To all readers

I hope you had a terrific Christmas Day and that 2023 is a year that will bring you all great happiness and satisfaction.

Can I make a suggestion? We often think of all the negatives and challenges we have during the days, weeks and months of a year. How about thinking of eight or ten good things that have happened during the year. We are all unique and different from each other and we each have skills and capacities unique to us as individuals. So what will you remember as positive outcomes during 2022.

Too often we see our worst or think our worst. We need to think about our best and balance what we think we should be with the people we are.

The best


I am disappointed by what seems to be happening time after time after time, for years and years and years, at Wadeye. My wish and hope for the community is shared below. It is also a wish I hold dear for other remote communities in the NT and indeed elsewhere around Australia.

May Wadeye get good.

May peace and harmony be restored.

May children go to school (each child every day).

May substance abuse cease to be an issue.

May all suppliers of illicit drugs and illegal alcohol be apprehended, with their behaviour attracting the full force of the law.

May all weapons including knives be handed in during an amnesty period on surrender of these objects.

May alcohol in all its forms be forever dismissed from the community and may there be a resolve that people will become teetotallers.

May the community become a jewel in the crown of community management and good will.

May rancorous conduct be no more and may thoughtfulness of all residents toward each other prevail.

May there be a cessation of domestic violence.

May the community become a model of everything that is good, decent, harmonious and upright.

May children come to respect parents and elders.

May parents nurture their children and lead them in the way they should go through the example they set.

May elders imbue children and young people with heartfelt desire to forsake all that is wrong and to walk a better way.

May Wadeye become a transformed community and a desirable, attractive place.

NB: I worked in remote community situations in. WA (1970, 1974 to April 1975) and in the NT from July 1975 until December 1982.


Dear Readers

I hope you and your family have a great Christmas and a terrifically fulfilling 2023. I have found this year to be one of many parts. If 2022 was a jigsaw puzzle, it has been one containing a good few unrelated and rogue pieces.

Vladimir Putin goes beyond being rogue. This is the 301st day of the current war against Ukraine that he ‘commenced’ on February 24 this year. I admire the Ukrainian spirit but it is awful the country has been decimated, with so many people killed and the population decimated. Putin forecast his troops would be in Kiev within 14 hours of the war being declared, so his timeline is a bit skewed.

I like looking in on education from afar, because the panoramic view offers perspective not available to those who are in the mix at the chalk face. The need to be reactive, supplicating responses to commands on high, can be uncoupling. Good intentions and systemic planning do not always lead to positive action outcomes.

Even for old ones like me, there always seem to be regular elements of Territory and Australian Government surprise diving into contention and more than often, from left field. What annoys is the trotting forward of new ideas which are regurgitated old ideas that have been previously discarded because of inappropriateness. It is important to never learn from the past.

I keep on blogging and posting on LinkedIn along with writing occasional letters to the papers. “The Conversation” also offers some interesting papers to read.

All the best as we march inexorably toward the future, never quite knowing what tomorrow will bring.


SUNS 47 2018 266


The question of teacher supply is a problem looming on the education horizon.

Professor Barry Harper, Dean of Education at the University of Wollongong, recently raised the need for the Australian community to prepare for a looming teacher shortage. If educational systems ignore his advice, this may well result in schools without teachers.

Harper, in his paper ‘Factors fuelling the looming teacher shortage’ (Media @ University of Woollongong) advises that a significant percentage of teachers will be retiring within the next five to ten years. Educational authorities understand that a vacuum in teacher supply will create problems. He states that “ … efforts to plug the gaps left by retirees are being thwarted by two factors. … One is the attraction of teaching overseas … the other is a desire by a significant number of teaching graduates to only teach for a short period of time before moving on to other careers.”

The number of teaching graduates attracted to overseas teaching destinations runs into the thousands. As far back as 2003, British school principals had headhunted 3,000 Australian teachers. “There are also hundreds of Australian teachers working in New York schools with many more scattered throughout North America … and Canada.” (Harper)

Harper suggests that Australian teacher graduates are classroom ready because their training includes first hand practical teaching experience. They are attracted overseas by salary and the experience of living abroad. An upside for Australia is that they don’t want to stay away forever. They come back with a world view of education ready to commit to teaching in our classrooms.

“Unfortunately Australian public school systems do not recognise (their qualities). Rather, teachers returning from overseas find themselves behind their colleagues who stayed at home, both in pay and promotional opportunities.” (Harper)

Adjusting the profession to accord equity to both returning from overseas and stay-at-home educators, may help to boost overall teacher numbers.

