People of Sudan: Photo Journal


These photos are the property of the author and cannot be reproduced without permission.


Walk Around a Country! DIIAD 2014

For DIIAD 2014, I’m going to walk around an ENTIRE country in a school dress!

Admittedly, it’s a pretty small country. It’s called Nauru and it lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I work there as a teacher.

Why am I doing this? So that girls in African can put on their own school dress and get the education they need.

For a while now, I have worked and volunteered for various NGOs and aid programs, because that it what I am passionate about. I am particularly devoted to the cause of universal education, particularly for girls. This is because, throughout the developing world, a large majority of the children who do not go to school are female.

At the moment, there are 60 million girls around the globe who are not in a classroom where they belong.

So I’m going to go against my normal inclinations, step outside my comfort zone, and fundraise for the amazing people at One Girl Org.

They work to provide education scholarships for girls in Sierra Leone, Africa. Right now, they need our help.

So I’m going to walk around a country in a dress. If you live in Nauru, like I do, you’re welcome to join me at the end of August (date forthcoming). If not, please donate some of your hard-earnt to this worthy cause. Even $5 would be greatly appreciated!

Please take a moment to visit my fundraising page:

Find out more information about One Girl at the following apps and sites –
Instagram: @onegirlorg @missmannell
Twitter: @onegirlorg @missmannell
Facebook: and
Website: and
Hashtags: #onegirl #onegirlorg #doitinadress #girleffect #sierraleone

Thank you,

One Girl at a Time

I recently travelled to Sydney to become an Ambassador for One Girl. It was an amazing day. I spent eight hours in the company of seventeen inspiring people who have volunteered to become Ambassadors for 2014. Together we met the wonderful Chantelle Baxter, a One Girl co-founder, and Lauren Markwell, who works for the organisation as the delightfully named ‘Chief Love Officer’. They asked us what we were passionate about, what scared us, what was awesome in our lives, and why we were there. We were told about the history of One Girl and how we can contribute to their cause.

One Girl is a non-profit organisation based in Melbourne whose core aim is to educate one million girls across Africa by 2020. Their mission statement asserts, “Every girl on this planet has the right to an education. No matter where she is born, how much her family earns, what religion she adheres to, or what her culture says – every girl deserves an opportunity to learn, grow and be the best she can be.” Part of how they will achieve this is by recruiting ‘Ambassadors’ from around Australia to help them to raise funds and engage the public.

There was much to admire in One Girl’s mission statement. It is a unique and fresh take on the usual modus operandi of humanitarian NGOs. One Girl assures openness and honesty, particularly if they make a mistake, and promise, “if something’s not working, we change it.” I also love: “We never use guilt to sell. Change through shame is not possible. Change happens through creativity, inspiration, joy and possibility.” This is a stark difference to the way charities operating in Africa have traditionally raised money. Throughout the day, I came to see that One Girl is an honourable organisation, dedicated to a simple cause: the academic future of Sierra Leone’s girls.

By now you might be wondering: why focus only on educating girls?

If you are female and you are born in Africa, your options are fewer and your chances of survival are lower. You are more likely to experience violence and you are less likely to get an education. It is not that we do not want boys to get the opportunity to go to school, but that we want girls to have that opportunity as well. Right now, there are 66 million girls out of school, and many more who struggle just to turn up each day. However, it is becoming more and more important to humanitarian experts. This is because educating a girl is one of the highest return investments available in the developing world. It just makes sense, no matter how you measure it.

But I already knew all that! I wanted to know why One Girl had decided to focus on Sierra Leone in particular, an African country I did not know much about before attending the workday. The organisation began with a chance encounter with a young girl called Brenda while Chantelle was travelling in Sierra Leone with fellow One Girl founder, David Dixon. Brenda knocked on their door hoping to get $40, enough money to be able to pay her school fees. It was a fortune for Brenda and her grandmother, but an easy enough amount for two Australians. They realised that they could help more girls like Brenda. Sierra Leone is still rebuilding after a vicious civil war that started in 1991 and lasted for more than a decade. It is beleaguered by poverty and unemployment in extremes unimaginable in Australia.

