On Wednesday evening, we had dinner with Pam Martin and her partner Paul. Pam was the director of Children’s Fund Kirklees, the initial funders of Roots and Wings. They emigrated to Australia a couple of years ago. Pam is now a Programme Manager with Anglicare Victoria and Paul a social worker.  Paul was recruited as part of a drive by the services in Victoria, who employed forty six social workers from the UK.  They are very happy with their new lives, and fascinated by the differences in the work between the two countries. In Australia, they find that the main thrust of work is to help ‘fix’ poor parenting and that children’s rights aren’t the main focus. In the UK, we have Every Child Matters. Introduced by the last Labour government, in the aftermath of the Victoria Climbie case, it underpinned the Children’s Act 2004 and put the child at the centre of services.

During the conference week, fellow presenter Lindy Joubert had suggested that Mike have a phonecall with her Melbourne University colleague Pera Wells from Ormond College. The first question Pera asked of Mike was whether he knew her niece… none other than our own dear Ms Woods. Needless to say, we were amazed.

As Angela wrote: I am completely gobsmacked that of the 210000000 in Australia you managed to be introduced to my aunt.

Mike, Pera and Mary

Thursday morning, we went to Ormond to meet with Lindy and Pera. It rained intermittently and the air was heavy and warm and scented with lavender. Modelled on an Oxford college, Ormond’s dining room was large and filled with hefty refectory tables and carved chairs. Over breakfast, we learned that the University recently redesigned its curriculum and is now operating the Melbourne Model, to encourage more depth and breadth of study. Pera suggested we organize an Arts in Health sideshow for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Perth next year.

We were then given a tour of Ormond and the college next door, Newman. Designed by Walter Burley Griffin, who was a colleague of Frank Lloyd Wright, Newman was built in the early twentieth century. A rotunda houses the arts-and-crafts-gothic dining room, which would be the perfect backdrop for a 1915 children’s fairy tale illustrator.

The Dining Room of Newman College.

Friday morning, and Mike has flown back to the UK.

Pam Martin had Chickenley in mind when she commissioned an art therapist, Kate Perry, to work in three primary schools in the Frankston North area of Melbourne. Pam arranged for Kate to come to the conference when she knew of our visit and now here was a chance to further engage with local schools and officials about the work. So Mary got a train to Frankston to meet with Pam, Kate and the rest of the team. Frankston is an area south of the city, on the coast of the bay. Whilst there are desirable properties on the coast, Frankston North (sometimes known as ‘The Pines’) is an area of multiple deprivation. We went to Monterey secondary School and met with the school nurse, teachers, classroom assistants and two year 10 pupils. Mary gave a short slideshow on transition projects at Chickenley and a conversation ensued about the value of such work in the community.

The upshot is that Frankston North may well have its own transition parade this time next year – everyone was enthusiastic and Kate is already working in the three feeder schools, all of which are in walking distance from the high school. Chickenley’s year 6 will be encouraged to be in touch with their Australian counterparts in the summer, giving them topical tips on event management from the child’s perspective.

It was grand to end the trip on such a practical note. There is real potential to help make a difference here.

Time to get on a delayed plane home… See you all soon!

Fish and Chip shop, Tasmania.


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