Social Justice Wellbeing Youth

Kids Giving Back 5th Birthday

Some of you might be aware that every year I’m very proud to partner with my friends at Kids Giving Back to work with teenagers who access Youth Off The Streets.

Well today, Kids Giving Back hosted its 5th Birthday party at Rough Edges, a homeless community partner in Darlinghurst, Sydney, and I was honoured to MC it.

The event brought together educators, charities and corporate sponsors and the Member for Vaucluse, the Hon. Gabrielle Upton, who praised Kids Giving Back for its important work in the community based on student volunteering – something the Minister felt strongly about from a personal perspective:

“I know from my own experience as a young volunteer, that these experiences create deep connections with community and this is what set me on my path to politics, where I serve the communities in which I live.” – Member for Vaucluse, the Hon. Gabrielle Upton

Indeed today, a key element of the event featured students from regional NSW school, Kandos High, who cooked and delivered meals to homeless people at Rough Edges. before being taken through Kings Cross to explore the issue of homelessness in a hands-on way, through a program called ‘Urban Walk’.

Today, Kids Giving Back announced a new volunteer program called, ‘Food, Clothing, Shelter’ that celebrates diversity and aims to remove existing barriers preventing young people in Sydney’s West from engaging with the wider community. Kids Giving Back, together with community partners Rough Edges and Thread Together, will work with students to create care packages of food and clothing for vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and the homeless.


To date Kids Giving Back have partnered with 39 schools across NSW to provide these type of opportunities for students. If you’d like to explore how you might get your students involved with these awesome programs, you can download the schools programme here then drop my friends, and founders of Kids Giving Back, Ruth or Carole a line.

Tell them I sent you! 🙂

Email Kids Giving Back

Education Social Commentary Social Justice

When Dan met Stan

A month or so ago, I ended up sitting next to award-winning journalist Stan Grant on a flight to and from Wagga Wagga. We got chatting about his work, the 12 months since his speech regarding racism in Australia had gone viral, and we discussed the broader issues in Indigenous communities around Australia.

I’m very grateful to Stan for agreeing to catch up again, this time with a mic in front of him for my #OffCampus section on the TER Podcast, and we chatted about the need to change the narrative around Indigenous communities in Australia.

“Even with the best intentions, some people think near enough is good enough for Aboriginal people”  – Stan Grant.

Feel free to listen to the whole podcast below, but my interview with Stan kicks off at 29:32…


Education Social Justice

Why I’m supporting the ILF

KindleFirst of all, thank you! Thank you to everyone who has already got a copy of my book #SchoolOfThought!

I was blown away to wake up on Sunday to find it #2 in ‘Schools & Teaching’ on Kindle in Australia… behind the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Malala!

If you get my newsletter you’ll be aware that all the profits from the sale of #SchoolOfThought will go to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) here in Australia.

I just wanted to share with you some of the reasons why I’m supporting this great organisation.

First and foremost on my travels around Australia, I’m constantly challenged by the inequities I witness. With regard to Indigenous Australians these inequities are extreme. According to the ILF:

  • Between 40% and 60% of Indigenous children in very remote locations across WA, SA and NT are achieving below minimum standard in Reading in Year 3.
  • Only 2 out of 10 children in very remote parts of the NT are achieving at or above the minimum standard for reading in Year 3. This drops to only 1 out of 10 by the time a child reaches Year 9.
  • School attendance rates are as low as 14% in very remote areas of Australia.

PrintThe ILF operates without any government or major corporate funding and has a full-time staff of just three.

Despite this, each year they manage to get thousands of books into hundreds of
communities, and run community literacy projects – including two in Walmajarri language.

If you’d like to support the ILF in their work, but aren’t that keen on having to get my book to do so, you can find out more about them at:

You might also like to get involved in the Foundation’s major fundraising campaign: 
Indigenous Literacy Day, on Wednesday 7 September 2016.

And of course, you can do all this AND grab a copy of #SchoolOfThought…

*I know that some Aussie readers might be put off by having to buy the paperback through Amazon in $USD. We’re working on it, and hope to have be able to offer you a way to pay in $AUD in a couple of weeks. 

Education Social Justice

Gonski isn’t about getting *more* money…

In today’s Sun Herald,  you may have come across a piece headlined, NSW public schools increasingly turning to cashed-up P&Cs for funding.

