Marc Thompson writes:
"Many thanks to Tony Fletcher. Chris Wilkinsis at 11 Forest Crt, Mount Ommaney,
QLD,4074 . He does not have e-mail. His phone numbers are 07 3279 1830 (H) and 0413
306 158. "
Bruce Hodgen has suggested circulation of Justice Kirby's comments on public education:
"Public schooling needs you!
The Age, Saturday 28 April 2001
My entire education was in the public school system. I am the only one of the seven justices of
the High Court of Australia whose education, from first to last, was in public schools. These
are the schools open to every member of the public regardless of religion, ability or parental
means. The public schools represent the core of the Australian education system. I want to
In primary school I had wonderful teachers whose instruction and spirit are with me every day
of my life. When I reached third class, I went up to the big school at North Strathfield in
Sydney. I was then lucky enough to go to Fort Street High School, the oldest public school in
Australia, founded in 1849.
None of us in Australia ever climbs so high that we should forget those precious early days of
education. Next to our parents, no one generally has so much influence on our intellects, our
feelings and our values as our teachers. Especially our early teachers, when our minds and
hearts are as malleable as plasticine.
In my classrooms, at public schools in Sydney, I learnt the true values of Australian democracy
and equality. I learnt to share and share alike. I mixed with children of many religions, and of
no religion at all. Just by observing, I came to understand the value of diversity. A great chief
justice of South Australia, John Bray, poet and lawyer, once rightly said that "diversity is the
protectress of freedom".
In recent years there has been a significant drift away from public education in Australia. The
figure of 67 per cent of school students in public schools that continued for most of the 20th
century has begun to fall as parents seek private schools for their children. To some extent this
trend has been encouraged by substantially increased government funding for private
I do not oppose private education. In education, as in everything else, diversity and
competition are generally good things. But in the past decade, enrolments in private schools in
Australia increased by nearly 2 per cent. That represents a lot of children. According to the
Federal Government, the drift to private schools is expected to increase by a further 7 per cent
in the present decade.
The main reason given by parents for this move has been a concern about teaching quality and
expertise. In a recent survey, 90 per cent of parents listed this as their priority in choosing their
child's school. Some parents expressed anxiety about bullying and a perceived lack of
discipline in the public school system. No doubt that sometimes occurs, though my schools
were largely free of it. And the heavily reported recent cases of bullying in Australia have
involved private and not public schools.
Sometimes one gets an impression that bad-mouthing of public education by those who should
know better is encouraged by some sections of the media, who seek simple solutions for
complex social trends. The reasons for such trends are rarely simple.
In a survey last year, 94 per cent of 300,000 Australians interviewed believed that public
schools in our country were not receiving adequate funding. There is a growing perception of a
shift in government financial support for private schools.
It is not a wrong perception. For the first time, the expenditure per child in non-government
schools is higher than it is in public schools. The teacher-student ratio is significantly better,
because of funding.
Most worrying of all, the education retention rate is substantially higher. According to the
Australian Bureau of Statistics, school retention to year 12 in Catholic schools was 77.4 per
cent in 1999; in other private schools it was 95.5per cent. In public schools it was only 64.4
per cent. This is an irreplaceable loss for the future of the students who leave - and for
Australia, a nation that must be a "clever country" or sink economically.
Yet if parents and pupils see new private schools with better facilities, pretty gardens, fresh
paint and public relations units, and public schools that are shabby, run-down, overcrowded,
closed or ill-funded, with students and teachers drifting away, it is scarcely surprising that they
should join the shift from public education.
The fact that 94 per cent of such a large cohort of Australians surveyed have come to this
conclusion suggests that those feeling concern about financial support for public schools in
Australia include many who themselves were educated in, or have sent their children to,
private and church schools. When such a high perception about imbalance is reached, it is time
for alarm bells to be ringing.
Those citizens who, like me, as children received their education in public schools then have a
duty to speak up. That duty is derived from the honor they owe to the fine teachers in the
public school system that got them where they are.