One Girl has a number of programs currently operating in Sierra Leone. Their flagship is the scholarship program that funds girls to attend school until they graduate. They plan to add another 100 girls this year. The School Awesomisation Project began when One Girl realised that there was no point getting girls to schools without safe classrooms or toilet facilities. It makes schools safe for all students throughout Sierra Leone. Poor menstrual health and hygiene is a major problem throughout the developing world, and often prevents girls from attending school. As a result, One Girl started LaunchPad, which provides clean and biodegradable pads to women across Sierra Leone and functions as a profitable small business for many women. Lastly, the Business Brains program teaches young women to run their own small businesses. It is important because most students will not be able to get a job after school due to unemployment and a lack of opportunities, so they need to be able to earn their own money and manage their own finances.

Of course, all of these wonderful programs require funding from the people of Australia. And that’s where I come in.

The ‘Do It In A Dress’ campaign is a major part of the role of a One Girl Ambassador. In it, we work to raise cash for and public awareness about One Girl by getting a team together to do something crazy or unusual in a school dress. One Girl has the goal of getting 1500 people to participate in ‘Do It In A Dress’ in 2014. I was – and remain – pretty nervous about this aspect of being an Ambassador. I feel confident talking about causes that I am passionate about and sharing ideas those online. But, fundraising?! That is decidedly not my thing. I am painfully aware of how necessary it is, but I have always avoided it. Now I am volunteering to fundraise in the most ostentatious way!

I was even worried that I wouldn’t be able to think of a good idea. Thankfully, I have! I’ll post about it once all of the details are ironed out.


Find out more information about One Girl at the following apps and sites –
Instagram: @onegirlorg @missmannell
Twitter: @onegirlorg @missmannell
Facebook: and
Website: and
Hashtags: #onegirl #onegirlorg #doitinadress #girleffect #sierraleone




Combating Homophobia in My Classroom: Part 3

Homosexuality is generally accepted in Australia, but when the education of young people is included in the discussion, the waters get a little murky. It seems that most Australians are comfortable with LGBT people until these issues enter their living room, or their child’s classroom. Beyond religious differences, concerns seem to lie in the line between school and family responsibility, and in how and to what degree sexual orientation should be discussed at school.

I’ve put a lot of thought into what I could do as a teaching professional to overcome this issue. I wanted to design a strategy that both complements the above theories and fits within the context of my professional experiences. I have done a lot of teaching in my hometown, Bundaberg, at both private and public high schools. Unfortunately, my hometown is not the most open-minded place in Queensland. LGBT youth who grow up and attend school in rural and regional areas may “face added pressures due to increased levels of homophobia and reduced access to LGBT information and resources” (Mitchell, p. 33). Over and over again, I noticed silence, and I saw young men constantly, desperately reinforcing their heterosexuality. They should not feel the need to do this, and I wanted to be able to give all students a chance to talk about gender, power, and sexual orientation in a safe and supportive environment.

Inspired by that experience, I have loosely planned a unit that I can use in-class in a Bundaberg high school. It fits into the ‘curriculum content’ bracket without being sex education. I got the idea from an article by Cathy Hickey called “Gay Students: Writing Themselves In”. In it a young homosexual student, Steve, talks about what schools and teachers could do to make the lives of gay and bisexual students easier. He suggests studying texts that include LGBT characters and themes (Hickey, p. 25). I am an English teacher, so I went in search of texts that I could explore with my students. I found some amazing novels that would be very appropriate, and I have listed some of them here:

Dare Truth or Promise by Paula Boock

Two Weeks with the Queen by Morris Gleitzman

Deliver Us From Evie by M. E. Kerr

Boy Meets Boy by D. Levithan

Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

Will by M, Boyd

Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence (advanced English)

All of these include homosexual issues and/or characters. For example, Truth Dare or Promise is about the experience of two lesbian girls who fall in love at high school. It is appropriate for grade 10s to 12s. There are themes of religious guilt, family backlash, cultural and class differences, and bullying, all connected to the gay relationship at the core of the novel. Every student can benefit from reading a text like this, whether or not they are struggling with the possibility of being same-sex attracted. Around this novel we could explore LGBT issues and have extended in-depth discussions about gender, power, and sexual orientation in Australia. I believe that there is no better way of helping students appreciate the importance of social justice, diversity, and acceptance than reading stories like this one. It enables them to stand in another person’s shoes and walk around in them for a while. This kind of study really helps with all of the “isms” – sexism, racism, and it will also help with heterosexism. Just as To Kill a Mockingbird allows English teachers to explore racism, novels like Truth Dare or Promise can do the same thing for homophobia. As an English teacher I am well situated to promote positive discussion about social justice issues.

