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 Hill
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,

MOTO’s photos capture ministry of teaching

September 10, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Students return with stories from Cambodia, India and Nepal

Three Ministry Of Teaching Overseas (MOTO) trips organised by the School of Education have returned from practicums in Cambodia, India and Nepal.

Each trip, led by an Avondale College of Higher Education lecturer during semester recess, focused on teaching, with additional components including building, community service and evangelism.

The annual trips are part of Avondale’s commitment to prepare students for lives of service.

Experience a little of each trip in this photo feature.

MOTO Cambodia
MOTO Cambodia
MOTO Nepal
MOTO Nepal
MOTO India 01
MOTO India 01
MOTO India 02
MOTO India 02
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Caption (MOTO Cambodia): Catherine Bradley of the MOTO Cambodia team plays with a child from Wat Preah Yesu, an orphanage, school and church located outside the town of Siem Reap. Credit: Emma Gibbons.

Caption (MOTO Nepal): Reuben Sleight with students from the 3 Angels International Mission School in Pokhara, Nepal. The Avondale students taught six days a week and then presented a worship service on Saturday. Just to keep them busy, they also presented a Week of Prayer, ran a children’s club and renovated the house of the school’s cleaner. Credit: Peter Beamish.

Caption (MOTO India 01): Monique Calais gives students from AoZora Adventist Academy in Bodh Gaya, India, “the simple pleasure of sitting in a circle rather than regimented rows. The circle became routine in our classroom for many lessons.” Credit: Monique Calais.

Caption (MOTO India 02): MOTO India leader Dr Andrew Matthes participates in a baptism, a difficult decision for the candidates in this predominantly Buddhist area.


Textiles help teachers have fun

September 4, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

On-campus experience tailor-made for creative students

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

Kim Ninness is about to cut up her wedding dress. “It’s time to put it on show again,” says the married mother of two. The dress is now draped over a table in the refurbished textiles classroom on Avondale College of Higher Education’s Lake Macquarie campus. Kim is a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) student completing the unit, Creative Textiles, which she describes as about “having fun, letting loose and coming up with grand ideas.” The experience is encouraging her to think differently. “As a teacher, you need that. Kids love fun when they’re learning. If we can learn how to teach in a fun way, that’s tops for me, that’s the best.”

Annali Baxter and Kim Ninness with their textiles lecturer Gail Ormsby

Annali Baxter and Kim Ninness with their textiles lecturer Gail Ormsby. Avondale is one of only a handful of higher education providers offering an on-campus textiles experience for secondary education students. Credit: Jared Poland.

Kim’s a learning support officer at Kurri Kurri Public School and at the St Peter’s campus of All Saints College in Maitland. She’s fallen in love with teaching and came to Avondale to further her education because “I just needed more, I wanted more.”

An Avondale graduate Kim met while working at Maitland High School encouraged her to study at Avondale. The flexibility of the course—Kim has studied several units by distance—and the small classes have helped make the experience more enjoyable. “The lecturer in my first class had all the time in the world for you. That was the best learning experience I’d ever had.”

Avondale is one of only a handful of higher education providers offering an on-campus textiles experience for secondary education students. According to strand convenor Dr Robyn Pearce, the college’s technology and applied studies specialisation allows students to tailor the course around their interest in textiles without having to focus as heavily on industrial technology.

Lecturer Gail Ormsby says the skills are useful away from the classroom, too. “Students should be able to mend a hem or sew on a button,” says Gail. “We’re too quickly becoming a throwaway society, but in economically tough times, knowing how to fix and recreate garments makes good sense.”

Gail has been introducing more academic rigour in textiles at Avondale. She and graduate Brianna Cameron have co-authored a paper about the application of multiple intelligences in Year 7 textile classes. The paper is published in the most recent issue of the TEACH Journal of Christian Education. Brianna based the research on her experience as a high school student “who often did not have teachers understand how to teach me and enable me to reach my full potential.” Once established, Brianna plans to rewrite some of the programs for the school in which she teaches to ensure they acknowledge a range of multiple intelligences. “I’m passionate about adapting my teaching to the different ways my students learn.”

Beginners believe

September 4, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

First presenters now published authors

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

Papers by the first Avondale academics to present at an international conference on children’s spirituality are now published in a book of the proceedings.

Barbara Fisher and Sandra Ludlow

Barbara Fisher and Sandra Ludlow’s papers appear in the published proceedings of a conference on children’s spirituality. Credit: Brenton Stacey.

Barbara Fisher and Sandra Ludlow from the School of Education shared their research with delegates at the fourth triennial conference of the Society for Children’s Spirituality at Concordia University Chicago (River Forest, IL, USA). Their papers now appear in Exploring and Engaging Spirituality for Today’s Children: A Holistic Approach (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Barbara spoke about a literacy program she has developed called Bible Reading 4 Beginner Readers. It is designed to “encourage five- and six-year-olds, both readers and non-readers, to interactively experience the Bible on a personal level.” In the book, Barbara notes the rapid decline among English speakers in Bible reading and biblical literacy. She argues that engaging with the Bible as a beginner reader will at our most impressionable age encourage a relationship with God.

Sandra’s contribution: applying contemporary early childhood theory and pedagogies to the process of “scaffolding” emergent spiritual awareness. She summarises the latest research on cognitive awareness, neuroscience, social emotional development and socio-cultural theory for children and the significant number of programs that foster a child’s spiritual awareness and relationship with God. Her argument: combining the research with these spiritual scaffolds is the most effective way of encouraging spirituality and a relationship with God in children.

