17 February 2013

The Courage of One's Convictions & Anonymity...

So much for only the one post in February!

I recently received an email from a dear friend and the unrelenting anonymous cyberbullying and cyberstalking that she is encountering on an hourly basis twenty-four hours per day. Why is this happening? For no other reason than holding an opinion different to those of the cyberbullies and being willing to share it with a view to ensuring that people are not only well-informed but to ensure that they are properly informed too.

The reality is that I cannot go into a whole lot of detail as the matter is subject to some real sensitive information. But, in a general sense I can get into the detail. In its most simple form, this is a case of one person blogging, social networking, and working under her real name and a host of pseudonyms and other anonymous posters attacking her on every front. In fact, it really is cyberstalking, wherever she goes these individuals are sure to follow.

And, this is the point of the title of this post. My personal opinion is that if you have the courage of your convictions and you truly and honestly believe in what you are standing for then you should feel the need for this to happen under your real name. If the pen-person-ship is ours then claim it as so.

The belief that you can remain anonymous and untrackable is a fallacy, particularly when you are making outlandish and absurd claims about government to government conspiracies, double-agents, and the sacrifice of insignificant individuals (in the sense that they are so unimportant in the big scheme of things that they warrant being thrust front and centre in this global conspiracy) to the alter of global politics.

Let's face it, when push comes to shove, governments have a lot of time and money to throw at uncovering who the anonymous and pseudonym-covered posters are. Unfortunately, the perfect laws are not in place in Australia to deter cyberstalkers and cyberbullies, but we will get there. Nevertheless, the reality is that defaming someone is defaming them and there are laws in place that can be used to see that it stops and that the perpetrators make their reparations to those that they injure.

I blog under my own name not because I want to be some sort of hero or because I want to throw caution to the wind and hell be damned, rather I blog under my own name because I believe in the things, the ideas, the views, and the issues that I talk about. I have the courage of my convictions and people don't doubt my passions or my beliefs (well, not all that often there are always cynics out there somewhere). If I have something to say about someone then I say it. It is that simple.

I am not going to spend 100s or 1000s of hours in compiling data to release a "Confidential - Not for Publication" report under a pseudonym and then publish it as widely as possible. Clearly, the report is neither confidential or not for publication, rather it is for public viewing and dissemination.

The truth is that if I believe in what I have researched and what is contained in the report is fact and beyond reproach then why not put my name to it. To suggest that the state will enter into a conspiracy with other states to silence me is delusional paranoia. Some more truth is that where the report attacks and defames an individual then there hardly seems the need for the paranoia. It is not as if the report is about the Head of State, is it?

To be clear, I do not have a problem with anonymous blogging or writing or doing these things under a pen name or the like. I do have a problem if one is trying to use anonymity and pseudonyms as a cover to attack, bully and harass people because they have a different view to your own.

What it the point of the post. Well, how can we expect to educate our children on the stupidity, silliness, inappropriateness, and danger of cyberstalking and cyberbullying when adults themselves cannot behave in appropriate ways and show good character? How do we expect to help our children develop honesty and integrity in an ever-increasing technological worlds when the role-models they see cannot do it for themselves.

It is time to leave the naivety behind as it relates to the dangers of cyberbullying and cyberstalking and start being truthful to ourselves and those that we care about.

Cyberbullying and cyberstalking is not on at any time, it is not welcome at any time, and it will never be a solution ever!

Those of you out there engaging in this atrocious behaviour, get over yourselves, get a life, and get on with living your own and leave the rest of us to do the things that need to be done. The stuff being written, spoken, shown and disseminated anonymously is nothing more than cowardice with a capital "C".

This 'information', in the weakest sense of the word, is being disseminated anonymously as the perpetrators are more worried about the "truth" of their allegations and the veracity of their allegations that they feel safer hiding behind the veil of anonymity. But rest assured it will not be long till that veil becomes sheer and your true identities will be uncovered, or unveiled perhaps.

Sweet dreams...

