Asylum seekers come to Avondale

October 16, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Students to protest detainment of children in Australia

Students from Avondale College of Higher Education are launching a campaign this month to protest the government’s detainment of children seeking asylum in Australia.

Mary Meets Mohammad still

A still from the documentary Mary Meets Mohammad, which screens as part of a student-initiated Behind Bars social justice campaign at Avondale College of Higher Education.

The campaign, called Behind Bars, will raise awareness of the cost and of the treatment of children held in detention.

“Our detention system costs 5.5 billion dollars a year,” says Brad Watson, a senior lecturer in international development studies. “It would be much cheaper to bring asylum seekers to the mainland while their refugee status is determined.” Tax payers should be concerned, he says, because they are “propping up an enormously expensive response to a very small number of asylum seekers,” the majority of who are found to be legitimate.

Brad and his students are most concerned about the treatment of children asylum seekers, who are held in “jail-like conditions that would be illegal for Australian children.” According to the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 525 children, as of August 31 this year, are being held in immigration detention centres.

Behind Bars, held on Avondale’s Lake Macquarie campus, October 22-25, will feature three key events. The first: a mock detention centre students will operate for visiting schools groups. The second: the launch of a book called Do Justice: Our Call to Faithful Living, published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Signs Publishing. And the third: two screenings of the documentary Mary Meets Mohammad, a low-key and humorous film about a group of older women in Tasmania who knit beanies for asylum seekers housed in their community.

Being a voice for children who deserve better, the campaign will highlight the importance of ensuring the Australian Government gives equal opportunity to children who are fleeing from persecution. “The message is simple,” says Brad, “let’s stop the boats without detaining children.”

Launch: Do Justice: Our Call to Faithful Living, and Screening: Mary Meets Mohammad, Saturday, October 25, 3 pm, Ladies Chapel, Lake Macquarie campus, Avondale College of Higher Education. Refreshments.

Top students, again

October 23, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Academic prize winners return for more

Bianca Reynaud
Public relations assistant
Avondale College of Higher Education
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

Avondale College of Higher Education has affirmed its commitment to excellence by honouring its consistent achievers, several of who received multiple academic prizes this year.

Academic prize recipient

Larisa Miler receives the Avondale Conservatorium Noel Clapham Memorial Prize, presented to her by lecturer Claire Howard Race. Credit: Colin Chuang.

Two education students, Nadia Peterson and Mark Singh, are recipients of the most prestigious prize, the Prize for Excellence. Avondale will name a nursing student as the third recipient during the valedictory service on the Sydney campus over graduation weekend. Mark also received the top prize for physical education students.

Receiving more money is triple prize winner Narkisska Spruce. The communication and the marketing major, a previous academic prize winner, won the top prize for Bachelor of Arts students plus other prizes in marketing and in radio production and public relations.

Another former prize winner, Amy Verhoeven, swept the business prizes, winning two of the five on offer, including the top prize.

Charlotte O’Neill is also a multiple winner of prizes for her work as a student of history and of Christian journalism within the School of Humanities and Creative Arts.

Charlotte’s colleague at student publication The Voice, Lara Campbell, won the Adventist Media Network Journalism Prize. Lara is the girlfriend of the previous winner, Josh Dye, who preceded her as Voice editor.

Sau Finau is the inaugural winner of the new Douglas Eliot Church Planting/Ministry Memorial Prize, while classmate Simon Gigliotti backed up his Clifford Anderson Ministry Prize from this past year with the Bill Marr Institute of Public Evangelism Prize, which he shared with Leticia Moreno.

The only prize given to students in the School of Science and Mathematics, the Magnusson, Draper and Thompson Bachelor of Science Prize, went to Joshua Page.

The appropriately named Esther Nurse received the top prize in nursing, the Sydney Adventist Hospital Academic Excellence Prize.