Exploring and Engaging Spirituality for Today’s Children reflects a range of faith traditions and draws on four major themes: the theological and historical foundations of children’s spirituality; engaging parents and congregations; engaging methodologies; and exploring children at risk.

I’m a believer

August 28, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Journalist opens up at Homecoming concert

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

A journalist and broadcaster criticised the profession’s wariness of religious issues after candidly declaring her faith during Avondale College of Higher Education’s Homecoming concert.

Geraldine Doogue at Hymns and Songs of Praise

Geraldine Doogue speaks about religion and journalism in Australia during Hymns and Songs of Praise. Credit: Ann Stafford.

In an interview midway through Hymns and Songs of Praise, Geraldine Doogue described her Christian faith as giving her life “solace and ballast.” The host of Compass on ABC TV and Saturday Extra on ABC Radio National said the best journalists work with a sense of conviction but “do not know how to handle religion.” Their hesitancy to ask about a belief system “is a real pity” because “[asking about it is] often the best clue you’ll get to try and understand a person.”

Geraldine’s return as host—she played the same role at the most recent Hymns and Songs in 2012—helped fill Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Murdoch Lecture

The annual Murdoch Lecture explored the role of religion in academe. Speaker Dr Lawrence Geraty, president emeritus of La Sierra University (Riverside, California, USA), used Avondale’s values statement to remind those attending why they associated with a Seventh-day Adventist tertiary institution. Adapting text from a philosophy brochure of the Markham Woods Seventh-day Adventist Church, Lawrence described Avondale as “a place where people seek to become all that God has in mind for them to be.”


Teachers received most of the citations at Homecoming. Avondale Alumni Association’s Alumna of the Year Adele Rowden-Johnson worked in technical and further education for 10 years before her first contact with what is now Southlakes Refuge. “I was only meant to stay for a short while, then return to TAFE teaching. God had other ideas.” The association honoured the former managing director for her dedication in caring for and raising awareness of women and children who are the victims of abuse or domestic violence.

Class of 1974 reunion at Homecoming 2014

Members of the class of 1974 pose for more modern memories. Credit: Ann Stafford.

Alumnus of the Year Cliff Morgan turned down multiple offers from the Adventist Church to teach in its schools, promising instead that once retired, he would serve the mission of the church at his own expense. Cliff made good on his promise after a visit to the Solomon Islands and to Papua New Guinea in 1995. The church’s greatest need in those countries: finding sponsors for local missionaries to grow churches in isolated areas. So began Volunteers in Action, a ministry that has now led to more than 16,000 baptisms across the South Pacific.

Chris Koelma received the Young Alumnus of the Year award for sharing the universal language through performance and education. The composer and bass guitarist has been heading primary music at schools in Argentina and Malaysia since graduation.

Seven other alumni, one from each of the Homecoming honour years, joined Adele, Cliff and Chris as citation recipients: evangelist and field archaeologist Pr David Down (1944); academic Dr Laurie Draper (1954); missionary Coral Camps (1964); teacher and treasurer Harvey Carlsen (1974); principal Mark Vodell (1984); teacher Anthony Hibbard (1994); and communicator Adele Nash (2004).

Alumni Heritage Day

Homecoming closed on the lawns of “Sunnyside,” the Cooranbong home of Adventist Church pioneer Ellen White. A breakfast preceded a presentation by Ellen G White Seventh-day Adventist Research Centre director Dr John Skrzypaszek and tours of the house and the South Sea Islands Museum.

Safari and stars

August 27, 2014 by Brenton Stacey

Exhibition showcases “God’s paint brush”

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

Karl Lindsay photograph

Karl Lindsay won the Avondale Fine Arts Photography Prize at the Manifest Creative Arts Festival this year with this photograph.

An exhibition illustrating a safari and the stars will be launched by an award-winning local photographer in Avondale Libraries on Thursday.

Our World and the Cosmos features 15 photographs of African and Australia landscapes, night skies and wildlife.

“These photographs allow me to showcase the fabulous paint brush of God,” says Karl Lindsay of Bonnells Bay, an Avondale College of Higher Education alumnus who won the Fine Arts Photography Prize at the Manifest Creative Arts Festival this year. He particularly enjoys photographing the night sky “because it’s something you rarely make the time to see.”

Stars and the Milky Way provide a stunning backdrop to Karl’s winning photograph, which is part of the exhibition. The photograph shows a bicycle framed and lit by the light from a convenience store in the Eastern Province capital of Mambwe, Zambia. The store is called the God Is Able Shop. Judge Aaron Bellette, a lecturer in photo media at Avondale, describes the photograph as having “layers of meanings and elements for the viewer to explore.”

Karl first saw the shop the day before shooting the photograph. “I thought, That would look awesome under a starry night sky.” Fortunately, starry night skies are common in Zambia and Karl got his shot. “It makes the perfect statement,” he says.

A former assistant boy’s dean at a school in Kenya and an intern with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Zambia, Karl says he has “left a piece of my heart in Africa.”

His photographs make this obvious. Afternoon Gold, for example, depicts Victoria Falls bathed in sunset. Karl entered the park at dawn and did not leave until dusk. His favourite photograph, Circles in the Sky, is a 15-minute exposure of the African night sky with streaming stars and a silhouette of a tree. “It just shows how insignificant we are,” he says.

Launch: Our World and the Cosmos, Avondale Libraries (Lake Macquarie campus), Thursday, August 28, 6 pm.