About pooroldhenry

I was a long term Northern Territory (NT) Educator, commencing my teaching career in WA in 1970. We came to the NT in July 1975 and worked in remote, town then urban communities. My tenure in the NT was at Numbulwar School (1975- 1978), Angurugu Community School on Groote Eylandt (1979-1982), Nhulunbuy Primary School (1983-1986), then Karama School (1987-1991) and lastly Leanyer School (1992 until retiring in January 2012). I filled the position of school principal from 1977 until my retirement. My career started at Warburton Ranges in WA as a teacher in 1970 then as headmaster in 1974. My major focus on and belief in education is that it develop children and students holistically, preparing them for the whole of life. Educational partnerships involving staff, students, community and department have always been important. I am a Fellow and Lifetime Member of the Council of Education Leaders, a Life Member of the Association of School Education Leaders (recently rebranded as the Northern Territory Principals Association) and was awarded the Commonwealth Centenary Medal for contribution to education. A member of Toastmasters International I am an Advanced Toastmaster Gold (ATMG). I hold a number of degrees and remain actively interested in and contributive to education. A highlight of my 'recent' life (from 2011 until 2016) was contributing to Teacher Education at Charles Darwin University. This has involved marking, tutoring and lecturing in a part time capacity. I was also involved with our Department of Education (NT) as a member of the Principals Reference Group (2012 until 2016) and have worked with others on the establishment of a Principals Coaching and Mentoring program. From 2014, I was the Education Minister's Nominee on the NT Board of Studies until its reconstitution in July 2016. Prior to retirement from full time work I represented the Education Department on the Board (2009 - 2011). I was working in support of students enrolled with the School of Education at CDU from 2012 until 2017. I enjoyed the chance to give back to the profession which over many years has done much for me. From July 2013 until the end of June 2019, I wrote a weekly column about educational matters for the Darwin/Palmerston /Litchfield 'Suns' Newspapers and then the rebranded 'Suns Newspaper' with Territory-wide circulation. This newspaper ceased publication in June 2019. I occasionally write for other papers and am a contributor to professional magazines and online discussion about educational matters. Included were regular contributions to the Australian Council of Education's 'e-Teaching' and 'e-Leading' publications, which ceased as communications organs in December 2017. I hold retired member's status with the Australian Education Union (NT), contributing occasionally to union publications. I am presently working on developing a series of vignettes, aimed at providing information that pre-service and beginning teachers may find useful. They are oriented toward assisting with an understanding of practices that may assist meet professional and teaching needs. To date, 89 of these have been completed. I contribute to general conversations and various groups on ‘Linked In’ and am also a contributor to ‘The Conversation’. I have a blog site at henrygrayblog.wordpress.com and invite you to access it at any time should you so wish. Henry Gray February 28 2020


My thought in reply to a Linked In post from Scott Morrison today.

Thank you for your sentiments Mr Morrison. This was the way it was always going to go because liberal parties within Australia sell themselves short by infighting. I imagine there will be a bi-election in Cook before too long. There is much soul searching and healing that needs to take place within your party and that will not happen any time soon. With respect, your party is short on for leadership talent with synergestic focus. The centre of your party, the parliamentary wing, has lost its way.

I don’t know how good the new government will be but if it wants to succeed,it must develop an internal unity and oneness of purpose that came to evade your government.

Campaigning does not come into the shaping of voters perceptions that have been impacted by days, weeks, months and years. It is this long term development of regard and appreciation that eventually determines how well an incumbent government will fare when voters go to the polls.

I recommend a paper written by Frederick Wirt and shared with participants at the ACEL conference held in Darwin in 1992. Titled ‘will the centre hold’, it predicted what can happen when organisations are more concerned about magnification and image than consolidated and logical development.



If a re-elected Prime Minister unlocks superannuation programs allowing people access to super savings for house purchases, he will be committing a massive blunder. It has already happened once, with people able to draw down on superannuation during the Covid epidemic of 2020. This depletion of savings and the compounding interest they attract, will never be recovered.

I became a superannuation fund member in 1975. Then aged 29, I could not see much point in super programs, for one’s working and earning life had many decades to run. Now aged 76 and 10 years into my retirement years, I am thankful every day for investing in a secure financial future through superannuation.

Please PM and political leaders, don’t let people prematurely break into their super funds. Such an allowance will abort the financial security they deserve during their retirement years.


The NT News story (Territory kids walk to school safely 17/5)

reinforced the fact that male teachers and principals need to be constantly on guard against community perceptions that can misinterpret and misconstrue their social behaviours. It was perfectly natural for Acting Larrakeyah School Principal Natasha Guse to be photographed holding the hands of two girls in preparation for this year’s ‘walk to school safely’ day. In fact, it would have been wholly appropriate for any female principal to have been in the promotional photograph.

That would not have been acceptable if the principal had been a male. At the very least, eyebrows would have been raised and there may have been more in depth questioning and follow up. A male principal holding hands or making physical context with students in such a photo could at the very least, expect to be counselled about the need for behavioural propriety.

Males connected with teaching in these modern times are faced with barriers and limitations on conduct that do not impact upon female teachers and educators. With the passing of years, those stringencies are becoming more pronounced.


The burden of NAPLAN

With the build-up to the federal election and everything that has been happening on the local political scene, a very important and significant event has almost been overlooked. Between May 10 and 20 the 2022 NAPLAN program is taking place. Students in years 3,5, 7 and 9 are sitting their literacy and numeracy tests for this year. They, together with their teachers will be glad when the program concludes for this year.