Academic prizes photo album on Avondale College of Higher Education’s Facebook

Academic Prizes

Faculty of Arts and Theology
School of Humanities and Creative Arts

Adventist Media Network Digital Media Prize
Yvanna Phillips ($1000)

Adventist Media Network Journalism Prize
Lara Campbell ($1000)

Allen and Andrea Steele Huguenot History Prize
Charlotte O’Neill ($1000)

Avondale Conservatorium Alan and Yvonne Thrift Perpetual Shield for Musical Excellence
John Duncan ($1000)

Avondale Conservatorium David Clark Harmony and Composition Prize
Laura Hill ($500)

Avondale Conservatorium George Greer Memorial Academic Excellence Prize
Kent Sharp ($500)

Avondale Conservatorium Noel Clapham Memorial Prize
Larisa Miler ($500)

Adventist World Radio Prize in Radio Production and Public Relations
Narkisska Spruce ($1000)

W A Townend Christian Journalism Prize
Charlotte O’Neill ($500)

Willobee Floor Service Bachelor of Arts Prize
Narkisska Spruce ($1000)


School of Ministry and Theology

Arthur Ferch Prize for Greek Studies
Geoffrey Plewright ($1000)

Arthur Ferch Prize for Hebrew Studies
Jack Ryder and Jacob Ugljesa ($500 each)

Bill Marr Institute of Public Evangelism Prize
Simon Gigliotti and Leticia Moreno ($1000 each)

Clifford Anderson Ministry Prize
Sarah-Jane Riley and David Toogood ($1000 each)

Douglas Eliot Church Planting/Ministry Memorial Prize
Sau Finau ($1000)

Edna and Vern Heise Prize for Communication
Charissa Fong ($1000)

Graham Miller Memorial Prize for Youth Ministry
Odailson Fialho ($1000)


Faculty of Education, Business and Science
Avondale Business School

Asian Aid Marketing Excellence Prize
Narkisska Spruce ($500)

Asian Aid Marketing Internship Prize
Luke Thompson ($200)

Gail Valentine Memorial Prize for Human Resource Management
Ryan Andrews ($500 Avondale Bookshop gift voucher)

Professional Advantage Bachelor of Business Prize
Amy Verhoeven ($1000)

Ricoh Bachelor of Business (Accounting) Prize
Amy Verhoeven ($1000)


School of Education

Adventist Education Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) Prize
Jocelyn Craig-Bentley and Kristal Anderson ($1000 each)

Adventist Education Bachelor of Education (Primary) Prize
Tia Hobson ($1000)

Adventist Education Bachelor of Education (Secondary) Prize
Sarah Watts ($1000)

Barrett Primary Teacher’s Literacy Prize
Brittaney Cullen ($200)

ACHPER Tertiary Student Health and Physical Education Prize
Mark Singh ($500, certificate plus 12-month membership to Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation)


School of Science and Mathematics

Magnusson, Draper and Thompson Bachelor of Science Prize
Joshua Page ($1000)


Faculty of Nursing and Health

Sydney Adventist Hospital Academic Excellence Prize
Esther Nurse ($500 plus gold medallion)

Sydney Adventist Hospital Clinical Excellence Prize
Geena Rose Burton ($500 plus gold medallion)

Sydney Adventist Hospital Medical Nursing Excellence Prize
Hellen Bayeta ($250)

Sydney Adventist Hospital Surgical Nursing Excellence Prize
Belinda Whelan ($250)

Sydney Adventist Hospital Mental Health Nursing Excellence Prize
Led Hernandez ($250)

Faculty of Nursing and Health Prize for Consistent Effort and Accomplishment
Misha Thomson ($250)



Adventist Development and Relief Agency Social Justice Prize
Trent Sperring ($500)


Prize for Excellence

Avondale Prize for Excellence, Lake Macquarie campus
Nadia Peterson ($1500)

Avondale Prize for Excellence, Lake Macquarie campus
Mark Singh ($1500)

Avondale Prize for Excellence, Sydney campus
Presented at valedictory service over graduation weekend ($1500)

MoU a win-win

October 16, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Agreement to better prepare international students for study

Bianca Reynaud
Public relations assistant
Avondale College of Higher Education
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

A new agreement with an English language school will make it easier for international students to study at Avondale.

