Newsletter – October 2015

Message from the chairman

I was absolutely delighted to attend the Hunter region’s 2015 NSW Volunteering Awards held at the Newcastle Yacht Club last week on Tuesday, October 6. Teresa Russell, our CEO, and I went to support Leonie Johnson who we had nominated for an award in the category of Adult Volunteer of the Year. I was even more delighted when Leonie was announced the regional winner in her category of adult volunteer and will now go on to the state finals in December. Leonie is an exceptional individual, who has made an enormous contribution to Primary Ethics since its inception in early 2011.

There were many inspirational volunteers in attendance that day from the student, youth, adult, senior and team categories. It’s one thing to give money to a charity, but I always think it is a great measure of the value the community places on a charity’s work, if it has strong support from volunteers who give their very precious time to a charity or cause. Leonie embodies what I think is just wonderful about Primary Ethics. She has volunteered as an Ethics Coordinator, a trainer and as a member of the Classroom Support Team over the last five years. But by far and away her greatest contribution to Primary Ethics has been the lead she took from early 2011 in developing our training function, including setting up our Janison e-learning platform and using her considerable skills in training needs analysis to design and evolve our Ethics Teacher training in the first three years. She has recently also initiated an instructional design review of the seven years of curriculum and has agreed to donate 200 hours towards this project over the next six months.

Another highlight in the last month was the completion of our primary school curriculum. On September 11, our curriculum author, Dr Sue Knight, submitted to our curriculum subcommittee the last of the 76 topics she has written. These topics are still going through our approval process that includes approval as age-appropriate by the NSW Department of Education, but the publication of these last few lessons is just a few weeks away.

When telling the story about Primary Ethics, I often talk about the time I flew to Adelaide in 2011 to meet Sue and others at the University of South Australia, because our first volunteers were using our pilot curriculum that was going to run out at the end of Term 2. Sue and her colleague, Dr Carol Collins, generously agreed to write two terms worth of topics for no payment. Unfortunately, Carol subsequently got very ill and Sue ended up “retiring” to write the whole primary school curriculum for us. She has worked tirelessly to create a world-class innovative curriculum that has recently attracted the international accolades that Sue rightly deserves. This curriculum is a unique and extraordinary body of work that will benefit children in Primary Ethics classes, their teachers and our society for years to come.

To conclude on a more sombre note, on October 4 the NSW Department of Education (DoE) went through with its announced change to the school enrolment form to exclude the checkbox to enrol children into ethics classes. The Scripture checkbox remains. We will continue to fight in all ways we can to get equal treatment in processes and procedures that accurately reflect the equal treatment that children have in law to attend SRE/scripture or ethics classes. We have the support of all of our wonderful volunteers, donors, parents and the wider community, so I believe we will triumph to remove this discrimination in the medium term.

– Bruce Hogan AM

Taking Primary Ethics to the people

Over the September school holidays, Wyong Primary Ethics volunteers set up information booths at two local shopping centres, talking with the community about Primary Ethics in their schools.

Over two very successful and fun days Julie Bell, our Wyong Regional Manager, and her team were greeted with enthusiasm and genuine interest from the local Wyong community, with one new volunteer teacher already signed up!

Julie was the driving force behind these community engagement events. She wanted to educate her local region on the role of ethics in public schools and recruit volunteers from the general community; people who may not have heard about Primary Ethics but who have the skills, time and interest to volunteer.

Julie said all the volunteers involved had a great time getting to know each other and sharing their enthusiasm for ethics in NSW public primary schools. “All the volunteers were amazing and I’m so blown away by their dedication to Primary Ethics,” says Julie.

She approached her local shopping centres and was impressed with their eagerness to support Primary Ethics. In total, Julie and her team spoke with nearly 60 people at Tuggerah and Bateau Bay Shopping Centres over two days. The volunteers applied a relaxed, positive approach chatting to interested people and handing out Primary Ethics flyers.

Julie started volunteering with Primary Ethics as an Ethics Coordinator in June 2014. Although she loved her involvement at her local school, she agreed to move into the Regional Manager role.

“The regional role isn’t difficult. It’s about time and process – plus I find engaging with other people thoroughly enjoyable,” says Julie. Julie has two gorgeous girls, one of whom is at Killarney Vale Public School.

Active schools in Julie’s region:

Bateau Bay Public School, Blue Haven Public School, Budgewoi Public School, Central Mangrove Public School, Jilliby Public School, Kanwal Public School, Killarney Vale Public School, The Entrance Public School, Tuggerah Public School, Tuggerah Public School, Warnervale Public School, Woongarrah Public School.

If you are interested in doing something similar in your local area please or call 02 8068 7752.

 Staff changes

We have recently recruited two new staff members. Following the June departure of Debbie Kearns, we took the opportunity to review the volunteer management and new school recruitment roles. Maria McCarthy, who has been working for us for almost two years after volunteering with us since inception, has taken up the new role of Volunteering Manager – Northern, managing all current volunteers in northern Sydney and north to the Queensland border.

