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 praise them.

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 education.

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 sand miners 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 appreciated.
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?
Best wishes

To which the reply came:
From: "The Health Network"
Subject: Q&A
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 sleuthing. The pants were replaced but they weren't as good as the originals.See you in October. Regards Ian."