Published in NT Suns in March 2017



Sometimes educational ideas appear to lack common sense. Thoughts about change are based on whims and the sudden revelation of ‘good ideas’. When these utterances are made by important people and key decision makers, they cannot really be ignored. In my opinion, an example of policy being made on the run is Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham having decided that it’s important for all Australian preschool children to learn Japanese.

Pronouncing Japanese as ‘the’ language to be learned ignores the fact that some schools have chosen to learn an indigenous dialect or to prioritise Indonesian, Mandarin or some other language.

This initiative overlooks an important language need. Our children must become well-versed in the understanding and use of English. Superimposing other languages, particularly in early schooling years can detract from this “homegrown” language need. The time and attention that is devoted to studying a foreign language is the time and attention that should be given to mastery of our mother tongue.

The English Language involves more than just speaking. There is listening, interpretation, comprehension and understanding, along with reading and writing. The way in which Australian young people understand and use our basic language, suggests that these elements are often lacking. NAPLAN tests certainly confirm these deficits.

There is no guarantee of any permanent and ongoing immersion of children in the study of Japanese or other foreign languages. Spur of the moment initiatives often fade quickly. This new alternative language approach is likely to be dropped as suddenly as it was introduced. This often leaves language learners in limbo because there is no follow-through. In turn, this could give rise to cynical attitudes toward a study of languages other than English alternative language study.

For Japanese to succeed as a second language, study opportunity would need to be continued through primary and into secondary school. That would need to happen around the Territory and Australia. There is little likelihood that this will happen.

Many employers are concerned about language and literacy deficits among young people. They say that young people have very poor communication skills, cannot write, cannot hold an intelligent conversation and often don’t understand what’s going on because of poor literacy.

Surely, this fix needs to come from within the educational system. The earlier children begin to have a sound understanding and working knowledge of the English language and its use, the better. Putting that off and substituting a language other than English may be unwise.


Children HAVE to be educated to eat and to regard meal times as they should be appreciated.  Too often, it is as follows.



Feeding one’s kids
It seems like a sin
You go out and buy
Food for the bin.

Chips, yes please!
And chicken too
On a plate the brow pluckers
Tears tumble, boo hoo.

Plates pushed away
Is it a sin
To transfer good food
From the shop to the bin?

“Sit there and eat it”!!
Kinds whinge and whine
But refuse like mules
For eons of time.

Minutes drag by
Like hours it seems
Food stays untouched
What happens are screams.

“Take it away”
Steadfast to the last
They refuse like real martyrs
To break their long fast.

The fast lasts as long
As the food on the plate
But once in the bin
Young voices grate ..

“We’re hungry, we’re starving
Feed us real quick
Our tummies are empty
With hunger we’re sick”!

What do you do?
(This you’ll regret)
Give lollies and sweet things
Then peace you will get –

It’s only a breather
Until the next meal
Then it starts all over
The next squawk and squeal.





Published in the NT Suns in march 2016. This column is aboput an initiative for linking families with educational institutions at trhe very, very beginning of childrens formative years.

It is a program gaining traction ion trhe Northern Territory.

It is also a program achieving some longevity – so it is not a ‘fly by night’, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ initiative.



The educational initiative “families as first teachers” is one that has been of benefit to Northern Territory families in our remote communities for the last 10 years. The program was designed to support families in meeting the needs of children from birth through to three years of age. It brought families with young children together, to share thoughts and ideas.

One of the significant aspects of this program, now expanding into new areas, is that it is not limited to indigenous families. Any family can apply to participate with these social and learning communities.

The program was developed to help parents understand the importance of getting children ready for school. The program offers pre-preparation in terms of their social and emotional development. This helps avoid them entering preschool as four year olds with no experience of being together in a school. Young parents are also offered the opportunity to share ideas about the care and nurture for their very young.

Regardless of pros and cons, the program worked well in preparing children for formal education in remote parts of the Territory.

The expansion of ‘Families as First Teachers’ into 10 urban schools in Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs is timely.

More and more young families are living, or moving to live in urban settings in the Territory. This makes the program one offering positive support for a growing number of people.

The most recent urban program, at Ludmilla, has had a very positive start. The school has enrolled 60 families to date and more are interested. The program isn’t zoned, meaning that it is available to families outside the Ludmilla School catchment area. This might change in time but will probably be offset by the commencement of programs in the other schools. Similarly, the Wulagi School program is growing and has become an integral element of the school community.

The early years of child development are important years, in fact the most important of all! This program is meeting a need and to date its developmental objectives have lead to success.
One of these has been education and awareness offered to young parents. ‘Families as First educators’ is taking education in a positive direction.

Schools are now places going well beyond formal education, entering into the field of developing children from very, very young ages. This broadening school role including ‘Families as First Teachers’ is with us to stay.



This column, published in the NT Suns in March 2017, focuses on the NT.  However, in my opinion, there is a NEED FORV THE APPOINTMENT OF A COUNSELLOR to the staff of every school.


