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Different Strokes

Different Strokes


A controversial graduate teaching program heads west.

Of the several hundred new secondary teachers starting work in WA this year, 13 have arrived in the profession via a slightly unusual path. Each one has been hand-picked through a rigorous process that rejects 95 per cent of applicants. Some have moved from interstate to secure their prestigious jobs, but none has a teaching degree. Teach for Australia is a program that attracts talented graduates with quick career-change options. Associates work and study part-time over two years, finishing the program with a Master of Education from Deakin University, plus practical experience that has them considered by principals to be more competent than teachers with traditional qualifications. But, it’s not without opposition. Dismissed by some as expensive and distracting, the program has been evaluated several times, and submissions to review bodies have been less than kind. But the latest report, by the Australian Council for Educational Research, may finally silence the critics: it claims Teach for Australia recruits gifted graduates who take less than a year of work to compete with other teachers, and two years to outstrip them in teaching performance. “The structure of the program attracted me, as I appreciated the innovative and non-traditional way of educating pre-service teachers,” says new associate Victoria Stanton, who started at Ballajura Community College in February. “I’m passionate about education and I truly believe that all children deserve a quality education regardless of their circumstances.” If its positive beginning is anything to go by, the program is set to thrive in WA, and Teach for Australia founder and CEO Melodie Potts Rosevear says she’s excited about the expansion. “We look forward to working with the WA Department of Education to expand our presence across a greater number of low socio-economic schools,” she says. 


Personal tragedy planted the seed for this social enterprise, which uses sustainable social farms to tackle isolation. 

When Renee Gardiner lost her mother to suicide four years ago, she channelled her grief by addressing the problems that had led to her mother’s ill health. “She was socially isolated, she was experiencing mental health problems, she’d lost her job because of the stigma associated with her mental health, and she had financial concerns that had her verging on homelessness,” Renee says. Identifying a gap in service provision for employment and social connection, Renee drew on her interest in agriculture to improve the quality of people’s lives, founding Growing Change last year. The organisation seeks to build a social and empathetic economy where all people can thrive. “In order for people to be fulfilled in their lives, and move from a place of inequality to a place of equality, social enterprise is the best model to do that,” she says. “Employment is a really important part of that process.” The venture will also give consumers more choice to lessen their eco footprints. Look out for Growing Change later this year as it breaks ground on its first social farm, and at farmers markets where it will sell produce.


This foundation harnesses the power of the community to create long-term solutions to social problems. 

Ever thought that you’d like to do something to improve the world, but weren’t sure where to start? Dylan Smith, from the community philanthropic organisation Fremantle Foundation, understands.  “We know people care,” he says. “We know there’s a great awareness of social issues. We often get the question, ‘What can I do, how can I get involved?’ And we offer an opportunity for people to start that journey quite easily, to begin the process of philanthropy and break it down to be quite accessible.” The idea behind the foundation is that of community philanthropy – individual community members deciding to donate some of their personal wealth to a cause they care about, through the mechanism of the foundation. It’s a model of fundraising that connects donors intimately to the cause, invests them in the projects they fund, and creates social connections through the network of donors and recipient organisations. Though it’s been around for a while, Dylan says it’s quite new in Western Australia. “It just hasn’t come here in its full sense before,” he says. “Which makes it exciting to present the opportunities to the donors, to help them see the long-term impact they can have. I have no doubt it will be successful here.” Donors can choose to set up their own named fund – a specialised charitable project they choose to run for a cause they care about – or to contribute more broadly to the foundation’s endowment pool. Examples of named funds supported by the foundation include the Merenda Fund (established by the Merenda family to create a legacy for the Fremantle family to continue investing in their city), and the Impact 100 grant pool, which collects a minimum of 100 grants of $1000 each to fund what Dylan calls a “game-changing” grant for a community organisation. It was won this year by the
100 Hampton Road project, which promotes social inclusion, and will fund a commercial kitchen for the building’s residents’ social enterprise. Giving each donor a vote in where the grant money goes is crucial to the success of both the project and the wider organisation, says Dylan. “There’s a high level of community engagement. People are invested in their donation, because they can see the real impact of what they’re giving.” The foundation also runs site visits of funded projects for donors, to further establish that connection. It’s a deliberate long-term strategy in line with the foundation’s endowment model of fundraising, he says. “We know that these issues won’t go away,” says Dylan. “We know we need to develop long-term solutions to these things, and by growing a pool of funds that sustains itself with interest, with growing wealth, we can achieve that.”


Traditional rivals are teaming up to tackle youth mental health issues.