Thus endeth the sermon!

Peter Garrett -- Burning the Midnight Oil...

Being the voracious reader of news that I am, I was reading this story about the Federal Education Minister, Mr. Peter Garrett, formerly of Midnight Oil fame and now responsible for leading the revolution in the education of Australia.

Mr. Garrett, or Petey to his friends, is a firm believer in NAPLAN. I am sure if you are Australian or have children involved in the Australian education system you would have heard of the 'dredded' NAPLAN exam. This exam happens in early May every year for Years 3, 5, 7, and 9. The National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy was, according to Petey, designed to test the curriculum. It is not designed to be an assessment tool of schools or individual teachers. Consequently, this lack of understanding, or simple fear-mongering by individuals and unions, places increased and undue stress on children who must take part in these exams.

So, rather than admit to a flawed NAPLAN idea and a flawed implementation process, Petey blames the teachers. It is not the government's fault that teachers are not up to speed or not capable of getting the job done. The "fact" that teachers can't get the job done, Petey says, is proof positive that there is a need for performance pay and for pre and post-appointment testing of teachers to ensure that they meet a revised higher standard of expected achievement.

Unfortunately, Petey does not seem to understand that the vast majority of teachers in our state's and territories' education systems already exceed those higher expectations. So, perhaps the issue is not one of teacher quality but rather government commitment to the fundamental belief that education is a human right that all people enjoy and one that government must endeavour to divert more funds to. But, I digress...back to NAPLAN.

The reality is that because of the concerns that NAPLAN is a tool that is designed to test schools and individual teachers, as much as it is to test students place on the literacy and numeracy continuum, teachers often feel compelled to "teach to the test". Simply, this means a teacher gets out there collection of past NAPLAN tests and goes through those tests over and over and over and over again and then they do that over and over again in the lead up to NAPLAN.

This is a flawed approach, not because it does not achieve the desired outcome, because it does not provide students with the basic skills to be natural users of the English language. Students are being taught how to complete the test and not how to be life-long learners of English nor how to be competent users of English.

Back to the idea that students are stressed. Well, when it is all said and done we are talking about students and a national exam. If I was still a school student in Year 3, 5, 7 or 9 then it is pretty likely I would be stressed too. No matter what my teacher would have told me about the importance of the exam or what it is allegedly designed to test. So, yeah, students are stressed. However, it is worth adding that the government is the one that links NAPLAN outcomes to the future funding of schools and particular programs and our informed students are aware of what this means and how it may effect and affect their future educations.

Then again, maybe our students of today are facing a range of different pressures from numerous angles and this leads to the increased stress levels in our students and not their teachers knowledge or lack thereof of the NAPLAN test. Let's face it, when mum and dad are going out and spending $20 or more per book and insisting that their children read and complete each and every activity in the book in preparation for sitting the NAPLAN test would seem to be indication enough that mum and dad think the test is pretty important. So, with this being "reinforced" at school, it is of little wonder that some students are going to have increased levels of stress associated with NAPLAN. Why solely blame teachers for this? Scape-goating?

I must add that these are my own personal views and in no way reflect the views of the organisation that I work for.

Anyways, that might be it for February...I promise to try and get in one post per month.

Feel free to comment...I will reply provided it is not some kind of linked advertisement for viagra or the like :)

10 January 2013

Culture Shock?

Someone asked me for my thoughts on moving back to the "west". This was asked of me last year however the delay in getting round to writing it is not indicative of any malaise regarding the topic. Rather the issue is one of time. Anyone who has followed my travels and travails over the past 3 or so years will understand that my focus has been elsewhere. Nevertheless, I have committed myself to writing more opinion(ated) blog pieces than I have been doing. This has already been a successful venture considering last year I wrote two and this year I have already written three. But, I digress...

Presumably, the question is one of what is it like to move back to Australia  after having spent the best part (almost the whole part) of fifteen years living and working in Indonesia. In a lot of ways it is a story of reverse culture shock. To be honest I am not sure it is even a story of interest but for me and mine (family). Simply, it is the story of my life with my family and our adjustment from one day to another and making the best and most of what we have at the times we have it.