Sadly, school and system leaders will then begin champing at the bit, anticipating outcomes. Judging school effectiveness on the basis of test results which were once advertised as being a minor ‘point in time’ assessment, over inflates the value of this testing regime. Sadly, too many children spend far too many weeks and even months before the tests in pre-test, practice and readiness mode. By the time tests are administered, they are often stale and probably do less well than would be the case if they were not so encumbered with this readiness strategy.

The over-emphasis on NAPLAN detracts from schools and diminishes education as a whole.

Businesses approaching schools – points to consider

• The best person to approach in most situations is the school’s Registrar or Financial Manager. That is certainly the case with primary schools. Some Middle and Senior Schools may have a person other than the Finance Administrator delegated to handle contracts. That would be passed onto you on inquiry by whoever answered your call if making contact by phone.

• My thought would be that you phone and ask for an appointment to share your business proposition. The school type and size will determine who you speak with when an appointment is made.

• You might offer to share your website ahead of any meeting but in any case that address would probably be on your business card.

• I always respected businesses approaching our school to have arranged for referees contact. (Sometimes referees who are contacted can be surprised by the fact they have not been asked to provide feedback to an enquiring person.)

• Schools quickly turn off approaching businesses which take too much time to carry out work once a job has been arranged. At Leanyer, we went through a number of plumbing contractors before settling on Town and Country. T and C were always prompt, staff were courteous and worked around our school timetable. Accounts were clearly explained and charges reasonable. I think Leanyer still uses Town and Country.

• The impression left by those carrying out work is important. Language levels and ‘quality’ comes into play. Dress codes need to be appropriate to a school environment and it is important for workers to sign in and out before work is undertaken and once the job is complete. Ochre cards are usually requested even when direct contact by workers with children is not envisaged.

• Registrars and administrative staff have strong network connections with peers in other schools. Conversations might well embrace a comparison of the way in which contractors carry out work in particular schools. That ‘word of mouth’ contact can be both positive and negative, and may determine whether a school will or won’t approach particular businesses to carry out work.

• Schools value contractors who offer a decent level of service at a fair and reasonable price. There are some who think that schools can afford any level of charge. In these days of budget stringency that is far from being the case.

Flat as a tack

Today I feel very low and very flat. I am finding it harder and harder to feel worthwhile and am saddened by the fact that people in positions of caring for others seem no longer to care. Sympathy and empathy are dead qualities. There seems to be no way forward in care for people terms. I just feel the future is dead and that genuine ministration no longer counts for anything at all. The genuine spirit of care is dead.

Unwanted and unloved endpoints (1)

It seems to me that many babies born into this world, who grow into their years of childhood and teenage years, are unwanted and unloved. While many are planned, loved and cherished, others are an accident born if carnal pleasure and sexual engagement gone wrong. They are nothing more or less than unfortunate accidents of birth.

Any money forthcoming by way of baby bonuses was welcome so it could be squandered and splurged on entertainment and goods that had little to do with the raising of children. (Remember the ‘plasma TV kids’ of the Costello baby bonus era.)

So many children are unwanted and unloved. It is awful to contemplate them starting life as accidental outcomes.

Too close to be good

Sometimes people are so emotionally close to situations they are needing to manage, test they do a far poorer and less effective at their job. Emotional closeness can be a killer. Dispassionate or empathetic rather than sympathetic care can be superior.

It is easy for a caring person to become disoriented and bushed. They are so close to the person needing care, they can’t see the wood for the trees.




My first appointment as a teacher was to Warburton Ranges in 1970. My wife and I were there for 12 months. We returned in 1974 with three children, the youngest only six weeks of age. From July 1975 until December 1982, we taught (and I was Principal for most of this time) at Numbulwar and Angurugu in the NT. During those years, we always felt safe. Our home was not overly secured. Our children were safe and free from threat within all three communities. We were criticised by family and boy some professional superordinates who felt we were doing our children much harm by being on those places. I like to think we made a positive difference during our years of tenure. Our three children grew up to become professionals in the areas of science/teaching (daughter) while our two sons are qualified engineers. So much for their deprivation. That said, I would not countenance remote community service these days as things have changed. Safety and well-being are history. How sad it is that this deterioration has taken place.

Being an old one

I am a 76 year old boomer. My Father taught me save, not to spend what I did not have. That lesson was one I followed all my working like. Fortunately, I was introduced to superannuation during my working years and am thankful every day for the blessings it brought. I do not accept that I am privileged by the system and should be envied. What I have, I earned. I did not go over the top with socialisation, spending on alcohol and substances nor taking extravagant holidays on borrowed money. A house mortgage was our only borrowed money and that got paid of as quickly as we could manage. You guessed it, I hate debt with a passion. Every day I thank my Father for teaching me the wisdom of saving and for going without until I could afford to pay for what I wanted and needed.

Teacher Training needs to be refocused

The Australian’s editorial (‘Time to get real about teaching’ 6/5) paints an expectational picture of change to teacher training methodologies that, as the editorial states. may not come pass post election, when promises often remain unfulfilled. As the editorial intimates, entry into universities has too often been allowed simply to generate dollars from students and government subsidies.

Literacy and numeracy competence for those contemplating a teaching career should be an absolute prerequisite entry into any training program. There should be no need to contemplate catch up teaching of essential literacy and numeracy skills.

The issue of illiteracy and innumeracy as barriers to be surmounted by those in training to be teachers is not new. Over three decades ago, a senior lecturer in education at LaTrobe University who was visiting said to me, “We used to teach trainee teachers to teach. Now we have to teach them (the basics of literacy and numeracy) and having donor that, teach them to teach.” Since then, the erosion of teacher capacity has reduced further. It IS time to get real about teaching but I am not holding my breath about that necessity becoming a realiity.