The more significant issue is that of graduating teachers opting for short term rather than long term careers. Various studies referred to by Harper confirm that fewer graduating secondary students are opting to train as teachers, with 25% of graduating teachers opting out within five years of starting their careers. “Around 32% of qualified teachers (are) working outside the profession.” (Harper).

This issue is one that must be addressed before chronic teacher shortages become a school and classroom reality. The jury is out on whether education ministers and their departments “ … can make our schools attractive for a long term (teacher) commitment rather than as staging posts for other careers.”



I entreat, shout and sing,

PARENTS do your minding thing,

There is something we should know,

Mums and Dads the way should show.

Don’t pass the buck,

To minders and schools,

Set, live and teach,

Morals and skills,

There are ‘experts’, wordy ‘sayers’

But you are the primary carers.

If your children go astray,

I wonder what it is you’ll say,

Will you sigh, will you sit,

Shamed you did not do your parent bit?


Looking back from Over the Western Horizon

I share with you now

The words of this poem

I was valued yesterday

But yesterday’s gone

Respected ’till yesterday

I’m now on my own

The sun’s set on my leadership

And yesterday’s gone.

No one remembers

What went before

“He did a good job”

But is remembered no more.

Let’s wipe out the memory

Of all that he did

“It will be done MY way”,

Past practice – not good!!

Take care with this thinking

I implore from the past

If you turn good practice to fallow –

While your tenure may last …

‘Twill be bitter not happy …

It’s wise to know

That your practice and style

Will reap what you sow.



July 1 2022 marked the 44th anniversary of Northern Territory Self Government. It is also an anniversary for education, because education was the first portfolio taken over for local management by the Northern Territory Government. The Northern Territory has a rich educational history – but you wouldn’t know it!

It is a sad fact that our history of education in the Northern Territory is pretty “muted”. A lot has gone on over time but remembrances are diminishing as people leave, move on or become deceased. When Gary Barnes took over as Education CEO in 2009 he rued the fact that there was no history of education in the Northern Territory to which he could refer and be informed as the incoming CEO. This situation eleven years and two CEO’s later has not changed.

With that in mind, I have wondered for a long time whether or not it would be possible for a thread on “history”, with sub titles to differentiate the specific aspects of Territory Education that have happened in the past, to be built into the department’s website.

Under defining subtitles (aboriginal education, bilingual education, and so on),an annual chronology could be established so the comments on specific subjects relating to the year of happening could be included.

I have raised this in the past only to be told that the resources necessary for setting up and maintaining a program of this nature would make it uneconomic. I would counterargue that costs would be quite minimal because the program would simply be added as an element of the Education Department’s existing website.

Specifics of content might even be moderated by a volunteer or volunteers who would have specific oversight of the historical thread. I would envisage this as being done in conjunction with the Media and Marketing Section of the Education Department. Advice and assistance might well be provided by the NT Archive.

There are other ways in which this reference to our history could be extended. Oral histories by past educators is an approach that could be an element of recording our history. Another might be bylines relating to theses and dissertations, that relate to educational history and developments in the Northern Territory completed over time. Referral to these studies would be useful.

At the moment any documentation of this nature would be housed with Charles Darwin University or the Northern Territory archives. Cross referencing in a “trove” manner to these sources could be useful.

I am aware that progress is a constant and acknowledge the fact that systems and priorities have to change over time to meet needs. However not having a history of where we have come from in educational terms is to our eternal detriment.

Among other advantages, history is informing and can help in preventing a repeat of failed processes and mistakes from the past. The decisions that are being made about education should be informed. Part of that information is an awareness and appreciation of our history.

I would welcome readers consideration of this issue and look forward to comments on the subject.


With The Passing of Time

Written when I retired in January 2012

Once upon a time a principal reflected on what was (2012) what have been (1970) and what had happened between times. A little voice in his head told him to think as much as possible about “balance”, “pros” and “cons”, “challenge” and “celebration”. Determined to toward even-handedness he began to reflect on the four decades of his educational experience.

He thought about the waves of systemic leadership that had rolled over the system. There was the “Moresby mafia” followed at intervals by domination from other States, Territories and arrivals from overseas destinations. More recently (2009) the ‘Queensland Cowboys’ had succeeded the Western Australia ‘Sandgropers’ as system leaders. The Northern Territory were certainly hybrid.