Australian International College of English logoPreviously, these students needed to attain 6.0 or higher on a test called the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which measures fluency in English. But the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Australian International College of English (AICE) in Sydney will give students the option of completing a course called English for Academic Purposes, which will better prepare them for tertiary study.

The memorandum of understanding “is an excellent opportunity for students who are committed to Christ and don’t know English well enough to study at Avondale,” says AICE principal Heidi Reid.

Students will find it “easier to come to Avondale through the language training provided by AICE rather than the IELTS pathway,” says Avondale president Professor Ray Roennfeldt. “It may even be safer because AICE students have a history of good performance at tertiary level.”

The director of advancement at Avondale, Colin Crabtree, helped facilitate the memorandum of understanding. He describes it as “covering the gap” in the college of higher education’s offering to international students. “Higher education providers like a good English language training partner because the area is so specialised,” he says. “Students like it because they can often gain entry to a higher education provider based on their ELT result rather than having to submit to an IELTS test. At worst, students are more likely to pass the IELTS if they go to a good ELT.”

Many Australian universities endorse AICE’s English for Academic Purposes course, including four of Australia’s top-18 ranked universities.

James, jazz and Jesus: HIStory

October 9, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Reunion to see James Morrison reimagine timeless gospel stories

Bianca Reynaud
Public relations assistant
Avondale College of Higher Education
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

James Morrison and brother John will join a former collaborator and two Avondale ensembles in concert to perform songs they first played 30 years ago.

James Morrison

Jesus: HIStory will see James Morrison playing music he first performed 30 years ago.

Jesus: HIStory will reunite the multi-instrumentalist and the jazz drummer with friend David Pudney, a double bassist who is now director of Avondale College of Higher Education’s jazz ensemble. The reunion has its roots in a recording of unpublished pieces David and father-in-law Pr Neil Gough composed in the 1980s for their local church, Kerugma Christian Fellowship, of which the Morrisons were founding members.

“We performed the songs to a small but enthusiastic audience then left the songs on the shelf as more inspiration led to the writing of other songs,” says David. He tailored the music for James, whose prowess even then had contributed to a growing reputation as a virtuoso. “We counted ourselves fortunate to have his talents available in our church, but he was just one of the guys.”

The music, and the fellowship, meant a lot to James. He describes Kerugma as an “amazing upbringing” where “we were always learning and growing. I’ve been blessed to have such a nurturing place to start my musical journey.”

James’ Kerugma experience included performing the songs now recorded by Avondale vocal ensemble The Promise and Avondale Jazz Ensemble on the album Jesus: HIStory. The gospel-inspired, jazz-flavoured one-hour musical narrative reimagines the timeless stories of the Gospels. David originally conceived the songs as solos to be sung by Neil’s church members, “most of who were willing amateurs.” His re-write for The Promise adds up to eight-part harmonies. “The ensemble enabled me to expand the songs harmonically and, in conjunction with Avondale Jazz Ensemble, breathe new life into the material.”

The concert will reconnect James and John with the songs. “On one hand, I feel more affinity with the older repertoire because I grew up with it—and musically, it’s quite different,” says James. “On the other hand, I still feel the ‘reason’ for the music is the same. . . . It speaks to a fundamental part of you, more to do with the soul rather than the mind.”

David is looking forward to performing again with his mates. “It’ll be like putting an old pair of shoes on, but it will also be a joy to hear how James and John respond to the feeling and the passion The Promise bring to this music.”

James Morrison and The Promise: Jesus: HIStory, Wallsend Seventh-day Adventist Church (182 Lake Rd, Elermore Vale NSW 2287), Sunday, October 19, 6 pm. Also featuring: David Pudney (double bass), John Morrison (drums) and Avondale Jazz Ensemble. Tickets from $40.