With the frenetic pace of educational issues and priorities, we tend to overlook the fact that schools are about people. Students with aims, ambitions, positive and negative feelings, commit each day to their schools. This relationship begins when children commence preschool or attendance at early learning centres. It continues through primary and middle school years. Schools are centres of important educational, social and developmental opportunities.

Along the way, there are personal challenges and setbacks. Some are of a fairly minor nature, while others have a far greater and deeper impact upon students, staff and the school community. However, it seems the need for counselling support is on the increase. It is at such times that the human face of education is of critical importance. The most recent NT tragedy was the untimely deaths of two students from Darwin High School. Their passing is having an impact upon school students and staff that is being recognised through counselling and other support services. While the essence of education is about student academics and personal development, our department is there to support those in need during times of sorrow. Counsellors offer emotional and moral support. They never quite know when counselling support will be required, so readiness to offer assistance is important.

In a wider Territory context the Department of Education at central and regional level supports those in schools impacted by death, injury or mishap of students and staff. The need for this support may be within our city schools, and those in larger towns or smaller and more remote communities.

There are a number of circumstances within schools that can cause deep distress for students, staff and in some cases parents of school children. One of the most common is bullying in its various forms. Online bullying with harsh verbals and embarrassing photographs is the most insidious and least understood method of causing hurt. It is important that these circumstances come to light, with perpetrators being called to account and victims being given support.

The need for school based counselling is on the increase. Education departments may need to consider the appointment of support counsellors in schools on a one to one basis. Counselling needs are growing; support needs to be timely and immediate.




1. Be confident, not hesitantly or ‘worried’ in conversation with or around children. Doubts rub off.

2. Label possessions – clothes, lunch boxes, – clearly and indelibly.

3. Choose lunch boxes small enough to fit into school fridges. Oversize boxes are often full of emptiness and take up unnecessary refrigerated space.

4. Be aware of healthy food policy for your school. Don’t pack poor quality food.

5. Be aware of school nut policies that are often in place.

6. Cut fruit, sandwiches and other food into manageable portions. Younger children do not get on with whole pieces of fruit.

7. Defence Force children enrol from interstate at this time of year. Know about the support that can be offered through Regional Education Liaison Officer’s (REDLO’s) for primary schools and Defence School Transition mentored (DSTM’s) for secondary schools.

8. Be aware of tutorial support programs for defence children arriving from interstate.

9. Be trustful and avoid being helicopter parents.

10. If parents need to have in depth conversation with teachers, make an appointment at school office for these meeting. Don’t shoehorn in and at Teachers who are trying to introduce children to the year and settle them down.

11 . At home time, let teachers dismiss children to pack their bags including getting lunch boxes from fridge without doing it for them. Children have to learn these strategies.

12. Don’t crowd into classrooms and around doors at the start of the day or at home time. ‘Crowding’ leads to chaos. Wait at a respectful distance for children to emerge.

13. For Middle and senior school enrolments, discuss courses and study options with school coordinators within the first few weeks.

14. Most schools have parent/teacher information evenings within the first weeks of school. Plan to attend and ask question about school processes and directions.

15. Most schools have websites. Look them up on Google and read about your school.


17. Be aware that all teachers establish classroom rules with children. Learn from your children what they’re rules are, so parents and teachers can be together on the same expectational wavelength.

18. Become aware of school homework policy. Read handbooks.

19. If nearby when bringing or collecting children, avoid what can be disruptive conversations in loud voices with other parent. This talk can be off-putting to teachers and distracting for children.

20. Make sure vaccination and immunisation records are up to date and bring these records so they can be copied onto student enrolment data.

21. Ensure that a contact phone number is available to the school and always kept up to date.

22. Where applicable, know the cyclone policy applying to your school. Keeping a copy of this and essential data on the fridge or home notice board is not a bad idea.


Teaching Issues and Student Successes

The complexities in which we wrap educational issues leads to mediocre outcomes.

Too much focus on process and not enough on actual educartional needs.

Too much pandering to tinsel, glitter, trimmings and trapping issues and not enough to core educational matters.

Too much wanting to make education exciting and appealing and not enough focus on nitty gritty hard core learning.

Too much focus on the froth and bubble and insufficient atttentiion paid to basic, sequential learning.

Unwillingness to confirm that failing students are failing.

Too many committees, advisory panels and too many people putting their oar into educational decision making in a way that confuses and distorts intentions.

Too many people wanting personal illumination (guru status). They use education as a vehicle for personal aggrandisement rather than being there for what they can contribute to and for others.

Too much focus on teacher training options that leads to irrelevancy in classroom contexts. For example, offering pre-service teachers the chance to either learn how to create ceramics or develop an unbderstanding of early childhood teaching methodology.

Dumping the ‘tried, true and successful’ teaching approaches because sticking with one approach for too long ‘gets to be boring’ – for teachers. ‘If it is working well and is not broken, fix it anyway’, seems to apply.

Just SOME of my concerns about the way things are!


Race and Gender Awareness in Schools.

You look at and watch young children interesting and they are generally free of the qualification of gender, race, colour (and so on) bias. THE BIAS COMES FROM ADULTS. Those adults may be parents, relations and others these young humans see and hear.

The purity of innocence is ruined for these chilldren by ADULTS.