Through his charity project
A Stitch in Time, Wildcats vice-captain Greg Hire has assembled auction items from a who’s who of Perth sport. Wildcats captains Shawn Redhage and Damian Martin, team legend James Crawford, and stars from the Eagles, Dockers, Western Force and Perth Glory all donated merchandise to fundraise for Youth Focus, an organisation that provides support services for young people vulnerable to mental health issues. “It’s really humbling,” says Greg. “As my role in the team has changed from a development player to a vice-captain, I’ve realised that I can use that influence in a positive way.” Greg found Youth Focus through one of its board members – retired Eagles player Beau Waters. “There are a lot of really great organisations out there, but Youth Focus really stuck out for me because
of the focus on mentoring,” he says. “I’d like to start running workshops, get
a panel together – people who have gone through mental health issues, sharing their stories. Giving back.” Though he’s quick to brand himself a non-expert, Greg says you don’t need a psychology degree to talk about mental health – just trust, something in abundance at many sports clubs.“When I’ve been struggling with issues I’ve gone straight to my teammates. Your character is tested in sporting teams, in businesses, and you can bank on that support.”


A support program for schools is building a rich understanding of Australia’s Indigenous history.

Narragunnawali means alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace in the Ngunnawal language – and it perfectly summarises what the new program that carries its name is all about. Observing a need for all Australians to better understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions was the impetus for Reconciliation Australia’s new program, says its CEO, Leah Armstrong. 

“Early childhood, primary and secondary schools play a very important role in developing positive relationships in the community, and this
new program will enable all Australian schools and early childhood settings to engage in teaching and learning about reconciliation,”
she says. The program will build connections between people by creating a community of teachers, schools and communities who can support each other, and has already got 100 schools on board for its initial pilot program, as well as support from Indigenous education consultative bodies. Central to the plan is an online reconciliation action plan builder, which enables schools to develop their own plans – a framework for action based on relationships, respect and opportunity – and the program also provides professional development for teachers. It’s early days, but Leah says all signs are pointing towards success.


This regional centre is driving Albany men’s health.

Grant Westthorp started his work day with a kayak trip on the Kalgan River. Don’t be fooled though – it’s far from a life of leisure. Grant is working on the Men’s Resource Centre’s latest program, a mentoring initiative for young boys. “We take the boys out and just have a bit of a chat to them,” he says. “We just get talking, we don’t lecture, we bring up topics and gradually everyone contributes to the discussion.” The program aims to build self-esteem in troubled young boys and provide them with positive male role models. “Some of these kids have really suffered,” Grant says. “But you just subtly tell them they’re worthwhile and you see their self-confidence build.” This newest program, funded by a grant from charity organisation the nib foundation, is just a tenth of the centre’s work, Grant says. It also provides emergency services and holistic wellness checks for men, including distributing a solution-based booklet called the Men’s Survival Handbook – a comprehensive guide full of practical tips and advice, updated from six years of feedback. That was deliberate, says Grant. “There are plenty of other agencies with similar documents, who just list phone numbers to ring,” he says. “We think it’s really important to give the men practical information that will help them through these situations when they arise.”


He’s young, gay, and Aboriginal – but this award-winning social activist isn’t letting discrimination stand in his way. 

When James Clarke came out to his close friends, he wasn’t expecting them to react the way they did. “We finally have one!” they said, ecstatic with the news of their newly minted ‘gay friend’. James was, understandably, slightly less thrilled. “That’s not how it works,” he says. “They were treating me like I was their accessory, when this is something that’s part of my identity.” It was just another challenge for the teenager, who falls into a group recognised as being one of the most at-risk demographics in the country, and who has already overcome conflict and adversity with dignity. Growing up in a single-parent household affected by addiction, James matured quickly to care for his younger brothers, but still sought his mother’s approval. “I wanted her to be proud of me,” he says. “I knew all she wanted for me was to have a wife, to have kids, so growing up I internalised this homophobia, trying to deny who I was.” Though coming out was a traumatic experience, James is now comfortable in himself, and uses that self-pride to leverage the conversation for people who aren’t so comfortable. He speaks in public regularly, and recently participated in the #Fifty4Change program for young Indigenous leaders, run by the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy. With a group of other Indigenous young people James made a video titled Unity in the Community, which addresses discrimination and bullying of people with diverse sexualities, and remains one of the academy’s most popular campaigns. The community the video addresses is everyone, says James. “It doesn’t have to be just black people, or just gay people,” he says. “There are issues that affect everyone.” And he’s happy to be their representative. James was honoured as the 2014 WA Young Person of the Year for his advocacy work, and though he was thrilled to receive the award, James
sees it as being about everyone. “This is for all of the minorities that I represent,” he says. “This is about more than just me.” 


2014 has been declared the year of ‘mega gifts’, with some of Australia’s biggest philanthropic donations in history being made. The top 15 known gifts totalled more than $3.41 billion, with the bulk of this comprising healthcare and media entrepreneur Paul Ramsay’s $3 billion donation to his own charitable foundation. 

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