Rob Harden, who was teaching ethics at both Haberfield and Ashfield Public Schools this year, gave up a happy retirement to join us as our Volunteering Manager – Southern, managing all current volunteers in southern Sydney and south to the Victorian border. Rob has spent his career working initially in industrial relations and then in corporate human resources. Both Rob and Maria are also responsible for getting new schools started in their respective halves of NSW and jointly working on policies and procedures around managing volunteers.

And just last week, Christine Leeson joined Primary Ethics in a new part-time role as our Marketing and Development Manager, responsible for marketing, communications and attracting volunteers from the wider community. Christine has joined us following a career break to have a family and says she is enjoying being back at work. Christine’s husband, Beaux, is an Ethics Teacher at Wilkins Public School in Marrickville…keeping it all in the family!

 Grassroots Campaign update

Following our July newsletter about the issues we are facing with the changed enrolment form excluding ethics classes, Primary Ethics was fortunate to have Lisa Smith, our Clovelly Ethics Coordinator, step up to volunteer to take on the management of our grassroots campaign. She was to coordinate the handing out of flyers to parents outside of schools where information about ethics classes was not easily available.

The first thing we did was ask our Ethics Coordinators all over NSW if their principals were prepared to include a Primary Ethics parent information flyer in their Kindy orientation packs. A record number were pleased to and we have since distributed over 11,000 flyers to schools where we already have a presence.

The second thing we did was to ask our newsletter recipients if they could help us hand out flyers. We had quite a number of people volunteer to help in areas where they lived but unfortunately where we have no need for their services because principals in those areas are telling parents about ethics classes and including our flyers in their packs for new families.

We still really need assistance at schools in greater western Sydney and larger regional towns where we are not running ethics classes. If you think you can help us in the following areas, please volunteer via this link. The regions of initial particular focus are Penrith, Parramatta, Gosford, Hurstville/St George, Bankstown and Rouse Hill.

As often happens when you volunteer, life gets in the way. Lisa has taken on care for a sick friend, so we have taken management of the grassroots campaign in-house. Our Marketing and Development Manager, Christine Leeson, is now coordinating those who have volunteered and she will be in contact with you very soon.

 A super volunteer recruiter

Lucy Armstrong, an Ethics Teacher at Leichhardt Public School, is a legend at Primary Ethics. At the start of 2015, Leichhardt had a good, small group of Ethics Teachers but there was a long waiting list of students wanting to attend classes. We needed at least eight more volunteers to meet demand. Calls in the newsletter for volunteers had been made and few had come forward.

Then Lucy wrote this short letter for the newsletter putting a personal perspective on her own experiences with teaching ethics. Her letter was a game-changer for the ethics program at Leichhardt. Following its publication, Rohan Tanner, Lucy’s husband and the school’s Ethics Coordinator, fielded many enquiries and recruited 11 new teachers over the next 3-4 months. This is amazing level of growth thanks to some heartfelt words on paper. The pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword.

Thanks to Lucy and Rohan. What a team!

 Our progress

We’ve had feedback that people want to know how we are progressing towards our goal to have face-to-face ethics classes in all schools big enough to run them across the state. In schools with 200 students and above, there are usually enough to run an ethics class in each stage. That’s 800 schools. In those with over 150 students, we can usually get some classes started. That’s 1,100 schools in total. Our first goal is to get into the biggest 800 schools. Here’s our progress to date:

Date Ethics Coordinators Ethics Teachers Schools Applicants Students
Feb 2011 65 90 56 108 1,500
Feb 2012 193 258 166 135 4,500
March 2013 224 474 188 201 9,500
Feb 2014 307 788 255 268 16,000
Feb 2015 336 1,152 345 244 23,500
Sept 2015 373 1,511 385 157 31,000

 Ethi-call at The Ethics Centre

We know you appreciate the opportunity Primary Ethics offers your kids to think through the ethical dimensions of real life situations.

But what about you?

Ethics are integral to all our relationships—at work, in the community and among family and friends—but it’s not always easy to see the best way forward.

For example …

  • • What do you do about a business partner who gets great results and makes your business a lot of money, but is inclined to cut a few corners?
  • • How do you balance respect for your son’s privacy with fears for his safety? When you’re worried about his activities should you try to look at his text messages?
  • • Your boss expects you to do something that doesn’t feel right—should you put your job on the line?
  • • Is it always right to put your family first?
  • • You’re on the school parents’ committee. Does it matter where donations come from if the money goes to much needed school projects?

When you’re facing questions like these, a conversation with an objective independent person can really help. You can have this kind of conversation through Ethi-call.

For dilemmas large and small, Ethi-call is a confidential ethics help service available free to anyone across Australia.

You won’t be given advice or told what is the ‘ethical’ thing to do. Instead, you’ll find a structured space to explore your situation so you can make the best decision in line with your own values and principles.

Just call 1800 672 303 for an appointment. See the Ethics Centre website for more information and sample calls.