I come from an era when those who were trained as teachers, had to model correct speech to students. This included pronunciation, enunciation, word choice and usage and overall clarity. Part of our training was that speech imperfections (ie ‘rabbits sun wing awound Wocks’) had to be overcome before graduation. For those with speech and speaking challenges, corrective and elocution sessions were offered. They were free and compulsory. It was deemed that teachers who were to teach students, had to example correct speech and speaking.

We have moved a long way from those days, but I still think that what we were offered was invaluable.


On time of presenting. Some keynote presenters go on and on and ON! Those who are in the listening audience are too polite to say what they think about the length of the presentation. Having to endure prestressed for anywhere up to two hours one occasion is far, far too long.

My belief is that no initial presentation should go beyond 25 minutes. Used time beyond that for audience engagements through questions and other interactive response and sharing opportunities. The outcomes will be positive, the messages will stick and the audience will be satisfied.


A sincere thanks to all teachers, school leaders and support staff for the tasks undertaken in furthering the education and development of Australia’s students in each of our states and territories.

And thank you to everyone connected with educating students all over the world.

Please know how much you are appreciated not only on World Teachers Day (October 29) but on each and every day of the school year.

Thank you for your role in preparing those who will become tomorrow’s adults in our world. In so many ways you link them from the present to the future.

Thank you from a retired principal. And thank you to those who have done so much for education in past as well as in present times.

Henry Gray

Retired Principal

NT Principals Assn. Life Member

29 October 2021


I often listen on radio or watch on television as very key, prominent, important people speak on and about their areas of expertise. So many, yes SO many of them are very poor presenters when it comes to their qualities of speech, diction and (on television) gesture.

The ‘matter’ factor of their offering is fine. They know their subjects. But it is their manner and method of delivery that let them down. Leaving lasting impressions of mediocre delivery I am sure, is not what the speakers want. But unfortunately that’s the way it often goes.

And all for the want of a little fixing!


Most of the time, conference and audience pictures are simply of people sitting and listening. Is there a chance that conference ‘action’ pictures might show people engaged more interactively in participative opportunities offered by presenters?

Maybe a weakness of presenters and their presentations is the fact they go on and on and on. Interactivity between presenter and the audience can add to the dynamics of the speech.


Of particular importance when communicating is to look at people with whom we are talking. Eye contact is an indicator of confidence. To speak with eyes averted and not to look at people to whom we are talking is taken to indicate alack of confidence, to be unsure of what we are saying or similar. It is a negative indicator. Similarly, if talking with a group, it is important to include everyone within the ‘eye contact’ circle.


The focus on what education should be all about – equipping people with basic understanding, skills, and competencies – is fast disappearing. In many places it has already gone. Students in schools are the poorer for what has been lost.

Included are the following. They are not in any particular order of importance, but the fact that these capacities are no longer taught or have been lost is a sad reflection on education.

  • Handwriting skills are no longer taught. Children do not know how to hold writing tools.
  • Tables are no longer taught. Calculators apparently suffice, meaning that children can manage computational skills with the aid of the device but they do not have any knowledge or cognitive understanding of what they are doing.
  • Reading for comprehension is no longer important. Students don’t have to understand the meaning behind the words that they are reading. Ignorance however, is NOT bliss.
  • Spelling is no longer important and not taught in the same way as used to be the case. Word building and understanding now have their repository in history. Contemporary teaching is minimal if at all. Why learn what spellcheck will fix, at least after a fashion.

That is just part of what education has lost.


In 1979 when the NT took control of its own educational delivery, our first CEO, Dr Jim Eedle met all principals at a conference in Katherine. He said, “schools are for children” and “system structure should always serve that function.” Fast forward 42 years. Our system is gigantic in structural terms. The real meaning of teaching and learning has become diluted and lost within the gigantic and organisationally complex system that education has become.

The constant and often rapid turnover of principals and teachers in remote schools, ( NT News 20/10) is a vexed question. The provision of rent free housing, free utilities, enhanced study leave provisions, provision of airfares to Darwin and Alice Springs, and free freight on foodstuffs have not stopped staff turnover. Maybe it is time to identify the reasons leading to the constant exodus that is occurring. This may lead to solutions.

For decades, Indigenous Education in the NT has been rich in educational plans and increasingly, desperately poor in educational outcomes. This ‘new’ plan endorses some concepts that were introduced in past plans and then discarded. It is sad that panels of experts developing plans NEVER EVER seek input from those who worked in schools and communities in times past. There WERE practices that achieved positive outcomes but the government and Education Department are not interested in past achievements. They appear to abhor any contribution that might be offered by past practitioners and discount evidence of successful practices from the past that might intelligently inform present planners.


An intriguing element about language is the disconnect between its theory and practice. The theory of language can be reasonably straightforward and understandable as it is studied on paper : Language in practice and in day-to-day terms of usage can be a lot more tricky. In Australian contexts, there are idiomatic factors of expression, the way words are emphasised, nuances, hidden messages, the use of colloquialisms (expressions) and so on. As well there is pitch, rhythm, tone, intonation and volume.