Charity and Justice

“Charity is about giving a hungry person some bread, while justice is about trying to change the system so that nobody has excess bread while some have none;

charity is about treating your neighbours with respect, while justice is about trying to get at the deeper roots of racism;

and charity is about helping specific victims of war, while justice is about trying to change the things in the world that ultimately lead to war.

Charity is appeased when some rich person gives money to the poor while justice asks why one person can be that rich when so many are so poor.”

Fr. Ron Rolheiser




Jazmin. music


Buying Better Stuff- Natural, nourishing makeup

Continuing the theme of environment and body friendly stuff, I decided to look into what I so often slather on my face- makeup!

I have looked around and trialled many, but I want to tell you about one lovely, natural, sustainably made Australian brand; Ere Perez.

From Jojoba oil eyeliners, almond oil mascaras and olive oil lipsticks,  all the products (tried and tested) are amazing-  they help my skin and are super great quality! I’ve tried the delicious vanilla highlighter, rice power bronzer, almond oil eyebrow pencil and chamomile eyeshadow.

I love that they list and explain all the ingredients. The design of their products is handy too- built in sharpeners into the eye pencils, mirrors in the compacts, and all at a very reasonable price.

ere2 ere

Way to go Ere Perez! Give them a try! 🙂






Buying better stuff- NAIL POLISH

While a  friend of mine was pregnant, I discovered that pregnant women should not wear nail polish. I started to research why, and learned that some nail polish has formaldehyde- a chemical I knew because another friend of mine researches and experiments with the stuff in a lab. I knew it as something that is used to preserve dead bodies. My scientist friend tells me the stuff is completely toxic and super dangerous for humans- and it’s  in a whole lot of stuff, we don’t even realise! I researched a little more and found out there are some other really toxic ingredients, some known carcinogens:

Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) Long-term exposure can affect hormone function, liver or kidneys. It can also cause harm to the developing foetus during pregnancy or to the male testes.

Formaldehyde is a gas which is added to water,  that has  been linked to cancer and can also cause watery eyes, headache and laboured breathing when inhaled during use.

Toluene can affect human reproduction and development, skin, liver and kidneys.

Formaldehyde Resin (also known as Tosylamide/Formaldehyde Resin [TSFR]) is manufactured using formaldehyde gas.

Camphor A naturally-occurring substance from the leaves and bark of a plant however, exposure to too much of it can cause nausea and vomiting, seizures and unconsciousness, and is potentially fatal.

Not only are many of these terrible for the environment, they  can seep into our bodies because our nails are porous!

In all this, I found  out about the 3 free and 5 free nail polish movement- formulas that don’t use the top 3 and top 5 standard toxic chemicals. There are also some water based nail polishes, such as HoneyBee Gardens, but you can’t count on them to stay on for longer than a few hours. 

There are lots of brands that do not use the toxic chemicals listed above-  a quick google search will reveal. But not all of these are available in Australia. 

I’ve looked around and this is the best ‘five free’ nail polish I’ve found- Kester Black. The colour range is awesome, it is small batch produced in Australia, and the founders are all for ethical, sustainable products. It is high shine and chip-resistant nail polish- and has  no Toluene, DBP, Formaldehyde, Formeheldyde Resin or Camphor.

Kester Black



Buying better stuff

Northcote street artLately, I’ve been slowly auditing my purchases, trying to find more ethical and environmentally friendly alternatives.

I figure, if there is an option that can

– have a positive impact on people in the production chain and the environment

– support better ways of doing business-

– support changemakers

then I want in!

Slowly, I will be looking at clothes, shoes, cosmetics, food, furniture…just to start!

I have a few things to share already, so here goes!



Global Social Justice Education


Education is undeniably an important tool to shape and empower our citizens. However, education is not value free- We need to teach our kids to care about the state of the world and their relationship and responsibilities in it. In my

view as a teacher, exploring issues of local and global social justice is me doing my bit for the world. I want to impress upon my students, an urgent and non-optional need to be compassionate during their formative years. I want to deliver education at an excellent standard so my students are compassionate AND critical thinkers. Maybe then, they can play their part in the world a little better, leave it enriched and improved rather than destroyed through apathy and a deepened individualistic worldview. This is where Global Social Justice Education fits in. And it fits brilliantly all throughout the school curriculum. Just try it- I found it hard NOT to explore these issues in maths, English, arts and even science!

I am encouraged by the volume and depth of opportunities that the new Australian Geography curriculum offers teachers to explore issues of Global Social Justice.  just to name a few, there are  links to Aid and development, poverty, the Millennium Development Goals, Disability and Development and community development.

Just to put this in your view while you might be thinking about next year, take a look at the F-10 Australian Geography Curriculum here.

There are also some awesome not for profit organisations that provide exceptional and free education resources- videos, lesson plans, fact sheets- year level tailored to help you and your students learn about poverty, climate change, inequality, conflict and peace, aid, sponsorship and more. I’ve made a little list for you to explore below.

Global Education Project

Caritas Australia

World Vision Australia

Center for Global Education

Oxfam Australia resources

Explore these sites for resources and information about this theme in Education that is gaining traction.

To borrow from Catholic Social Teaching principles- a basic measure of how a society is faring, is how they treat its most vulnerable citizens. My most favorite thing about all of these resources, is leading my students to ask the question ‘Why?’. Why has this happened? Who let this horrible burden of poverty exist for so long and for so many people? It’s the best kind of curiosity to nurture. The more we ask why, the most unacceptable and outrageous it becomes, and the more we are moved to work against it. We all soon discover that poverty is complicated, but not impossible to alleviate.

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Vonnegut and what he did for my reading.

