Newsletter – December 2015

Message from the chairman

As we come to the end of our fifth year of operations, we are passing another significant milestone in Primary Ethics’ history. Teresa Russell is stepping down as CEO. In late 2010, with a successful pilot program under our belt and legislation passed in the NSW parliament, Primary Ethics had no money, no volunteers, no website, no staff and no office. But it did have Teresa and tremendous support for our cause from the vast majority of people in NSW. Teresa stepped up and volunteered to run operations and lead our volunteers from her own home office. Primary Ethics would not have the strong network of volunteers across Sydney and NSW that it does today if it wasn’t for her early and ongoing effort, passion, determination, networking skills and leadership.

When I received her resignation letter a few weeks ago, I honestly said that it was the most insightful and well-communicated resignation letter I’d ever seen. Teresa has been the right person to lead our organisation, inspire our volunteers, communicate her passion to donors and our corporate partners, and get seemingly impossible things achieved for little or no cost.

Those who have worked with her know she has put in an extraordinary amount of time – often into the early hours of the morning and over weekends – since before we started. Teresa is now looking forward to 2016, spending more time with her family and pursuing other interests at a less frenetic pace. I can’t think of anyone else who deserves to slow down more than Teresa.

Last week, when Teresa told senior officers at the Department of Education that she was leaving, they were genuinely shocked. One congratulated Teresa for what she has achieved and said he couldn’t think of any other external program since Healthy Harold was introduced in schools in 1980, which has had such a huge positive impact on public school students than Primary Ethics has.

I’m pleased to say she has agreed to continue to help Chris Cuffe and me with fundraising. The Primary Ethics board will appoint a new CEO early in 2016. In the meantime, our staff will be in the capable hands of Alisa Kelley, our General Manager.

On a final note, I’d like to also thank all of our volunteers, the lifeblood of Primary Ethics, for the time and skills they have continued to give to children in their communities this year.

I wish all volunteers, staff, donors, supporters, students and parents the very best for Christmas and a safe and happy holiday. I look forward to seeing what more we can achieve together in 2016 and beyond.

Bruce Hogan AM

Farewell from Teresa Russell, CEO

As all of our volunteers, major donors and corporate partners already know, I’ve decided to make a huge change in my life by resigning as the CEO of Primary Ethics.

It’s been a long, difficult-at-times, but very rewarding six and a half year effort from me and I’m very proud of what has been achieved over that time. Over the last 12+ months, it has become obvious to me that the organisation needs a leader with a different set of skills than I possess to take it through its next phase. My entrepreneurial, roll-your-sleeves-up and get-it-done kind of approach has served Primary Ethics very well to date and has been essential to lead and support the extraordinary growth we have realised in the last five years.

A friend of mine said, “But you can’t resign, Teresa, you are Primary Ethics!” That was once the case, but I’m proud to say that it is no longer – and it is one of my greatest legacies. The organisation will not fall over when I leave. In fact, operations will continue to strengthen with the skilled staff we have in place. And all 1,900 of our fantastic volunteers in almost 400 schools will continue to organise and teach ethics to their 31,000+ students each week, whether I’m in charge or not!

Simon Longstaff said he doubted I will ever fully sever my ties with Primary Ethics. Not long after that declaration, Bruce Hogan asked me to stay on (in a pro bono capacity, of course) as a consultant to the chairman regarding fundraising. I agreed, wondering if there’d been any collusion!

It’s been a privilege to lead Primary Ethics from its embryonic stage to now, and to help so many children in our community learn how to make ethical decisions that will positively affect them, their friends and family, and the whole world. I can’t wait until our students grow up and have a huge positive impact on our society through their work, relationships with both people and the environment, and into the next generation through their own children. I really do believe Primary Ethics has the capacity to change our world for the better – one child at a time.

Apart from the benefits flowing to children and our society, the next best thing about my last 6.5 years has been the wonderful people I’ve met, befriended, been inspired by, received donations from, inspired and worked with – paid and unpaid. May you all continue to fight the good fight, stand up for children’s rights, enjoy the benefits of being involved with Primary Ethics and find fulfillment in the time, money and skills you are giving to our community through Primary Ethics.

I’m really looking forward to 2016, spending time with family and friends, and pursuing other interests (yes, I do have some!) at a less frenetic pace. I’ve had hundreds of emails from volunteers in the last few weeks, many of who are expecting me to take on another community cause. That’s not on my radar…but then again, neither was Primary Ethics back in 2009 when my daughter came home with tears in her eyes because a teacher had banned knitting in non-Scripture!

If you would like to acknowledge my efforts and those of the thousands of volunteers who I’ve been privileged to lead since 2009, I’d be grateful if you could make a one-off or ongoing donation to Primary Ethics to keep the organisation moving forward.