Yet, moving anywhere is a challenge and I guess moving from Jakarta to Sydney and then to Collarenebri is a challenge of considerable proportions, particularly when one factors in raising a son, pursuing a Masters degree, and embarking on a new career. And, all the while, I am still being a husband and father.

This is a post that could run for tens of thousands of words as I explore every possible facet of what happened, how it happened, and what those happenings then triggered. The simple reality is perhaps as basic as death and taxes. Indonesia afforded us many opportunities to live a particular lifestyle. For example, when I first went to live and work in Indonesia it took me a considerable amount of time to come to grips with maids and other servants at my beck and call 24 hours a day if I so wanted it to be. Yet, it took no time at all to get used to other people having responsibility for paying my taxes and doing all that side of the financial equation.

In many ways I was young and naive and therefore incredibly open to the adventure of a new way of life. Indonesia provided that opportunity for an unbelievable adventure. I was fascinated by the little things--public transport, roving food stalls, ojeks (motorcycle taxis), becaks (bicycle rickshaws), eating food with chillies that made you wonder whether you were eating food or just chillies, and the people.

One thing that lingers, and it lingers because I still get the question, what are Indonesians like compared to "us"? I have always found this an interesting question for no other reason than it often is asked to draw a positive / negative comparison. The "us" and "them" dilemma amuses me no end as I am a "we" person. We are all human, we all have our human frailties, and we all at the most base level want better things for our children and grandchildren. But, once again, I digress...

Moving back to Australia, and Sydney in particular, was something that we wanted to do. So, in that regard it was much easier for us than for, say, someone whose job ended and another opportunity did not open up for them. The fact that we chose the move, and looked forward to it, meant that the transition was easier. I am not going to say it was all smooth sailing, but the reality is that one does what they have to do.

The laundry can only pile up for so long before you have to pick it up and take it to the washing machine and wash it. There are only so many days you can get up looking for your breakfast before you realise that you have to make your own. Similarly, it does not take all that long to recognise that there are no roving food stalls to satisfy that bakso craving at 2.00am as you finish writing that final op.ed piece.

Nevertheless, it was only this week as we were walking through the Pitt Street Mall in Sydney that my wife and I simultaneously looked at each other, had a knowing little smile, and meandered on. The captivating scent of a clove cigarette has that strange power to transport one back to a place that has been left far in the past. The old kretek gets us every time.

The truth is pretty plain and boring really. Life goes on. The transition was one that had to happen; good, bad, and ugly. We really did not linger. ponder, or dwell on the process. As individuals, as members of a family, as people we got on with it and did what we had. Do I find myself spending time thinking about the need for a maid or a gardener or a driver, no. Do I miss those parts of my / our previous existence, no.

If the point of the question was to find out whether I / we are happier here or were happier there, then the answer to that question is...well, that is like comparing good red wine and milk ;)

Now, if the question had been "how do you find living in the teeming metropolis of Jakarta and its satellite suburbs to the hustle and bustle of the 250 or so people that live in Collarenebri?" then my answer may well have been slightly different...


This is a brief introduction to what might be a much longer post after I sit down and think about it in a little more detail. It might even be a series of posts that might just be the start of an eventual thesis style document. I have always been fascinated with education and disadvantage. After all, I am now working in the field where education and disadvantage are two of the most critical elements of what I deal with on a daily basis.

I was standing in the shower thinking about the similarities between the disadvantage that Australian indigenous students endure and the disadvantage that Native American students endure and thought that this is an area of research that I would like to explore some more. You can ask why, why would you be thinking such things whilst standing in the shower, but there is no guarantee of an answer.

It is also an issue that allows me to get up on my soap box and do a little preaching. Although, the reality is that too much soap box preaching might ruffle a few feathers and earn me a reprimand or more from an unhappy employer. Such is life as Uncle Ned is reported to have said.

