manager Coral Sturgess and Trainer Sophie Patterson exploring implementation of the program in the classroom and its underpinning of 21st century skills.

The value of applied ethics was reflected upon in a lunchtime screening of The Final Quarter and a talk by 13-year-old Belle, who explained how ethics classes had helped her to have conversations with people with differing views on complex topics such as climate change.

In 2019, 45,000 children participated in weekly ethics classes in 500 schools across the state thanks to the contributions by donors and a team of 2800 trained volunteers.
For more information on the program and volunteering opportunities visit

Verity Firth conference presentation

Keynote speaker Verity Firth

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.

Continue reading

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