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


What sacrifices have you made in life?



As a teacher who became a principal, I desired to complete doctoral studies during my career.

I’ve done or completed several degrees at postgraduate and masters level and was Deadset keen to undertake a doctorate.

I was also a school principal and in that context became aware of the fact that a good number of my colleagues were taking time off work to complete study programs. Thinking the matter through, I decided it would be far better for me from the viewpoint of my job and my work with children, staff and community not to leave and undertake study because it just seemed unfair to those with whom I was working.

so I didn’t pursue doctoral studies and am not particularly sorry about that. What I had was a full-time professional life and what I did was to spend my time as a principal in my schools. I also worked around the school teaching children and getting to know them.

How happy I am in retirement to reflect upon my career. Part of that is to be glad that I took the course of action I did and prioritised my work over study.

As a corollary, I also sacrificed 106 weeks of accumulated sick leave when I retired. Some of my colleagues and others, approaching the end of their working lives, used to take time off for medical reasons and for basically cutting out The sick leave that was owed to them.

To my way of thinking that was not right and I was quite happy to sacrifice my 106 weeks of sick leave to stay the course in my school and work with students and community and of course staff.

Last evening, I was invested with an Order of Australia Medal for my services to Education. I felt ever so proud and humble in receiving that award and feel ever so blessed to have prioritised as I did – even though that meant the sacrifices I have described. Those sacrifices were nothing compared to the joy and satisfaction I got from my work.


What’s the oldest things you’re wearing today?


I usually wear very old clothes I like wearing old, years and years old, T-shirts shorts sand shoes socks and so on. But today May 19th 2023 and with license, I just wanted to turn this topic on to something that I wore for the very first time.

It’s also the first time in over 20 years that I have worn a full dress suit, white shirt, tie and the trimmings. I even had new shoes.

The occasion? Tonight along with 15 other Northern Territorians, I went to Government House to be invested with an Order of Australia Medal for services to Education.

My family was there with three children and one of our grandsons

It was a great night – but guess what? Tomorrow it will be back to the wearing of old clothes and the suit will be put away after dry cleaning, probably for another 20 years.


Are you a leader or a follower?


I identify as a leader, undoubtedly a leader and a person with a Type A personality. As a leader, I have tried very hard to generate motivate with others to also look at being Type A persons.

As a leader I can attest to the fact that there are followers – and there are followers! The latter is Type B personalities. Many are laid-back and easy-going and “she’ll be right mate” persons to the point of eternally frustrating and strangling Type A people like myself. You don’t know what to do with them you don’t know how to urge them forward and you think of them as being like unto

stubborn mules.

I like being a leader and I like people who with me forge progressively onward and upward. But the ones that drag their feet, dig in their heels, and won’t budge for quids. These are people who are frustrating to the point of making me want to scream at them to get good i

and do the right thing.

It’s not always easy to be a leader.


List your top 5 favorite fruits.


There are lots of fruit types I do not like and cannot eat. Some of this is probably because it’s a child I was made to eat things I didn’t fancy and therefore, be imaginary or real, I developed an aversion to these fruits.

For several years now I have grown pawpaws from seed and give away the plants and the fruit from trees that I planted in our yard. There is no way that I would eat a pawpaw I just don’t fancy having a go at that particular fruit but others like it so I’m happy to grow them and give them away.

My five favourite fruits from fifths to first go like this:

In fifth place are Pink Lady apples.

Coming in fourth are champagne melons.

In third place are red watermelons.

Granny Smith comes second.

Way, way, WAY out in front are first grade – usually from Tasmania – cherries. In Darwin, the supply of first-grade cherries is infrequent. But I never stop looking out for my favourite fruit.


What’s one small improvement you can make in your life?


I get frightened of making telephone calls. Putting off calls that need to be made, causes matters needing attention to pile up.

Reluctance to make calls is a weakness of character I need to overcome. This will help me to achieve more, more efficiently.

This is a change I need to make.


Share a story about someone who had a positive impact on your life.


This particular assignment is one about which I have thought long and hard all day. There have been so many people who have supported and helped me throughout my life that separating them from each other and getting down to only one has been very difficult.

I thought back through the life I’ve had particularly my professional life which began in 1968.

Considering hundreds of people finally brought me down to the one person who I think is A great influence on the way I operated during the last 19 years of my professional life.

His name is Charlie Carter he was our Regional Superintendent for Education when I first came to Darwin.

Sadly, he is now deceased but what he did for me evoked eternal appreciation.

when I first took up the Principal Sheppard Leanyer School they were quite some people who were unhappy about how I started my leadership career at that school. They never came and talk to me but some of them went to Charlie Carter to talk to him, my boss, about me.

Charlie‘s response was to send me a handwritten note. He said in the note that he needed to talk to me about some concerns people had about my style of leadership. He wanted to meet away from the school. He wanted our meeting to be in a private venue and he wanted to talk to me about what people had been telling him.

I appreciated this greatly. We had a very worthwhile meeting. Mr Carter outlined the facts of the concerns that were held about me he did not criticise me but he allowed me to think things through in a way that would enable me to go forward in a corrective way.