He thought about Jim Eedle the Northern Territory’s first Secretary for Education after the NT Government took portfolio carriage for education. Eedle said (Katherine, March 1979) that “schools are for children” and “structure should support function.” He thought how structure had now assumed skyscraper proportions with the children somehow in the shadows.

He thought about the back of many children were children who seemed to lack the first hand care and nurture a parent should offer. It seemed this was less forthcoming with the passing of years. Increasingly, schools were asked (indeed required) to take on primary matters of children’s upbringing. He wondered and was sad that ‘loco parentis’ was now so mainstream.

He worried that with the passing of years, a preponderance of weighty issues had grown into school curriculum requirements. Lots has been added and little dropped. He wondered how teachers could cope and was concerned the children would be overburdened and staff become disillusioned. The educational pathway seemed increasingly cluttered and overgrown.

He was concerned that written reports were no longer short, succinct, explicit and individualised. Rather they were long on hyperbole being stereotyped, jargon riddled statements. They had become increasingly wordy but in essence said less and less. Notwithstanding the huge amount of teacher effort devoted to their preparation, he felt they really said meant very little to parents.

He worried that with the passing of time, children had become more self-centred. “I” and “my” were pronouns and possessives that underpinned their belief and value systems. He yearned for those times past when, it seemed, children were well mannered and cared for others. “Yes please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “may I” were fast disappearing epithets. That he felt underpinned a loss of character.

He wondered where safety and security for children had gone. In the 1970s and 1980s children could play outdoors in what was a safe, secure environment. Come 2012 and parents no longer felt the children were safe. Threat for young people was felt from cyberspace to the street. There was a feeling that children needed to be cocooned and cosseted – but not by parents. As primary caregivers they were too busy at work to offer personal nurture.’Minding’ at Outside School Hours Care centres was the in thing.

He wondered whether, in an enlightened age, children feel ‘used’ when their schooling futures were discussed in a way that likened them to pawns on a chessboard. He also wondered whether children appreciated being ‘objects’ for limited academic testing (Four May Days each year). Did they feel that overall and holistic educational needs were regarded as important by Federal Politicians setting State and Territory educational agendas?

He wondered about modern communications. Were the children of the 1970’s not better speakers and listeners because face to face communication was alive and practised? ‘Facebook’, ‘Twitter’, texting and the new ICT tools of the twenty-first century reduced the need to gain and have confidence in speech and speaking (including listening). He was concerned that literacy skills were going out the door. What would happen to thinking!

He wondered about the wisdom of straying too far from the scriptural adage,”spare the rod and spoil the child”. While responses to poor behaviour ought not to be barbaric, was not accomodation in 2012 on what was totally unacceptable in 1970, simply encouraging children and young people to push the envelope? Were not the elders abrogating their upbringing responsibilities and being ostrich like?

He was sad that keys, security, guard dogs, dead latches, CCTV cameras, high fences, barbed wire, crimsafe mesh, sensor security systems and floodlights had become the order of installation. It seemed that in 1970, nights were for sleeping. Forty years later, nocturnal malevolence seemed to prevail. He wondered where ‘Where Willie Winkie’ had gone.

He wondered about gender equality. In the 1970’s children deferred to adults on public transport, when going through doors and joining queues. Similarly, men deferred to ladies, the young to the old.

No more!

He wondered why it was that in 2012, chivalry was dead!

He was concerned about ‘pace’. In the 1970’s things moved more slowly. There seemed to be less to do, yet key tasks were completed. There was a simple serenity about the way things were done. Time off work WAS time off work.

He pondered tranquility. Inner peace had been enhanced by the separation of priorities. Family, work and recreation had occupied degrees of importance in that order. Come 2012, it seemed that the imperative of ‘work, work and work until you drop’ had pushed family and recreational pursuits onto the back-burner. Was that not poor prioritisation?

Did the ‘new way’ promote happiness and inner peace?

He wondered about the future. As a young educator in 1970 he had looked to the future with confidence and rosy anticipation. Come 2012 and looking back he wondered why system realities had sullied his vision.

And revisiting this piece of writing nearly eleven years after its was developed, he still wonders.

Selfishly speaking, he is glad he is no longer at the coalface.

Henry Gray



I worked with international students attending CDU for a number of years. During that time I developed notes and support materials I shared with the student cohort at the time.

While now not involved with the CDU, I collated materials that could be of use to overseas students – and indeed local ones. These materials I am more than happy to share by emailing them to students. They are free to those wanting copies.

I am on LinkedIn, have an email address and am more than happy to support those undertaking study. Feel free to make contact.