Wishing you and yours a safe, happy and ethical New Year!

Teresa xx

 Information Forum Kit now available for keen volunteers

In some regional areas, introducing Primary Ethics classes can be logistically difficult due to the sheer size of the geographical area and the distance between schools.

In early November, Lynne Donnelly, who is now our Newcastle Regional Manager, decided to approach this challenge in the Manning/Great Lakes area by organising an information forum.

Lynne wanted to introduce the idea of ethics classes and the accompanying volunteering opportunities to local parents, schools and the community. “I was really keen to get a group of interested people together for a relaxed but focused information session. We had a clear agenda that included a contribution from Maria McCarthy, Primary Ethics Volunteering Manager – North, and Sandra Kwa, Volunteer Ethics Teacher from Wingham Brush Public School,” says Lynne. “The information forum was a great way to get the ball rolling and start a conversation about ethics classes as a viable option in our schools.”

Lynne worked closely with Primary Ethics to create an information forum kit for volunteers wanting to try something similar. “We’ve developed invitations, an agenda, a media release and an insert for school newsletters. The kit also includes a ‘to do’ checklist with suggested timelines to support other volunteers who want to organise their own events,” says Lynne.

The forum was a great success. “Many attendees were on a fact-finding mission. As a direct result of this forum, we’re expecting five or six schools in the Manning/Great Lakes region to start ethics classes in 2016. We also had several people apply for volunteering roles, including new Ethics Teachers and a new Regional Manager,” says Maria McCarthy.

Those interested in organising an information forum in their area should call Primary Ethics on (02) 8068-7752 or email Christine Leeson.

 Farewell and thank you Heidi

Heidi McElnea, our Primary Ethics Administration Manager and resident communications, web and social media specialist, is moving on to a full time role with Legacy Australia as its national communications officer.

Always helpful and willing go the extra mile, Heidi will be greatly missed by both our staff and volunteers. In the past year, Heidi has made effective and important systems and process improvements, while continuing to develop our social media and online presence.

Heidi plans to continue helping Primary Ethics by volunteering as an Ethics Coordinator at her daughter’s school. We are delighted that she is keen to maintain her connection with Primary Ethics and expect she will be a very capable volunteer, given she has been a part of the development team that has created and tested our new Primary Ethics Learning System.

We wish Heidi and her family all the best in this next exciting stage of her career.

Introducing our new Primary Ethics Learning Centre

Since mid-2011, Janison has provided Primary Ethics with an e-learning platform that holds volunteer resources such as our online courses, curriculum teaching notes, online forums and recruitment and compliance resources used by our volunteers. The original Janison platform has reached the end of its useful life for us. This week, we will be launching our new Primary Ethics Learning Centre, which is built on Janison’s new Cloud Learning System (CLS).

Although a long time in development, we are delighted to say that this vastly improved Learning Centre will allow volunteers and staff to effortlessly access resources and complete training. It is faster and more intuitive, allowing for clear and reliable management of our compliance requirements. All volunteers will now be able to manage their own compliance and contact records. We are also very happy to advise that the Learning Centre is compatible with all devices, across all platforms, anytime, anywhere – an issue that has plagued many a volunteer over the last few years.

This upgrade includes updated and streamlined processes and resources to further improve our volunteers’ online experience. Many of our resources and training elements have undergone a refresh or a complete facelift.

Congratulations to Alisa Kelley, our general manager and Learning Centre project manager, who has worked intimately with Janison for 18 months to tailor the Learning Centre and migrate our records at minimal cost. Janison’s Sue Van Der Kolk says that Alisa has done amazing things with their product – things they didn’t know it could do. Karen Lee and Heidi McElnea have ably supported Alisa over the last year, recreating our learning modules and all curriculum documents and resources. Thanks also to Hana Abbott who has done a lot of the physical uploading of resources, and the rest of the team for their input. Part of this upgrade includes a much-needed online induction module for Ethics Coordinators developed by Karen. Thanks also to the 20+ volunteers who tested the Learning Centre, providing valuable feedback during the pilot phase.

Thanks to Janison’s Jacquie and Wayne Houlden for their ongoing support of Primary Ethics and to Sue Van Der Kolk and all the Janison team who have brought us to launch. Janison has deservedly won a number of prestigious software awards recently and was also named by BRW as one of the top 30 innovative companies in Australia.

To all volunteers: Keep an eye out for the email with your login details, arriving in your inbox within the next day.

 Happy Holidays

Our sincere thanks for your generous support throughout 2015. It’s been another year of great progress for Primary Ethics.

We look forward to an ongoing positive relationship with all our current supporters and hope to welcome many more in 2016.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a new year of peace, health and happiness.

– The Primary Ethics Team

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