It is also a duty owed to the boys and girls who shared their lives with them in the classrooms
open to every child of this nation. I hope the response to the public perception of any defects
in public education will include proper funding to remedy those defects.
By all means let us support private and church schools. They also cater for the Australian
citizens of tomorrow. But it should not be at the cost of governmental support for the schools
that are the government's primary responsibility: the public schools of the nation.
I believe most Australians think this way. Surveys confirm it. And if people like me, the
beneficiaries of the public school system of Australia, do not express their concern, who will?
It is in the interests of all of us to strengthen public education and not to knock it. To make
sure that public schools and their pupils get a more generous share of the education budget.
And to give our top priority to reversing the high and disproportionate drop-out rate that falls
most heavily on children in Australia's public schools.
This is an edited version of High Court Justice Michael Kirby's speech yesterday at the
Adelaide Festival Theatre, where he received an honorary doctorate from the
University of South Australia.
This story was found at:
Rod Watts writes:
Didn't do well in LC after spending the 2 weeks of Stu-Vac sailing my moth in readiness for
the NSW state championships (Don Colville has a lot to answer for). Left the high school gate
and joined an insurance company for 6 months before realising it wasn't for me, then joined a
company that made mining equipment as a fill in while pondering my future and became very
interested in metallurgy, stayed with them a year or so and started a
metallurgy degree. Got told to go west young man if you want to be in the mining industry,
promptly packed everything I owned into an overnight bag and drove across the Nullarbour
(dirt road then) and worked on the mines in Kalgoorlie while doing an associateship at night at
the Kalgoorlie School of Mines. Moved to the south-west of WA and worked with the beach
before moving back to Perth with an engineering consultant. Got back into competitive sailing
and sailed with Alan Bond's first challenge for the America's Cup on "Southern Cross" in
Newport (Rhode Island not Pittwater).
Also sailed in Europe and most Australian ocean races including Sydey Hobart a couple of
times. In between all this married first time and had a son, who unfortunately was killed in
Thailand about this time last year. Divorced and moved to Leinster, north of Kalgoorlie as
process manager for Agnew nickel mines for 4 years then married for second (and last) time
moved to Melboure to work for Bechtel for 4 years, then went through change of life and
moved to Batemans Bay to run holiday units on the beach. Stuck at that for another 4 years
and then had another change of life and moved back to Perth and
started my own metallurgical consulting business which I still operate. Have two boys from this
marriage, one in second year of engineering at Uni of WA, the other becoming a good
musician and at high school. Now living a very content though quieter life style on a few acres
just out of Perth and gradually working myself into semi-retirement. Still healthy and happily
married though eyesight failing, grey hair predominant and a terrible fear
of growing old"
Those who have been long participants in these e-mails might recall the correspondence
addressed to Ian Pettigrew on their sexual problems and his pants:
Monty Fox writes:
"I eventually received a reply from Ian Pettigrew. You may recall that Rod Wise (might have
been Mr Balfe) and I sent Ian some embarrassing questions via his web site. If the questions
had been of a serious nature, one might have carked it by now waiting for the reply. Anyway,
reply he did; as below. My original question of ages ago was:
"Dear Dr Pettigrew,
In the 40 years since I left the excesses of North Sydney High School my problem has
become worse by the year.
Would it be likely that viagra would solve it or would you
recommend prozac? Your strict confidentiality would be
I felt it appropriate to ask you about this matter, as one who would assume that a smoking
brown paper bag in the quadrangle, surrounded by a large circle of students chanting
"BOMB", would NOT be a BOMB. Did you ever get those trousers repaired? Who dobbed
in the gang of four who were forced to pay for your 4 Pound trousers?
To which the reply came:
From: "The Health Network"
Wonderful drugs the 2 that you mention but beware of taking them together as you may end
up as a happy wanker.The 4 were not dobbed on but were apprehended as a result of some
pants were replaced but they weren't as good as the originals.See you in October. Regards