From Byron Bay to Bungendore, Canowindra to Coogee, volunteers descended on the first Primary Ethics conference held at UNSW on Saturday, October 28.
Thanks to donors, the not-for-profit organisation offers free training and curriculum to community members to deliver weekly ethics classes to children at public primary schools across the state.
Ethics classes are held at the same time as scripture and non-scripture, and give children from kindy to Year 6 the opportunity to develop thinking, reasoning and decision-making skills to help them in all aspects of their life.
On Saturday, 350 teachers, coordinators and regional managers gathered to share experiences, network and develop skills in facilitating classes and managing programs that they will take back to the programs which are currently operating in 460 schools across the state and teaching ethics to 36,500 children.
Among those volunteers was Canowindra’s Margie Crowther, who teaches an ethics class and co-ordinates the program at Canowindra Public School.
“Developing an ethics program at your local school is a simple way to make a big difference in your community,” she said.
Ms Crowther works as a farmer in the small town in the Central West, running organic grazing and permaculture businesses.
She also coordinates the local Community Garden.
"The Ethics program definitely helps children (who will soon become adults) develop more practical thinking and discussion skills for our changing world," she said.
"I am here today to meet more people who teach ethics and gain more of an insight to the importance, background and future from the people who develop the program."
Keynote speaker and ethicist Dr Simon Longstaff spoke about the importance of children developing ethical decision-making skills to meet the increasing challenges and pressures that young people face today.
He also noted that school ethics classes "are effectively about justice", as the movement to establish Primary Ethics brought about the change to legislation and department of education policy which previously discriminated against children whose parents had opted them out of scripture.
Primary Ethics curriculum author Dr Sue Knight spoke to delegates about how the curriculum has been structured to support children to think deeply and well about ethical issues.
Master of Ceremonies was journalist and presenter Hugh Riminton, himself a seasoned ethics teacher at his children’s inner city school.
An afternoon session was designed to collate experiences from the different regions and seek input for strategies in overcoming the challenges the program faces due to the current complex enrolment process designed by the department of education, as well as exploring opportunities to broaden the organisation’s scope.
Also in attendance on the day was Darrin Yates, ethics volunteer at Millthorpe Public School, and Sue Moffat, the regional manager for the Central West.
Primary Ethics was established in 2010 and its 2500 current volunteers deliver weekly ethics classes to 36,500 Australian children, making it the largest grassroots ethics education program in the world.