At the beginning of this summer, I was introduced to the inventive, magical and striking world created within the stories of Kurt Vonnegut. As a wavering fan of the short story, I approached his collection ‘Look at the Birdie’ with little expectation. Most short stories I have read recently, fall on dark shadowy overly-serious and dry land. Vonnegut had me smiling, laughing and deeply self reflective as I read. I was then ready to devour another one of his collections- Welcome to Monkey House. His stories cause something of an explosion of your imagination in the best possible way. Using futuristic visions of a world horrendously abused, we are invited to question our use of technology- read ‘Adam’ and ‘Welcome to Monkey House’.  Our concept and acquisition of happiness is humorously explored in ‘The Euphio question’. The duality of man is illustrated in a quirky, memorable depiction in ‘Amphibians’. He unearths simple truths in stories of the universal ordinary-ness of our working lives. Each story is expertly crafted and structured with a well timed twist. I haven’t read short stories with such page turning, reflective power for a long time and it has changed my expectations of the short story. Tell me something in a way I have never imagined. Engage my emotion without telling me that is what your are doing- Create a magical world- ordinary or paranormal- that makes me think about my choices.

Vonnegut made reading fun again!

Do yourself a favour and read these extraordinary tales. He mixes sci-fi with social commentary in the most brilliant way. It deepens my respect for authors who are able to so precisely communicate an important social message by illustrating a mystical, hilarious world or a profoundly every-day ordinary moment. Some of his stories are hooked firmly into my imagination and urge me to use it a little more.

It also makes me think of the intense mistake we are making as a society by denying the young writers- synonymous with thinkers, really, any support to work sustainably in their craft. So many literary greats – Tolstoy, Hemingway, Orwell- have held up mirrors to ourselves, commenting powerfully on the human condition and soul of society. Perhaps we don’t fully understand the significance and consequence of creativity in our societies today.

A thought provoking extract  from an interview with Vonnegut:

VONNEGUT: No. That’s romance—that work of that sort damages a writer’s soul. At Iowa, Dick Yates and I used to give a lecture each year on the writer and the free-enterprise system. The students hated it. We would talk about all the hack jobs writers could take in case they found themselves starving to death, or in case they wanted to accumulate enough capital to finance the writing of a book. Since publishers aren’t putting money into first novels anymore, and since the magazines have died, and since television isn’t buying from young freelancers anymore, and since the foundations give grants only to old poops like me, young writers are going to have to support themselves as shameless hacks. Otherwise, we are soon going to find ourselves without a contemporary literature. There is only one genuinely ghastly thing hack jobs do to writers, and that is to waste their precious time.


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No whole class teaching?!


I recently visited a school whose refreshing teaching and learning model left me inspired and curious.

The core of their model is the trending ‘personalised learning’ method and ‘student choice’. All students from grade 2-6 work independently, basically all day, on a Personal Investigation.

Students in term 1, choose their topic- any topic to investigate. At the beginning of each week they are all given a task board, which outlines a task for Maths, Reading, Writing, and Research. Students work independently on their task board all week and have access to computers, library, personal devices, and materials for presentations, model making and artistic expressions of their work. The tasks need to be signed off by a teacher by the end of the week.

There are ‘no’ whole class teaching components or lessons. During work sessions, teachers Rove, taking detailed notes on students, helping with corrections and guidance and sitting with students as they work.

They  run workshops on specific skills which they have identified from testing data. If a student showed a need for assistance in a particular skill from the test, for example, paraphrasing in English, or place value in maths, they will be put in a workshop for the skill, which they will need to attend when it is run. Workshops are scheduled throughout the week, with at least 3 a day.

Each classroom was buzzing with the sound and evidence of students working independently, and well, on their own investigation.

The students were lovely, respectful and I did not once have to struggle to keep anyone’s attention- which is very honestly, in this school and in the area in which it is located, astounding.

Every student I saw- and I saw every year level- was working hard, on task and interested in their work.

The teachers were all true advocates of the model, singing it’s praises in keeping students interested and doing away with the need to battle with short attention spans, and giving them freedom to truly target specific skills in specific students. Students produce what they are capable of, with room for students at both ends of the ability spectrum.

In addition, it is the first time I have seen the open spaces, open classrooms, team teaching situation work so well! The open space felt like it had a true function and the abilities of the teachers could be used more specifically with workshops and the time to rove and see students.

It certainly challenges the role of the teacher and the set up of the classroom and lesson structure that we are so familiar with. But it left me excited to see someone trying something new, with such positive evidence.

I wonder what this could mean for education  if more schools adopted this approach.

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Ineffective Aid ideas


An interesting article from the Matador network (found in title link) ‘7 worst international aid ideas’ , describes and explains some of the worst aid ideas. These include celebrity endorsed free stuff, free stuff in general and donor controlled funds.

It was refreshing to read some honest consideration of attempts to ‘solve poverty’. The critique of ransom style celebrity campaigns using social media is particularly insightful and precise. However,  I wonder whether the responsibility to mend these gaping holes in public understanding lies with non-government organisations. The world of economics and development is deeply knotted, interweaving politics, economics, culture and compounded by history of mistrust and greed.

What hope does an impassioned citizen have to make a meaningful and effective contribution to global issues when the world of non-government organisation is itself complicated and competitive?

I suggest that non-government organisations work to build a bank of accessible resources that are available to the public, to empower them to contribute effectively and choose where to direct their support wisely. Were all resources from the well meaning gathered, and funnelled through an understanding of basic economics in developing countries, we could see a surge of deeply more effective aid. My concern is that the indictment of popular methods such as TOMS shoes without an explanation or alternative leaves the general public paralysed from action in fear of making things worse rather than better.

With the oceans of knowledge held by non-government organisations, perhaps a re-education of our public could start a whole new type of grass roots resistance to oppressive poverty perpetuating structures.

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Attila Ovari

Loving Life and Inspiring Others