In brief the article points out that:

P&Cs are asking parents for annual voluntary contributions of $200 per child or more to help pay for education programs as well as iPads, upgrades to toilets and additional support teachers or in some cases to buy language textbooks, workbooks and to pay for student welfare support.

And to be clear, these are public schools we’re talking about. Not private.

The article goes on to suggest that it is not uncommon for public schools and P&Cs to have fundraising goals of in excess of $200,000.

Whilst some of the funds that schools raise may be spent on what you might perhaps call discretionary items – a minibus for example (although many schools rely on theirs for a whole host of reasons) – money spent on things like toilet blocks, student welfare, books and technology are not. They are necessities.

Schools don’t have enough money for the necessities.

So they reach out to their community. But clearly, this has repercussions.

Even schools in high socioeconomic surrounds will have families who do not fall into that category, and a lazy $100 isn’t that easy to come by. But it’s compounded in whole communities that simply don’t have that kind of money in their collective back pocket.

Much of the talk around funding in education is about Private v Public, but there is more to it than that. In the public system alone there are the haves & the have-nots.

This is where the needs-based funding model of David Gonski serves to address the issue. But as you’d no doubt be aware, the Australian Federal Government has said it won’t fund the final two years of that.

Since taking office as the Federal Education Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham’s mantra has been:

“In the end, what we know is just spending more money on schools doesn’t necessarily lift outcomes.”

I’m yet to meet a single person who believes that it would. Just spending more money.

In doing this, Senator Birmingham is creating a straw man argument – making a case against an opinion no one actually holds. To further advance his position, he then comes up with claims like this one during an interview with the SMH:

“Some officials have said, ‘We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do with the extra money, we’re just going to employ more teachers'”

I call ‘Bullshit’ sorry, ‘Rubbish.’

Who are these ‘officials?’ And if by some small chance they actually do exist, and are officials of some description then they need to be relieved of their position immediately. (Just my 2 cents)

But the bottom line is this. By continually framing Gonski as an argument that schools want more money without having any idea what they are going to do with it, is misinformed at best, and disrespectful and manipulative at worst.

In many cases, Gonski isn’t about getting more money. It’s about getting enough.

Social Commentary Social Justice Youth

My Reaction to Naming & Shaming Young Offenders

In reaction to the Queensland Government’s move to name & shame young offenders as young as ten, I wrote this piece for the ABC.

Being seen to be tough on crime is Politics 101. It’s a guaranteed vote-winner. It creates good copy for the tabloids, and “naming and shaming” is the bread and butter of any self-respecting shock jock. It’s even better if you can blame your opponents for the apparent crime wave.

You can read the full article here.

You can also listen to a radio interview I gave on Melbourne’s SYN 90.7FM

Social Justice

Changing the World is Good for You!

I originally wrote this for my regular Generation Next Column.

If you can use your strengths in the service of something greater than yourself, many psychologists will tell you that this is a key predictor of wellbeing. They refer to it as having a sense of purpose or meaning.

Recently I’ve been working with schools to push their thinking in this regard.

What if schools were a place where kids learnt how to make a difference?

This has always underpinned my teaching philosophy, and it always excites me when I hear of former students who have taken this attitude with them into their adult life.

Genevieve Radnan is a former student of mine, who – instead of taking a gap year to party in Europe – decided to spend her time in Africa.

Her experience there inspired her on to great things. In particular she has worked with the Karunga community in Kenya.

Despite only just turning 22, Genevieve has already:

* Project managed the building of a kindergarten,

* Provided facilities for an orphanage

* Built from scratch, staffed and resourced a women’s education and training centre.

She has recently established her own charity: Gennarosity Abroad

Her story will be aired on TVS’ Models Of Achievement in August.

But she would like to share more about her experience with young people who are about to leave school as there could be so much more to a GAP year than partying in Europe! She will be speaking at a public Sydney showing of Models of Achievement on Tuesday 6th August at Emanuel School in Randwick, NSW.

Several travel agencies will be coming on the night to promote available volunteering programs for anyone interested especially targeting those who are about to have a GAP year.

It only costs $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Doors open at 6.45pm And you can buy tickets online.

Genevieve would love it if local schools could encourage students to attend, or if you’re not in Sydney, share her story to inspire your students. You can contact her through her charity’s website.

Meaning… purpose… wellbeing.