A brief look shows that there are real similarities in areas such as income / poverty, literacy and numeracy, low birth weights, drug and alcohol (ab)use, and access to standard services. The idea that education is a gateway to greater opportunity assumes that there is a gateway that can be accessed and that the gateway, once opened, stays open in such a way that the most can be made of those opportunities.

Creating an opportunity is a whole lot more than some pencil pusher moving amounts between columns in a book and giving the money a name. Money is not opportunity. What is missing in most programs, no matter how noble, is compromise.

To Be Continued...

07 January 2013


There is always a method to my madness. Sometimes it pays to be a little cryptic as the best move is not always laying all your cards on the table at once. A story for another time, maybe.

I have been a fan of Chris Rene for a while. There is something about his song "Young Homie" that really appeals to me. I am not sure that it would have appealed to me in the past but age wisens even the hardest of souls.

There is something to be said for the idea that "life is short, you gotta live it long" and "if you wanna build your love up, put your hate down". The idea of seeing peace signs as I turn around translates for me into wickedly coordinated handshakes with youngsters looking to belong and to be part of something bigger than themselves, "it takes education to change your reputation". 'Can you feel me?'

I overheard something recently that I find to be one of the funniest things. Whenever I listen to people saying that 'youth is wasted on the young', I can't help but have a little chuckle to myself about the cynicism embedded in that very idea. The very simple reality that we most often neglect is that it is these very experiences that we get, or have, when we are young that creates the individuals that we grow and become. Youth is what makes the young wise as they age.

Sadly, some of us lose our battles with our addictions. Then, others of us grown because of those addictions and grow out of them. We then have a responsibility to share those experiences and make the lives of those that follow us easier, choices wiser, and lives longer.

There is a reason I returned to my roots and to teaching; to make a difference, to facilitate change, and to share experience. The rewards far outweigh the sacrifices as there is nothing quite like seeing the door open and a young person stride through that door into the brave new world of education, renewed reputation, and opportunity.

Addictions are easy; life is hard. Despite my addictions, I love life!

13 November 2012


It has been give or take 11 months since I last made a post on this blog of mine. I really do not remember how many followers I had when I began invisible to all and sundry in the blogging world, and it matters not. Life is not about followers and in many respects it was not about blogposts either.

I have thought about blogging a number of times in the intervening period between the then and the now. It was not writer's block, it was not a lack of material, it was not even an ever-increasing workload at work, rather it was more about focusing on those things closer to home and trying to stay on top of things at home and at work.

Life is an interesting ride and one that I have thought greatly about over recent months. It is about perspective and losing perspective. I find that I lose perspective a lot more now than I did in the past. I guess there are arguments to be made for an against the relativity of perspective, but for me I find that I question a lot more why I do what I do and whether I am really happy doing what I do where I am doing it. Perhaps it is not a loss of perspective but a realisation that there is more than one way to go about achieving the outcome one so desperately desires.

This is not a particularly happy post, in fact it is way too dark and morbid for the first post back but, it is what it is, what is on my mind.

I have read a lot lately about bullying and cyber bullying, particularly the trauma that our youngsters suffer at the hands of others. However, it is not only children that suffer, there are plenty of adults that suffer too. I have found myself wondering what it must be like to be at the mercy of these monsters, some who hide behind the cloak of anonymity on the internet.

Yet, some bullies are much more overt than they ever are covert as there is no fear of repercussions. The whispers as one walks down the street in a small town, the rocking of one's roof, the constant rattling of windows, the scratching of cars, the throwing of rubbish into a backyard, throwing rocks at pets, and then the name up in lights on the internet. All these things no doubt culminate in high levels of stress and thoughts of escape from the constant barrage of hate and vitriol designed to wound to the core.

It is a hardy soul that can resist for an extended period of constant psychological, physical, emotional, and mental abuse at the hands of the bullies.