I went away from that meeting and took on board his advice. Without a shadow of a doubt, his meeting with me in this way helped me through what became a 20-year career as principal of Leanyer School. I asked people in the aftermath of things to talk with me if they felt there were issues I could be doing differently and better. That invitation over the years was accepted and respectful relationships became the modus operandi between me, staff, parents, and students at Leanyer.

When Mr Carter died I spoke of my appreciation for what he had done for me at his funeral. This included my reading out the note he had written to me all those years ago.

I was blessed by this man who believed in helping me rather than pulling rank and giving me a hard time. He was a genuine, sincere, and committed colleague.

Yes, Charlie Carter is my number one influencer, who helped me in an uplifting manner.


What does freedom mean to you?


The public figures I most disagree with and abhor, are those who use their positions for self-promotion over and above their roles in organisations they represent.

A desire for self-aggrandisement means that many public figures’ positions into which they are appointed or voted, are used to big-note themselves. By putting themselves first, they can and often diminish the organisations they work for or represent.

I have little respect for public figures who use organisations in this way. Unfortunately, many people prioritise themselves in this manner.

My respect is for those public figures who are there for others – being representatives true to the roles they fill.


“Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose” – the words from the Kris Kristofferson’s song ‘Bobby McGee’ resonate with me in contemplating this question.

Once upon a time, people had personal privacy – perhaps the most valuable and unappreciated of freedoms. It was possible to be anonymous.

Fast forward to 2023 and the lack of privacy available to people makes George Orwell’s “1984” look quite insignificant by comparison with the amount of data that is now recorded on every one of us. Interestingly, there’s lots of talk and hyperbole about our right to privacy – but that’s just all talk; nothing is private and everything is now on file for everyone.

Whenever anyone wants to know about anybody it’s quite possible to get to that information quickly. Often, people who are being investigated have no clue whatsoever about what’s going on. The Internet and social media together with the clandestine operation of some organisations have stripped us of our privacy and exposed us to the world. I no longer worry about privacy because I know there is none.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose: there is nothing left to lose because everybody can find out anything about anybody at any time.

Nothing left about privacy is all there is for me; so juxtapositionally that offers me freedom.



What public figure do you disagree with the most?


The public figures I most disagree with and abhor, are those who use their positions for self-promotion over and above their roles in organisations they represent.

A desire for self-aggrandisement means that many public figures’ positions into which they are appointed or voted, are used to big-note themselves. By putting themselves first, they can and often diminish the organisations they work for or represent.

I have little respect for public figures who use organisations in this way. Unfortunately, many people prioritise themselves in this manner.

My respect is for those public figures who are there for others – being representatives true to the roles they fill.


What is your career plan?



At this stage of my life, I’m not looking to advance my career because I’ve been there and done that and these are my wine down years. But reflecting upon the years that have gone I can remember being very ambitious, studying hard in circumstances that in the 1970s were not set up to support students who were studying remotely and all of that because I wanted to get on. I have a little folder an A5 size insert in which I keep reduced copies of academic studies certificates and various other pieces of memorabilia that were part and parcel of my career. I often look back on them and generally with fond memories.

I tried very hard not only to be a person who advanced my career, but did it for the good of my organisation and the people with whom I worked – making sure along the way that I did not neglect family or discount those who deserved to be respected.

With my career behind me, I do a lot of writing and publishing on my blog and LinkedIn. I try to share what I do with people who might find use in what I write.

My aim these days is to give back to organisations, mainly to education, because when I was young there were so many people who helped me along the way.

Now, it’s my turn! And that I guess is what my career these days is primarily about.


What was the last live performance you saw?



this is a very open question that I am choosing to interpret differently.

The first is what you might call “theatre on stage in a defined Entertainment Centre“. It is a long time since I went to the theatre, and I have to think carefully back to 2011 when I witnessed as a proud school principal, one of my students receiving Australia Day Student Citizenship for being an exemplary and stand-out young person. I used to go to this function every year. Every year I was proud of our school’s nominee.

I have not been since 2011 because I retired with affected the end of that year.

My second response to the question is to confirm that rarely a day goes past for me in Darwin, when I am not aware of performances happening around our shopping centres, sometimes in our streets, featured on radio and television; and in fact being a part of daily life in each and every part of the Northern Territory, most particularly within our towns and cities.

Those performances include brawling, screeching and screaming, police and security people trying to control situations, The use of foul language,, pushing and pulling, the abusing of innocent bystanders by those who are aggrieved, and so on. These are the performances that I regularly see and unfortunately will continue to see into the future. Sadly, there have been deaths with innocent people being stabbed. Knives are now part of this visible manifestation.

The performances seen “live“ on television need to be included. They include police chases of stolen vehicles, ambulances tearing to accidents and then racing to the hospital with the injured people, some hurt in car accidents and others from fighting. Add smashed premises, usually in multiples each day, and pictures of litter and debris featuring on our screens. So many performances that I sometimes think that the only thing about which the Northern Territory can “show“, is the sadness and the aftermath of crime. As I said, these performances are a daily occurrence.