Newsletter December 2019

Dear Primary Ethics supporters,

It’s been a fantastic year of learning and reflection for our students, and for our organisation, too. Your support as a donor, volunteer, parent or carer or general supporter is key to the success of the program and I thank you for what you bring to Primary Ethics.

Entering our 10th year

Ten years ago, in November 2009, the NSW Government announced a pilot ethics course as a complement to Special Religious Education in NSW public schools. The announcement came in response to a formal request by The Ethics Centre in conjunction with the Federation of P&C and after a long community campaign that many of you will remember!

The trial ran in 10 schools in term 2 2010, with 530 students from years 5 & 6 participating. Its success was instrumental to achieving the policy and legislative change that enshrined ethics classes as a legal right for children in NSW public schools.

The Education Minister at the time was Verity Firth. It was Verity’s willingness to work closely with the Department of Education, to speak at length with the various religious education providers to overcome initial opposition to allow the community to begin to understand the merit of the program in its own right that finally gave us the legal standing to begin our work.

We had a chance to reflect on the early challenges at the Primary Ethics State Conference in October, having the honour to host Verity Firth as our keynote speaker. Verity is now the Head of the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion at University of Technology Sydney, one of our University partners who is assisting us with valuable research and development projects.


Read more about our 2019 conference.

Sharing the OzHarvest message

lenny-cover-image-e1576807314355.jpgWe’ve had the pleasure of delivering the OzHarvest message to 500 public primary school libraries across NSW to share with their students. Lenny and the Ants is a story of questioning old habits and being open to new ways of thinking. A solution with a delicious twist…read more.


Our ethics coordinators and regional managers play an essential role in liaising with ethics teachers and school staff to implement Primary Ethics classes each year. We have around 70 schools that don’t currently have a volunteer ethics coordinator or regional manager so we’re looking for a special someone to step in for 30 hours/week in term 1. Is this you or someone you know? Read the Position Description.

Update on ethics classes in early high school 

Work is progressing on the ethics class program for years 7 & 8 (stage 4), with a pilot program planned in a small number of schools (initially for year 7 students) in term 3 2020.

While our focus is primary schools, we’ve fielded many requests over
the years for a secular alternative to Special Religious Education to help high school students to make sense of the world.

An ethics program for stage 4 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

If you’d like to learn more or be involved in the high school project, you can add your details to our database add your details to our database here.

Celebrating our volunteers: 2019 Volunteer Awards

Eastern suburbs 2

450 Primary Ethics volunteers were awarded certificates at Centre for Volunteering events held across the state over the past few months. Volunteers were recognised for their individual contributions to their school community and role in part of a larger movement to equip young people with the skills to think through, discuss and make well-reasoned decisions about ethical issues.

Congratulations to all those nominated. View the photo gallery.

Welcome to new staff

John Burgess joins Maria McCarthy and Carey Francis as part of our Volunteering Manager team. Darcie Funk has been appointed Training Administrator. Both Darcie and John have extensive volunteer backgrounds with Primary Ethics.

Classroom support member Liz Rushton joins us in a part time role as School Liaison Officer. Liz’s extensive experience with the Department of Education is helping us build relationships with schools to help streamline implementation of ethics classes.

Anuya Velpanur, herself a seasoned ethics teacher, is assisting in a part time role assisting volunteers through their induction.

We welcome those who have stepped into roles as regional managers, ethics coordinators, classroom support team members, trainers and ethics teachers.

Some of our regional managers are moving on and we’d like to take a moment to reflect on their contributions: Jill Hennessy, Andrew Baron, Sheryl Broderick, Sue Moffat, Kim Richards and Catherine Strassberg. We’re delighted that many will continue to volunteer as ethics teachers.

It’s been a big year for the classroom support team, with team members taking the opportunity to support teachers by observing their lessons, talking with them over the phone and participating in teacher meetings. During the course of the year we have bid a fond farewell to Jude Myers, Cecily Chittick, and Ralph Mitchell who have provided support to ethics teachers is their respective regions of the Southern Highlands, Central Coast and Port Jackson.  Meanwhile, the team has benefitted from the new additions to the team: Heidi McElnea, Margaret Widjaya, Janet Kossy, Rachelle Tulloch, Megan Warrell and John Clayton. Particular thanks goes to Mike Godfrey and Katherine Gordon for coaching our newer team members; Liz Rushton and Heidi McElnea for making our regional teachers feel more supported; and to Val McCrae, Kelby Mason and Jenny Curtis for always being there when you need a safe pair of hands.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you’ve done for Primary Ethics.

Ethics coordinator workshops a first

Over the last 3 months we’ve run 6 ethics coordinator workshops in Newcastle, the Central Coast, Ramsgate and in Sydney. These new 3.5 hour face-to-face sessions have been a great tool for developing networks and sharing knowledge on a range of implementation and engagement strategies in our school ethics programs.

We’re working with a Registered Training Organisation to deliver units of competency which our ethics coordinators and regional managers will be able to obtain through their volunteer work. We put out an expression of interest in October and have had 30 responses from volunteers who would like to participate in this training program to gain additional skills for their volunteer role while building their career CV.

Final PrimaryEthics@Home 2019

The last edition for the year of our e-magazine for parents and carers covers topics Jumping to conclusions, Puzzles, Stereotyping and Disagreeing. Plus, our feedback survey and links to the latest podcasts from ABC’s Short & Curly. Read here

Signing off for 2019

Many of you have been along for entire journey – thank you for sticking with us, and thank you to those who joined us along the way to offer their support, their donations or their volunteering efforts. Primary Ethics would be nothing without you.

A reminder – if you would like to volunteer, or know of others who might enjoy being a part of Primary Ethics, we have a range of roles to suit. Visit

acnc-registered-charity-tickIf you are looking to make a meaningful financial contribution to an organisation, we are grateful for any one-off or recurring financial contribution, as donations remain our sole source of income:

Please also just talk to others and let people know about Primary Ethics! Many people in our communities are still unaware of the program and its benefits.

On behalf of the Primary Ethics Board, I thank you for your support in 2019 and looking forward to 2020.

Bruce Hogan, Chair of Primary Ethics