Education Social Justice Tech & Social Media

In the Sydney Morning Herald today…

Imagine for a second you’re booked in for elective surgery, and six months before the operation you’re told it’s your responsibility to provide the hospital with the surgical tools and technology required for your operation.

The Department of Health suggests if you can’t afford to pay for the equipment, perhaps you could organise a cake stall to raise funds.

Of course this is a ludicrous scenario. It could never happen. Or could it? If the health sector follows a trend taking hold in the education world, you never know.

Read my full article at The Sydney Morning Herald

Education Social Justice

Educational Roulette – Mind the Gap

I stumbled upon this infographic this week. I’ve edited it to suit the layout of my blog.

It shows the inequities in educational outcomes between groups of higher and lower socioeconomic standing, across a number of countries.

In short, your educational achievement can be predicted at birth based on little more than your parents’ bank balance.

Of course,  there will always be exceptions at all points on the spectrum, but education boils down to luck. A game of Roulette.

In Australia, these inequities were highlighted in the Gonski Report and its recommendations aim (in part) to address them.

Last week I wrote on the ABC that I believe that government approaches to education reform really do miss the point.

This infographic only serves to reinforce my opinion.

How increasing class sizes, paying the top 10% of teachers more money and cutting teachers’ preparation time will help to close this educational gap is well beyond my grasp of education and pedagogy.

By clicking on the infographic below, you’ll view it in its original format, complete with sources. 

Achievement Gap Infographic Edited

Social Justice Youth

Make A Difference – It’s easy & it’s free!

Sometimes I feel I’m guilty of talking too much. Especially about issues that really require action.

So I’m always inspired when I meet people who actually DO STUFF.

One such person is Jenni Iloski from Bondi Youth Accommodation, an organisation that has been working with homeless youth for over 30 years.

Jenni is the coordinator of a program called Green Light Movement that aims to help young people who have experienced homeless to learn to drive.

Learning to drive is a skill, often taught by a parent or family member, but young people who have experienced homelessness often don’t have that family support. As a result, learning to drive is a challenge.

Green Light Movement is a reduced fee, learn to drive program that provides supervised driver training for young people, who do not have family support to learn how to drive.

They provide a car, professional driving instruction and volunteers to supervise the required 120 hours of supervised driving.


Green Light Movement is currently registered for the Project Local initiative. An initiative supported by the local papers e.g. Wentworth Courier, which promotes local projects and enables community members to vote for which project they would like to receive $2,500.00

They’ll use the $2500 to pay for comprehensive insurance, Car registration & Compulsory Third Party Insurance $538

PLEASE VOTE! – It takes 2 mins and costs you nothing to help make a difference in the life of people who really need it.


  • Please register via and vote for Green Light Movement In the ‘select your local paper’ section, scroll down to ‘Wentworth Courier’
  • You will need to register and then you will be allocated 10 votes
  • Go to the ‘current ideas’ tab and view Green Light Movement
  • Vote! – You can give them all your votes (As I did) or distribute to other community ideas too.
Help spread the message by sharing on Facebook, emailing family and friends or tweeting – you can do all this by using the buttons below!
Social Justice Youth

What’s Wrong With the Juvenile Justice System?

Originally posted on The ABC Drum.

In the wake of two teenagers being shot by police in Kings Cross, The Sydney Morning Herald has been running a series of articles focusing on the  effectiveness of the juvenile justice system.

The facts presented by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics within the articles are startling.

As a result of a ten year study, the Bureau report that domestic violence cases involving 10 – 17 year-olds have increased by 167 per cent, while other violent crime, break and enter and malicious damage to property all rising 21, 13 and 47 per cent respectively.

Approximately 5000 young people per year have their first contact with the juvenile justice system, but of particular concern is the rate of recidivism of those juveniles brought before the courts. Of the 4938 juveniles who came before NSW courts in 1999, over 2600 of them reoffended, on average four times before 2010. For Indigenous kids the rate of recidivism was 84 percent.

What is going wrong with our juvenile justice system? Why are kids released only to return a few months or years down the track?

The fact is: If we want to stop these kids re-offending, we have to stop them offending in the first place.

We must address poverty in earnest. We need to be creative in how we run our schools. We need to provide genuine learning and employment opportunities. Provide better funding for youth workers, outreach programs and schools. We need to support families.

The government must realize that society as a whole is responsible for our youth, and funding in this area should not be seen as a cost but an investment.

You can read my full article on The ABC Drum…