The beauty of this strategy is that it does not require any funding or special training. Through their usual English class students would be exposed to new ways of understanding sexual orientation without feeling awkward. Beyond that, the support of the whole school, particularly the administrative staff, is absolutely necessary when tackling this issue with a class. I would need the support of my HoD to explore this topic, and, more broadly, fellow teachers would need to commit to shutting down homophobic comments like “that’s so gay” alongside me. In other words, the more teachers who included anti-homophobic rhetoric in their discussions of social justice issues, like racism, the better.

For the initial unit with my English class, it would only take a few weeks of actual class time to explore this issue. However, research emphasised the need to constantly and consistently manage LGBT issues and to remain alert to homophobic comments and attitudes in our students and colleagues. Vigilance is required all year long. One cannot just expound on the necessity of open-mindedness and justice for LGBT people for three weeks in-class, and then ignore homophobic behaviour for the rest of the year. Success could be evaluated in-class, in the change in rhetoric and comments, as students came to grips with the themes of the novel. It can also be assessed via a well-designed assignment and in class discussions.

I would love to receive feedback on this simple idea. Please email me at



Hillier, L., & Harrison, L. (2004). Homophobia and the Production of Shame: Young people and same sex attraction. Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention, and Care, 6(1), 79-94.

Hiller, L, & Mitchell, A. (2008). ‘It was as useful as a chocolate kettle’: Sex education in the lives of same-sex-attracted young people in Australia. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society, and Learning, 8(2), 211-224.

Hunter, L. (2006). Curriculum, Schooling, Research, Young People and Sexualities in Australia. Redress,15(2), 5-9. Retrieved from;dn=155571;res=AEIP

Kendall, C., & Sidebottom, N. (2004). Homophobic Bullying in Schools: Is there a duty of care? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Law and Education, 9(1), 71-93.

Nilan, P., Julian, R., & Germov, J. (2007). Australian Youth: Social and Cultural Issues. Sydney: Pearson.

Ollis, D., Mitchell, A., Watson, J., Hillier, L., & Walsh, J. (2007). Safety in Our Schools: Responding to homophobia. Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS). Bundoora: La Trobe University. Retrieved from

Robinson, K. H., & Ferfolia, T. (2003). Anti-homophobia Education in Teacher Education: Perspectives from teacher educators in NSW, Australia. Educational research, risks and dilemmas : NZARE/AARE Conference 2003 29 November – 3 December 2003, Auckland New Zealand. Auckland, NZ: New Zealand Association for Research in Education.

Sengstock, B. (2004). Appreciating Diversity: Confronting homophobia at school. Principal Matters, 61, 42-44.

Sengstock, B. (2006). Respecting Sexual Diversity at School. Principal Matters, 67, 9-10. Retrieved from;dn=151814;res=AEIPT

Tait, C., McMahon, B., & Montgomery, K. (2004). Sticks and Stones: Queers sexualities at schools. Teacher Learning Network, 11(1), 18-19.

Witthaus, D. (2006). Beyond ‘that’s so gay’. Redress, 15(2), 24-28. Retrieved from;dn=155574;res=AEIPT


Welcome to Kendari!

I live in the small, fast growing city of Kendari on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. It has become the focus of various international development NGOs and government aid programs. The area has experienced rapid growth in the past five years due to mining and tourism interests. Nevertheless, there are still very few foreign visitors to Kendari. We receive a lot of attention whenever we leave the house, but this is largely genuine curiosity from the friendly local people.

Indonesia is a beautiful country whose people are warmhearted, kind and generous. I am here as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development. It’s not quite as dazzling as it sounds, but I was very lucky to get this opportunity.

My job is part of a broader aim to strengthen education in Indonesia. I am working as an English teacher trainer at a primary school in the middle of Kendari. A large part of my daily routine is observing lessons and providing feedback, as well as demonstrating various ways of effectively teaching and managing behaviour.

I also work to improve the vocabulary and grammar of the English teachers. This learning process is definitely a two-way street, as my Indonesian still needs a great deal of improvement!

