Let’s talk about education

Do you ever wonder how it is that kids spend 13 years from kindergarten to high school supposedly being prepared for life, yet when they get out they don’t have any real skills?

Thirteen years and kids aren’t taught how to grow a garden, how to build a house, how to fix a car, how to balance a cheque book, or cook a healthy meal.

Thirteen years and kids come out without even rudimentary concepts of how to organize or lead groups of people, without even a glimmer of understanding of how to resolve conflicts non-violently, and we call this an education?

Yes we get taught to read and write and perform some basic math, but we aren’t taught how to think for ourselves, we aren’t taught the principles of logic, or how to question an ideology.

What we are taught is how to sit at a desk and listen obediently as the world is packaged up into a neat little box that we are to accept without question, we’re taught to regurgitate that information for tests, to give the answer that those in authority demand, but most of all we’re conditioned to conform, and the reward for faithfully jumping through all of these hoops for 13 years is a worthless piece of paper that no employer even asks to see.


Source ~ Storm Clouds Gathering

PCYC making a big move for youth

PCYC Cessnock is a “state of the art” facility. The skate park is unreal and for all ages. #getactive #skate #awesome SRC http://www.cessnockadvertiser.com.au/story/2845450/cessnock-pcyc-continues-to-impress-photos

As PCYC NSW approaches its 80th birthday it is embarking on a step-change process to redesign its role and service for young people and the wider community. In so doing PCYC will redefine itself and significantly shift its strategic position in the youth and community sector.

Starfish has been engaged to support this significant change process, building upon our work with The Youthie as part of the Tamworth Youth Strategy. Starfish is to create a strategic positioning paper to inform and underpin PCYC’s review and refresh of their services and facilities.

Significant social change has taken place in the last 80 years. In recent decades, the youth and community sectors have begun step-changing as well ~ reflecting both changing social needs and aspirations as well as innovation and developments in service delivery and support. PCYC ~ like many other institutions of its era such as Scouts or Rotary ~ risks losing relevance and importance in the face of such substantial social changes.

As a result, PCYC is now reviewing and redesigning its network of 60 clubs across NSW with a view to re-defining its leadership position as a facilitator and provider of integrated support, services, sport and recreation activities for youth. PCYC has considerable strengths, assets, history and reputation to leverage in this regard.

Change of such a scale is bold, courageous and not without risks. Robust evidence is one of the keys to well-informed and effective discussions and decisions to successfully lead the change process and so realise PCYC’s compelling contemporary vision.

Starfish’s role is to identify and build a strong, shared understanding of contemporary leading and best practice in youth services, and in turn enable more effective discussions and decision-making by PCYC and its key stakeholders through this step-change. This will draw upon contemporary leading best practice and evidence base, existing models and practices as well as the research literature.

Starfish is truly honoured to be of service with such important work.

First PCYC club opened in 1937

The first PCYC club opened in 1937. Woolloomooloo, Sydney

Find out more ~ PCYC NSW

Furusato nozei ~ Japanese citizens direct taxes to rural areas

Hometown dues

Many Japanese city-dwellers still harbour strong feelings towards their furusato ~ their home town or rural area which their forebears may have left many decades ago during the country’s rapid urbanisation.

For some rural towns, the unexpected popularity of a scheme called furusato nozei, or hometown tax, is proving a windfall.

Seven years ago the central government began allowing city residents to divert a proportion of their income-tax payments to a furusato of their choice. The response has been overwhelming. In the last fiscal year rural towns earned ¥14 billion ($1.2 billion) from such contributions.

And some people choose a furusato not on the basis of any family ties, but simply because they like the area. Many select towns on Japan’s north-eastern coast that were devastated by the tsunami of March 2011. Sonoe Hasegawa, a 47-year-old accountant from Tokyo, says she wants to help revive the countryside. She has decided to give tax to Ishinomaki, a town in Miyagi prefecture where 3,700 residents drowned in the disaster, as well as five other places.

Furusato longings are a force the government cannot ignore. It has just expanded the scheme. A household with an income of ¥8m, for example, may now donate up to ¥142,000 in return for about 7% off its tax bill, up from 3.5% before.

Re~Post: Hometown dues | The Economist

Starfish completes Youth Centre Policy & Procedure Manual resource

The Youthie Logo

Starfish has completed six months work researching and writing an open source policy and procedure manual for the Tamworth Youthie.

The overall purpose of the Manual is to detail policies which enable the Youthie to operate effectively and efficiently as well as comply with all relevant legislation and regulation.

Starfish has created the Manual as an open source resource for the youth sector as a whole, under a creative commons licence. While Starfish prepared the Manual under engagement by Tamworth Regional Council, more than $30,000 worth of pro-bono work was done over-and-above this engagement to create a valuable resource for the youth sector.

The Youthie is a drop-in facility for young people aged 12–24 years from across the Tamworth region which has recently moved to a new multi-million-dollar facility in Coledale. This is one of the all too few purpose-designed-and-built youth facilities in Australia at this time.

A copy of the 220-page Manual can be downloaded here.

Read more about Starfish’s work on the Tamworth Youth Strategy here.

Leadership & Capacity Building for UNE Clubs, Groups & Societies

2015 new students

Starfish has been engaged by UNESA to design and deliver a series of four workshops aimed at enriching the student experience and amenities at UNE by creating more dynamic, resilient, and enjoyable clubs, groups and societies.

The workshops aim to build leadership and management capacity for office-bearers and will cover four key areas:

  1. Governance Essentials
  2. Efficient, effective & enjoyable: the well-run club
  3. Financial & money matters
  4. Growing Engagement

This new engagement builds on two years of work with UNESA’s Board of Directors in developing governance and leadership skills.

