Published in NT Suns in April 2017


Anzac Day remembrances taking place in our schools this week are particularly poignant. Many of our students have parents or relations serving in Australia’s Defence Forces. For them, Anzac Day is more than a recall of historical valour; it emphasises the fact that they and their loved ones are part of today’s defence cohort. Anzac Day is very much a reminder of their present situation.

Anzac Day remembrances are very close to the homes and hearts of these students. That is especially the case in Darwin and Palmerston. Our schools and communities have enrolled large cohorts of defence children. They are members of families who have to live their lives around the requirements of Australia’s defence leaders. Family rotations and parental assignments are part of their life.

Contemplating these issues can result in children feeling both unsettled and worried about the future. For defence families the issues of peace and conflict and the way they can impact on home life are very real.

Defence School Transition Aides (DSTA’s) have been appointed to schools with significant numbers of services children. They help both students and families settle into new schools. They also support those about to leave on family rotation. Rotations mean that children will sever friendships they have built during their time at the school. Included is help offered children who may have learning difficulties caused by leaving one educational jurisdiction and entering another. Tutorial support is available to these students and can be accessed with DSTA support. This extra help is available at no cost to parents. DSTA’s help defence families and students come to terms with these and other issues arising because of relocation.


The nature of our multicultural society needs to be interwoven sensitively into Anzac remembrances. There are formalities including flag raising, the Ode of Remembrance, the Last Post and Reveille that form part of school ceremonies. They add both dignity and solemnity to the occasion. Delivery of the Anzac Message could be hurtful if it had a ‘them’ and ‘us’ theme. The theme should be about a desire for the betterment of all people. There are no winners and losers in conflict situations, rather a loss for everyone.

Anzac Day remembers the valour of those who have given their all for others. If the remembrance can build oneness and unity, strengthening the resolve of our young people toward living good lives, it will have achieved its purpose.


Column published in NT Suns in April 2017.  Note rthat publisged columns are sometimes edited for the sake of space.  Posting of Suns columns on my blog are unedited.


Over time, there have been many changes in education. Some have been brought about through the growth of technology. A prime example is the replacement of handwriting with computer and iPad keyboards.

In spite of ongoing change there are things that should be retained and reinforced. One of these is teaching children about the value and importance of money. This experience ought not to be deferred until students reach the middle and upper primary grades. Research at the University of Cambridge was commissioned by the United Kingdom Money Advice Service. The research revealed that children’s habits and attitudes about money are formed by the time they turn seven years of age.

Many children have little chance to learn about and understand money. Household living costs are looked after by the adults. When shopping with parents, many children will not see notes or coins being used to settle accounts. Credit cards, PayWay and mobile phone applications are used to pay for goods. This makes money an illusion rather than a reality for many children.

There are ways at both home and school that can help children when it comes to handling and understanding money.

• A weekly or fortnightly payment of pocket money can aid young people in understanding currency. Encouraging children to spend and save from this allowance helps them understand and apply the principle ‘save it, you have it, spend it, its gone’.

• Encouraging children to handle coins, appreciating their size, weight and value encourages familiarisation with currency. Extending this to include appreciation of the value of notes is wise.

• Talking with children and answering their questions about money is part of their home and school education.

• School banking programs encourage children to establish the saving habit. This is important because so much advertising focus encourages people to spend everything and save nothing.

• Allowing students to shop at the school canteen can help with understanding money including item costs and change given on purchases.

• Understanding the use and purpose of money can be supported by classroom activities. Having a classroom shop with shopkeepers and purchasers learning about buying and selling through drama is one approach. Another is understanding through maths problems that are about money matters.

As young people grow up, learning about credit, credit traps and the ease with which debt can be incurred need to be included.

Money is a part and parcel of everyday life. It’s understanding and use should not be foreign to young people.


Published in the NT Suns in April 2017.


The best love and care that children can have, is that which is offered by parents. Too often this is overlooked. Some believe that early learning educators, teachers and after school carers can stand in the place of parents. A recent Sunday Territorian article (April 2) touched what might be a raw nerve. ‘Hands on parenting is what helps children’ is so true. A study conducted by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) focussed on this truth.

Study authors Stacey Fox and Anna Olsen from the Australian National University found that ” reaching out to children, talking with them and helping them with their homework matters more than income or background.”

In these modern times, the need for parents to work, too often distances them from their children. Before and after school care have become a way of life for children whose parents leave early and arrive home late. They are often placed in vacation care during school holidays because their parents are at work. Many parents are both preoccupied with and made tired by work, making quality time with their children during the week a rarity. While family catch-up may happen on the weekend, there is a need to attend to domestic chores and get ready for the working week ahead. In these contexts it can become easy for children to become somewhat overlooked. They may also be misunderstood by parents.

According to Fox and Olsen, “children … benefit when their parents provide a positive environment for homework and play a role in school activities.” They want their parents around, wishing to identify with them in school settings. Parents attending assemblies, participating in parent teacher nights, and supporting their children’s extra-curricular school activities is a part of what their children want.

According to the study, children really welcome and greatly value the first hand connection of parents with their educational development. In terms of hands on parenting, “the aspects which appear to matter most include high expectations and aspirations for children, shared reading between children and parents and family conversation.”

Children need room to move and develop as independent human beings. ‘Helicopter parents’ who constantly hover around children can be very stifling. They suffocate the independence and dampen the decision making potential of their offspring. However, when parents are there for children, engaging with them, nurture and love are to the fore. And it is these attributes in parents that their children want and need.

Vaccination is a MUST

This episode was published in the NT Suns on March 31 2017

Historically, schools children faced diseases which should no longer be considered a threat to health and well-being. Until the 1950’s, there were no vaccination programs in place for anything at all. Then came the immunisation opportunity to ward off smallpox and tuberculosis.

During the 1950’s, polio was a real threat. Schools were identified as places where this scourge could be passed from one student to another. Children were often cautioned on the subject by parents. Many were held back from going to community based activities and into social situations, for fear they would be infected. Then came the Salk vaccine. with immunisation against polio provided by children being given a sugar cube impregnated with the vaccine. Prevention of polio became a reality.

Since then, the development of vaccinations has virtually eliminated chicken pox, measles, mumps and whooping cough. They are among the diseases now under vaccine control.

The opportunity for vaccination against what were debilitating and life threatening diseases, has considerably eased what was a burden of anxiety.

In recent years the percentage of babies and young children being vaccinated has declined. It was for this reason that the Federal Government introduced a ‘no jab, no pay’ program. This discontinued government supported child payments for parents of non-immunised children. What followed was a significant increase in the number of children being vaccinated. This meant that many parents had overlooked having their children immunised.

This year, the government extended it’s watching brief over community health. Children who have not been immunised will be excluded from child care centres and kindergartens (preschools). This restriction has been added in the interests of non-vaccinated children. While this might be seen as arbitrary, it is important that children who are not immunised are protected from possible infection. At stake is their future health and well-being.

In schools if cases of measles, chicken pox and other communicable disease occur, the community is immediately notified. This enables parents to withdraw non immunised children to from school until the crisis is over. This is a better option than children facing the possibility of being infected, having to spend time recuperating, and possibly suffering side effects from having caught the disease.

Medical issues may mean a minute fraction of children cannot be immunised. However, if non-immunisation is a parental decision alone, their children may be placed in vulnerable positions during periods of disease outbreak. Jeopardising the health prospects of young people should be avoided.