IMG_2682 IMG_2707


The Act of Killing

Did you know that a million people were slaughtered by genocide in Indonesia less than fifty years ago?

I didn’t think so.

Until I watched Joshua Oppenheimer’s film, The Act of Killing, I didn’t know either.

Throughout the second half of the last century, America and the rest of the Western world were obsessed with the idea of the “domino” effect of the spread of communism throughout the world. We all know about the war in Vietnam and why it began. At least a million Vietnamese people died in that war. Just as many Indonesians were victims of the wave of anti-communist fervour in the Southeast Asia, and no one talks about it.

Credits go

There is a reason you are not aware of this horrifying historical event. This is because most Indonesians don’t know about it either. Stories about this time have been wiped from Indonesia’s consciousness, and the world’s, in perhaps the best example of the old adage that history is written by the victors. Suharto replaced Sukarno, then carried out and successfully erased all evidence of a genocide that was sanctioned by the United States. So who were its targets?


Like the witch-hunts of medieval times, almost anybody could be labeled a communist. As the opening of the film explains, it was really enemies of the ruling military dictatorship who were the victims of this genocide: union members, intellectuals, ethnic Chinese. In the end, over one million so-called communists were dead. ‘Communist’ became a watchword for any minority or any individual not in favour with the government.

Don’t watch this if you want to know all of the historical facts, because aside from the bare basics, you’re not going to get them. This film does not really go into these details. In what is perhaps the most chilling documentary ever made, Oppenheimer does not just interview the killers, the men responsible for the genocide. He asks them to act it out. And they do it with relish, with pride, and with joy.

“We were allowed to do it. And the proof is, we murdered people and were never punished. The people we killed—there’s nothing to be done about it. They have to accept it. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better, but it works. I’ve never felt guilty, never been depressed, never had nightmares.”

Adi Zulkadry speaks these words while he and his attractive family wander a bright shopping mall, pausing to look at expensive watches and coats.

Anwar Congo, who along with Zulkadry is the main focus of Oppenheimer’s documentary, is always conscious of the camera. He poses. During the genocide, Congo played at being an American gangster, like the ones he saw in films as an adolescent. He took that role to its absolute end. Decades later he reenacts it for Oppenheimer and, at first, has a marvelous time.

Anwar Congo reenacts murder.

At the end of this process, Congo sits down to watch what has been filmed for The Act of Killing. At first, he is pleased. “This is great, Joshua,” he says with glee, but he becomes more reflective as the film continues. Congo asks Oppenheimer if his torture victims would have felt as he did when he played at being a torture victim. Oppenheimer says, that, well, they would have felt worse, because they knew they were going to die, when you knew you were just pretending. This lesson in empathy appears to shock Congo. He wonders out loud, “did I sin?” The Act of Killing ends with Congo diminished and dry retching, a far cry from the man we first met.

And it seems real.

Review: “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs

You must read Jeffrey Sachs’ work if you are interested in international development, world economics and aid work. His considerable knowledge and insight make it one of the most important texts in this field, and it is downright impossible to enter into any conversation about these issues unless you have an understanding of his general argument. Sachs lays out a carefully researched plan to defeat poverty by 2025 in The End of Poverty, arguably his most famous book.

By the ‘end of poverty’, Sachs is referring to both ending the plight of one-sixth of humanity who are in what he calls ‘extreme poverty’ and to ensuring that all of the world’s poor are given the chance to climb the ladder of development. Essentially, he wants more money from the rich and from the rich countries they live in, but not, as many commentators have asserted, in direct cash injections or following the existing development status quo. In a neat metaphor, Sachs advocates for working with developing countries to build basic infrastructure and human capital so that they are able to reach the first wrung on the ladder of economic success. At the moment, many countries are so poor, sick, and uneducated that they are unable to get to that ladder alone: “rich countries do not have to invest enough in the poorest countries to make them rich; they need to invest enough so that these countries can get their foot on the ladder”. Sachs’ argument is compelling, but what makes it unique is the wealth of information that he has marshaled to persuade his reader.