There are plenty of things to read on what is a tragic and disturbing trend of people, particularly young people, opting for the ultimate "out" of suicide as a means of ending their misery. This is a worldwide tale of tragedy that knows no borders or boundaries. It is also one that is not new, Megan Meier found herself in the tragic position of seeing no other alternative than to take the ultimate action to thwart the bullies. The beauty of the internet is that it makes the world a smaller place and allows us to learn of things more quickly and to communicate more freely. However, it also allows crazed stalkers and bullies the ability to harass and harangue one no matter where you move. The recent suicide of Amanda Todd is testament to this.

I always thought that suicide was a coward's way out. When times are good it is easy to get caught up in this self-belief that you are invincible and that no matter how hard it gets that you will always be a little bit stronger than the bullies who target you. However, I am much older and wiser now; I no longer believe that it is the coward's way. To the contrary, I feel that many, if not all, of those who take that ultimate and forever final step have thought long and hard about the decision they are making and make. The reality is more likely one that says the pain that I leave behind for my loved ones will never be as bad as the pain that I must endure every single day and that will cease when I cease to be.

This is the real tragedy. Victims, whether they be younger or older, reach a point where they feel not only worthless but they also reach a place where they feel they are doing more harm than good by staying, enduring, and fighting each and every day. It is at this point victims make a judgment call that the pain they are ending is far greater than any pain that they can ever possibly leave behind.

I just cannot understand the mindset of a bully, particularly a bully who drives others to self-harm.

28 January 2012

The Colly Crew on ABC TV's 7.30 Program...

The Colly Crew are moving onwards and upwards. The things that we do are being recognised as making a difference. They are being recognised as allowing for change. They are being recognised for creating opportunities. And, they are being recognised for opening doors.

The Colly Crew grew out of a program called "Step-By-Step". It is a hip hop based program designed to engage kids with school and their education. It is worth noting that Collarenebri is a small, very rural and remote community. The school is a central school and there is a significant local Indigenous community with a very rich history. Consequently, the program is often referred to as being an Indigenous hip hop program. For me, perhaps a community hip hop program is a more accurate reflection of what we are actually doing.

About the program. There are elements of literacy and numeracy, but it is more than just about literacy and numeracy it is about understanding how the choices we make impact upon our lives. It is about how we can take control of our lives and make smarter decisions and achieve those things that perhaps others in our families have never had the opportunity to do. Any teachers out there looking for a spoken word, performance poetry, rap unit of work that incorporates what we have done so successfully in this program let me know, we are always happy to share.

I am not sure how to embed just the video. Nevertheless, the link to the 7.30 Program and their report can be found here.

I encourage you to watch it.

All feedback is accepted. I am sure that there are those out there who love what we are doing and are amazed by it. I am also not naive enough to believe that absolutely every single person out there is in favour of it. Keep it civil though.

22 December 2011


There is much to be said for kindness.There is much to be said for remembering why we are here and the contributions we want to make to the world that we live in. The video that I embed here came to me from a Facebook friend via a friend of his. I guess this says something about the inter-connected world in which we now live. It also reminded me that I was never really good friends with this person and as I reflect on that I find I wish I had taken more time to get to know the person because now I feel that I have missed out.

Yet, thank you for sharing this.

So, watching this video was quiet thought-provoking. The smallest acts of kindness will one day find their way back to us. It matters not to me that there are people out there that think that this sort of thing is a crock. Clearly the world as a whole is not there yet, but to aspire to something greater is a worthy aspiration that we should all share. So, how about a little bit of kindness?

03 December 2011

Getting Back To Blogging...

I had not realised that I my last post was back at the end of July 2011. I only realised this when the fellow that will be my Principal next year mentioned that he looked at my blog and I had not written anything since July. I am not sure whether I should be flattered or concerned.

I am expecting that from now on I should be able to get myself in order to write a few more posts over the Christmas and New Year period. Then again, maybe not.

I am really busy getting things organised for the Colly Crew. You can view our latest effort, which won the GenerationOne "Hands Across Australia" competition.

Alternatively, here it is:

Life goes on...