Game breakers

October 9, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Women’s touch team wins gold at university nationals

Lawson Hull
Public relations intern
Avondale College of Higher Education
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

An Avondale touch football team has exceeded expectations to win gold at the Australian University Games for a second consecutive year.

Avondale Eagles women's touch football team

Almarie Regencia puts a step on her touch football competitor in the gold medal final game, which the Eagles won 4-3. Credit: Kevin Judge.

With less than six weeks and five new players to train, the women’s team finished division two pool play in third place. But a semifinal win over Bond University led to a gold medal final against The University of Melbourne, where the Eagles prevailed 4-3. The result in Sydney betters that at the Eastern University Games in Newcastle in July, where the team finished eighth.

It is even more impressive when you consider the team’s other struggles. “We lost a team member just three days before the games, and we were already down a few subs,” says Alyse Hunter, the off-field captain. “We knew we’d be playing experienced teams, while we had much less experience.”

The primary factor that contributed to the team’s success: support. “A team that works for each other can be an unstoppable force,” says Alyse. “The support we received from the men’s team, from other games team members, from students and from family members helped to push us over the line.”

The result surprised Monique Rippingale. “At first, I didn’t mind if we just won a few games. But by Tuesday, we were on track for the semis. The team was pretty stunned.”

On-field captain Amia Spero attributes the win to the friendship that developed between team members. “We played for each other whether we won or lost.”

The men’s team qualified for the division one competition this year by winning the division two competition this past year. But their form, and morale, suffered with a seventh place finish. Avondale also entered teams in basketball, futsal and Twenty20 cricket.

The gold medal qualifies the women’s touch football team for the division one competition next year.

Strong schools; weak bullies

September 25, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Lecturer’s doctoral thesis finds climate key to control

Brenton Stacey
Public relations officer
Avondale College of Higher Education
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

A positive school climate significantly reduces the prevalence and the popularity of student peer bullying, doctoral research by an Avondale lecturer shows.

Kevin Petries

Kevin Petrie now has an EdD from La Trobe University.

Helping to create that climate: a rights and responsibilities program, which schools have found leads to better relationships between students and teachers and better peer-relations and belonging.

Dr Kevin Petrie says school climate is both a barometer of and a catalyst for bullying behaviour. “The way in which a school manages that behaviour will have a direct impact on the climate in that school.” Identifying and fostering prosocial student leadership is key. “Schools should develop and maintain norms that do not value aggression and where students do not gain social status by their use of it.”

This is all the more important because while bullies in schools with a more positive climate are more likely to be seen by their classmates as unpopular, victims of bullies are still just that. And the effect on them—including a weaker immune system, difficulty in forming good relationships and significantly higher rates of depression and of suicide ideation—is direct and long term.

Kevin based his findings on data from 604 senior primary students attending 20 state schools in Victoria. Teachers from the 59 participating classrooms also provided data on bullying and on social status. The findings appear in Kevin’s thesis, “The relationship between student-peer bullying, school climate, and peer popularity,” which he has completed for his Doctor of Education through La Trobe University.

“As a teacher and school principal, I came to realise I dealt with this area poorly,” says Kevin. “I started to read and my interest gradually turned into a passion.”

Rare find

September 25, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Avondale Estate map shows how pioneers planned to use land

Lawson Hull
Public relations intern
Avondale College of Higher Education
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

The chance discovery of a map from 1895 shows how Seventh-day Adventist pioneers planned to use the land on which Avondale is now built.

Avondale Estate map

Rose-lee Power unfurls the ageing linen map of Avondale Estate. Credit: Ashlee King.

The boundaries and subdivisions of the Avondale Estate appear on a linen map curator Rose-lee Power found while sorting through files in the archives of the church in the South Pacific’s head office. The map is now kept in the Adventist Heritage Centre, located on Avondale College of Higher Education’s Lake Macquarie campus.

“Finding an original is like finding gold,” says Rose-lee, who has previously seen only a photocopy of the map. “It’s fascinating to see gazetted streets that don’t exist now. Wharfs and trees along Dora Creek, which you can clearly see on the map, aren’t there anymore. How times have changed.”