As the book continues it becomes clear that this is a man who knows what he is talking about. Sachs has advised an impressive list of world leaders on economic and development matters over the course of his career, making him one of the most famous economists in the world. Many of the chapters in The End of Poverty are dedicated to the specific lessons he learned in some of those countries—China, Bolivia, Poland, India, Africa, Russia—and how this has helped him to develop his new take on economics. Taking cues from his doctor wife, he outlines a new method for development economics that he calls ‘clinical economics’. Sachs argues that development economics need an overhaul in order to be much more like modern medicine, a profession of rigour, insight, and practicality.

Sachs then rightly situates the fight to end global poverty alongside mammoth historical struggles against slavery, apartheid, segregation and colonialism. He believes that ending the extreme misery of poverty is the moral imperative of our age. However, if that is not enough for you, Sachs also makes a compelling argument linking national security with foreign aid. He opposes excessive military spending because he thinks national security is more effectively guaranteed by cutting down global poverty. He concludes that “the more one looks at it, the more one sees that the question isn’t whether the rich can afford to help the poor, but whether they can afford not to.”

The End of Poverty is an impressive work and the rational side of my brain is impressed. I think my emotional reaction to this book would be similar had I not read it ten years after its first publication. It is an inspiring and worthwhile read; but a decade later, with its advice largely ignored, it now feels somewhat disheartening. Sachs wrote The End of Poverty when there was still hope that the Millennium Development Goals might be reached. It is hard to continue to have faith in that dream in 2014, or to believe that his advice will be implemented in time for 2025. Read the book anyway.


End of Poverty Cover

Combating Homophobia in My Classroom: Part 2

As with all major social justice issues, homophobia must be dealt with on several levels. I have created this graph to clearly display how the experts believe a school needs to be functioning in order to manage this social justice issue.


First, it must be addressed in curriculum content. We must, for example, focus on both homosexual and heterosexual safe-sex information during sexual education. At the moment, individual schools make “decisions within broad curriculum frameworks about what will specifically be taught and, at this level, debate continues about what will be acceptable to parents. These decisions generally favour the teaching of reproductive sex and safe sex based on penis–vagina sex” (Hillier, p. 213). We need to integrate information about same sex relationships into class content about sex and relationships. LGBT youth have a much higher incidence of STD infection, and this is because they do not receive anywhere near the same amount of information about safe sex practices as their heterosexual peers. LGBT youth currently find “sex education to be useless because it is not inclusive” and decided “that there is a need for sex education in schools to be inclusive of the sexuality of all students, not just those who are attracted to the opposite sex” (Hillier, p. 211).

Homophobia and heterosexism must also be addressed in the culture of a school, via a whole-school approach. The whole-school approach “requires action beyond the implementation of the formal curriculum. It means ensuring that policy, guidelines, procedures and practices reinforce the message that students learn through curriculum content” (Ollis, p. 5). So, what students learn in classes, like sex education, must in turn be reflected in the culture of their school. For this to succeed, the whole school—every teacher, every student—needs to accept that 10% of the people in their midst are struggling with these issues. This is an important psychological starting point. Now, most schools have over the last few years already put considerable effort into developing whole-school approaches for curbing bullying, but “homophobic abuse generally remains outside these efforts” (Mitchell, p. 33). Researchers argue that schools can use the frameworks that they already have in place to deal with bullying and extend them to include homophobia. Further suggestions that researchers had for a whole school approach included providing “a safe place where LGBT youth can get together to be free of harassment, . . . specific information that they might need to stay safe and healthy, and training for staff” on how to deal with LGBT issues (Mitchell, p. 34). However, the whole school approach will not work if it is not genuinely and authentically implemented, and if you are not able to get the trust of the young people in your school who are desperate for help but unconvinced that it is on offer.

This is where individual professionals become involved. For example, researchers agreed that school staff needs to commit to challenging homophobic language (including “that’s so gay”) every time they hear it, so that closeted students will know that they have allies, and that they are not alone. If teachers do not model appropriate behaviour, then all of the curriculum content and the safe spaces and the speeches in the world will not change the attitudes of their students.

There needs to be a combination of LGBT friendly curriculum content, school culture, and teaching staff to counter hegemonic masculinity and to break the silence that currently dominates Australian schools. Only with open dialogue can we challenge the discourse of heterosexism that now holds sway over the minds of so many of our school students. In Part Three, I will outline a unit that I have created to teach students about LGBT issues in a safe and respectful classroom environment.