UNESA  re-formed in 2013 following a period of many years in which UNE did not formally have an independent student body.

UNESA’s governance requirements are challenging due to the highly nuanced nature of representing a diverse and largely remote student population, as well as the highly dynamic tertiary education policy and political environment in Australia at this time

Today, UNE has more than 20,000 students, of whom many study via its virtual campus from right across Australia and right around the world.

In addition to student representation, UNESA also operates two student enterprises:

  1. TuneFM ~ Australia’s oldest university broadcaster
  2. Nucleus ~ UNE’s student newspaper, first published in 1947

Find out more here.

Largest protected arid land zone on Earth

Largest protected arid zone on earth

The Pintubi traditional owners have helped to create the largest protected zone of arid land on earth, by declaring 4.2 million hectares of their land an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) under the Kiwirrkurra IPA.

“A lot of people think the desert is empty,” said Lindsey Langford, an anthropologist who works out of the tiny community in Western Australia that gives the IPA its name.

“But the desert is full of life. IPAs recognise that the best people to manage country in Australia are the people that have been managing it for thousands of years.”

Indigenous Protected Areas are an Aboriginal-led agreement on how country should be managed and by whom. They need to satisfy an Aboriginal value system and a government one to gain approval. The common ground is preservation – of ecology on one hand and culture on the other.

Job creation in some of the most remote communities in Australia is another government draw card.

“It works into tourism and into a whole range of other opportunities that opens up communities to economic developments,” said Richard Aspinall, state manager Western Australia for Prime Minister and Cabinet, who has worked on the Kiwirrkurra IPA with the traditional owners.

“We expect from that we’ll get employment outcomes and we’ll also start working with kids, getting them inspired that the future is rosy and important for the whole community.”

~ Richard Aspinall | Western Australia State Manager | Prime Minister & Cabinet

Repost ~ Traditional owners, scientists and cat gizzards key to IPA agreement | ABC News

United Nations step change ~ from the millennium developing country goals to global sustainable development goals


Web Link ~ Sustainable Development Goals  | UN Division for Sustainable Development

Getting back on track ~ BackTrack style

Backtrack picture

Starfish is a big supporter of BackTrack. In fact some of the first work we ever did was for BackTrack. This story explains why.

In 2006 Bernie Shakeshaft, a former ­Territory jackaroo who fell into social work, started a program called BackTrack in Armidale for kids who are seriously off track.

“School wasn’t workin’ for these kids,” says Shakeshaft, who begins many of his sentences with a long, deep rumble in the throat, like a contented cow. “Uhmmmmm so I thought I’d try somethin’ different, the opposite of what wasn’t workin’. Just because you’re no good at readin’ and writin’ it doesn’t mean you can’t f.kin’ learn.”

Come forward to today, and more than 400 kids have been through the program. 85% of them have gone on to full-time or part-time work, often as apprentices, or into further study.

Researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at University of NSW and the University of New England have been evaluating the program’s effectiveness and are soon to publish a number of peer-reviewed papers. What they’ve discovered is that since BackTrack began, there’s been an incredible decline in Armidale’s crime rate. The four offences most commonly committed by teenagers — break and enter, trespass, assault, malicious damage — have dropped by 52 per cent. In nearby Tamworth, over the same period, the rates for the same crimes increased by about 90 per cent.

Ducky Weribone is in no doubt about the benefits from being a backtracker — he reckons he’d be in jail without it. “It’s been like a family to me,” says Ducky. By the time he’d arrived in Armidale, at 11 years of age, he’d been to five or six schools in Moree, Queanbeyan, Goulburn and a few places in between. When he started at Armidale High he couldn’t read and by Year 8 says Ducky: “I was just muckin’ up all the time. Tryin’ to fight people for no reason. I was jus’ tryin’ to get suspended so I didn’t have to go to school.”

And what does Ducky reckon of Bernie Shakeshaft? “He’s like a father to us boys.”

Kids like Ducky can imagine a different future for themselves, thanks to Shakeshaft. In Armidale, they call him The Kid Whisperer.

Re~post ~ Kids on the straight and the narrow  | The Australian 

See more ~ Backtrack

Open Source Machines

The recent history of manufacturing, farming and production has been dominated by efficiency through large-scale and centralisation.

Can collaboration and open source information sharing tip the scales the other way ~ towards efficiency through distributed though networked, small-scale production?

Open source ecology are one of the inspiring players in this pursuit. Collaborators in this movement are currently creating a “Global Village Construction Set” which provides blueprints “for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts… that can be made at a fraction of commercial costs”.

The designs are shared online and are free.

Read more:

Hacking ~ an unusual and new rural livelihood



Adrian Wood is based in Armidale these days, though he grew up in Tamworth and has recently returned to Australia from Alaska in the United States partly because he could access the National Broadband Network (NBN) for his business.

His profession is known as a “white-hat hacker”, a computer guru paid by large companies to hack into their network and expose security flaws.

At just 23 years of age, Adrian and his four staff are engaged by the likes of utility companies, banks and e-commerce companies to test  IT security issues from the same point of view as the bad guys ~ though without stealing your data, your credit card details or your personal information.

“It [the NBN] allows me to get some of the automated jobs done that require a lot of Internet speed a lot quicker. They can tie up a PC for an hour or two so you want to reduce the time that computers are tied up,” said Wood. “Per week, the NBN saves me 10 to 15 hours of work versus an ADSL connection.”

Re-post of:

White hat hacker returns to Australia for the NBN | Computerworld

Hacker with a conscience keeps networks secure | Northern Daily Leader