According to Dr Milton Hook in his book, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, church pioneers saw potential in the then Strickland and Inglewood Estates in Cooranbong as grounds for a school—they wanted a rural property in an isolated area so students would not be exposed to “worldly” activities. However, the poor quality of the soil discouraged them. When the members of the inspection team were about to leave the town, they met a local road contractor, William O’Neill, who told them about the then Brettville Estate. It had been offered at auction earlier but fell short of the reserve price of 1000 pounds.

After a protracted debate, primarily over a government report about the quality of the soil and an initial plan for a crowded community on small allotments surrounding the school buildings, the church voted to proceed with the sale.

“The fact that the estate remains essentially rural and is still meeting the needs of the college shows the wisdom of our pioneers,” says Rose-lee.

Flag bearers for peace

September 24, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Avondale hosts program as part of worldwide event

Brenton Stacey
Public relations officer
Avondale College of Higher Education
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

Former members of the armed forces have joined with those supporting an international community to reaffirm their commitment to humanity’s ultimate but most elusive goal.

United Nations International Day of Peace

John Hegarty with the designer of the world peace flag, artist Sharon Davson. Credit: Summer Hull.

The United Nations International Day of Peace, which Avondale College of Higher Education hosted on its Lake Macquarie campus on Sunday (September 21), saw a call for a global parliament and a reminder that war profoundly affects those who serve.

Associate Professor Chris Hamer, founder and president of the World Citizens Association of Australia, spoke highly of the work of the United Nations. “Imperialism is dead, colonialism is dead, apartheid is dead and the number of deaths in battle each year is down by a factor of 10 in the past half century.” But ending wars, he said, called for a new community of democratic nations.

War made a hero out of William “Fighting Mac” McKenzie. The Salvation Army officer, one of the first chaplains ashore at Gallipoli and a wowser who won the hearts of the Diggers, is the subject of Associate Professor Daniel Reynaud’s research. Daniel, from the School of Humanities and Creative Arts at Avondale, reflected on some of McKenzie’s experiences. Despite his nickname, said Daniel, McKenzie would later describe war as being like hell.

The program also featured two musical performances: Avondale Guitar Ensemble director Terry Latham played John Lennon’s world-at-peace song “Imagine;” and Bonnells Bay Community Choir sang “Let There Be Peace.” The grandchildren of organiser John Hegarty, who represented the local branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia, rang a peace bell.

John told those attending the program he felt emotional about it—partly because it brought many community organisations together and partly because of its worldwide significance. “Everyone wants peace, but sadly many give up trying,” he says. “But there’s no doubt that together we can make a difference.”

Cross-cultural immersion

September 18, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Avondale scholarship funds Malaysian outreach

A single scholarship has helped a team of ministry and theology students from Avondale College of Higher Education change hundreds of lives in Malaysia.

Baptism Malaysia

Avondale ministry and theology students participate in the baptisms of those attending their evangelistic series in Malaysia.

Led by lecturer Pr Mike Parker and by Pr Vadim Butov of Avondale Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church, nine students presented five evangelistic series in the state of Sabah during their semester break. Thousands in overflowing venues came to hear the students preach.

Leathan Fitzpatrick, Simon Gigliotti and Nigel King preached in the town of Tenghilan and were overwhelmed by the response. “One man drove for four hours to come to the final night of our series and would not stop hugging us afterwards,” says Nigel. One elderly woman adopted the three students and asked them to call her todu, which means “grandmother.”

Not all went as expected, though. When Vadim could not preach for a night at the main site in Kota Kinabalu, Nigel took his place, a potentially daunting experience with crowds of up to 1700 people. “God certainly puts us on the spot sometimes,” says Nigel, “but He always pulls through.”

In the town of Tamparuli, Alex Green and David Toogood were invited to present a Week of Prayer at the local Seventh-day Adventist school. Initially hesitant—the two had been preaching at the local Adventist church for a week—they accepted the invitation. The relationships Alex and David developed with the staff members and students increased attendance at the evangelistic series—they were preaching to crowds of up to 1000 people by the end of the week.

After making an appeal during the final week of their series, Alex and David were approached by a teenage girl who wanted to be baptised. Her father opposed the decision. The students explained the necessity of honouring her father’s decision and the power of God to change hearts and committed to praying as a threesome after the meeting each night. Their prayers were answered—on the final Sabbath, the girl was baptised along with 242 others. “If I’ve ever believed in the power of prayer, it’s now,” Alex says.

Making the cross-cultural ministry immersion possible: funding of $12,000 from the Ministerial Training and Scholarship Fund Management Committee, chaired by alumnus and retired minister Pr Vern Parmenter.

The School of Ministry and Theology is planning a similar trip to Vanuatu in 2015.

The child sponsorship challenge

September 10, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Academic’s book first to critique billion-dollar industry

A book co-edited by an Avondale academic is the first to objectively critique one of the most enduring and important flows of humanitarian aid.

Child Sponsorship

Brad Watson’s new book uses contributions from other academics and practitioners to explore the origins, the controversy, the diversity and the challenges of child sponsorship.

Brad Watson is a contributor to almost half of the 15 chapters in Child Sponsorship: Exploring Pathways to a Brighter Future, which launched in Ladies Chapel this past Saturday (September 6). The senior lecturer in international development studies in the School of Humanities and Creative Arts co-edited the book with his PhD supervisor, Professor Matthew Clarke, head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University. At 272 pages, and published by Palgrave Macmillan, the book uses contributions from other academics and practitioners to explore the origins, the controversy, the diversity and the challenges of child sponsorship.

The launch, presented by Avondale and Sydney Adventist Forum, featured a panel of representatives from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Asian Aid, Baptist World Aid and Compassion. Robyn Priestley, a forum committee member, reflects on the discussion.

With billions of dollars raised for millions of children, child sponsorship is a significant source of humanitarian aid. The money supports child welfare and poverty reduction, linking geographically distant benefactors to children in developing countries and disadvantaged communities. Child sponsorship began in Europe in 1919, but there has been little assessment of its claim to bring positive change. Child Sponsorship: Exploring Pathways to a Brighter Future now provides an objective critique of the value of this form of aid.

During the 1980s and 90s, journalists accused some child sponsorship entities of employing “poverty porn” in their marketing, misleading their supporters and wasting money on overheads. Professor Alistair Sim, global program effectiveness research director for Compassion International, which has been involved with child sponsorship for 60 years, referred to these criticisms while responding to questions about truthfulness in marketing. He explained Compassion is still able to support children directly by partnering with churches in areas where the children live. In response to questions about the effectiveness of its programs, he reported on a study by the University of San Francisco that demonstrated the success in nurturing children to leadership in all levels of society.

Harwood Lockton, former head of international programs at ADRA Australia, raised one of the most fundamental issues in the book—one-to-one support of children is often less effective than helping their families and communities. ADRA has always taken a community approach to aid rather than a child sponsorship approach, and Harwood expressed satisfaction that some other entities are realising this approach is more sustainable.

Rebecca Hunter, program manager Nepal and child focused initiatives for Asian Aid Australia, noted that her entity is looking at ways to maintain the work it has established over many years while promoting wider community development.

Chief executive officer John Hickey confirmed Baptist World Aid has always had community-based programs and has developed aspects of its child sponsorship program so it functions more within that framework. He stressed the need for ethical marketing for support of all humanitarian work and emphasised that as Christians we are motivated to help the poor and think beyond our community with a heart of compassion as followers of Jesus. He also made the plea that as Christians we engage fully with the causes of global poverty and be a voice for change in how we consume.

All the panelists emphasised that in humanitarian aid there are no easy answers but the one certain thing is that the focus should always be on the beneficiaries rather than on the donors.

Child Sponsorship: Exploring Pathways to a Brighter Future (Palgrave Macmillan), $75,