values education


Should we change the date of Australia Day?

William Ricketts Sanctuary Photo credit Margaret Hepworth

William Ricketts Sanctuary Photo credit Margaret Hepworth


A question that speaks to the heart of who we are as Australians. A question that is relevant to all nations across the globe.


Are we an inclusive nation?


Many, many years ago as a teenager in secondary school, I learnt in our History class, that the Protestant Irish celebrated a holiday, parading through the streets, on a day that marked an Irish Catholic massacre. Even as a young girl at that time, I could feel the lack of empathy. I wondered why they did this and couldn’t they simply celebrate their special day on another date? There appeared to be a lack of willingness to understand and resolve. The ‘victors’ dancing on a day of sorrow for the ‘other.’


I am a teacher of some 30 years now, having taught English, Humanities and Indigenous Studies throughout that lengthy time. Interestingly, one of the main focuses for our pre-service teachers, i.e. our next generation of teachers in Australia, is to learn to teach the value of inclusivity and to model this through their teaching methodologies.


Inclusivity is highlighted in our National Curriculum as being of primary importance for our young people to grow as healthy, well-adjusted individuals. Then surely we also need to look to celebrating this value as an Australian nation.


I recently went on a tour of so called ‘orphanages’ that held aboriginal children of the Stolen Generations, a period of time that ran (approximately) from 1910-to early 1970s. I am sure I do not need to tell you these children were not orphans. I was horrified by the tour; the horror came from the ‘what was still being said now’. It felt like we were back in the 1930s and that the prevailing attitude of that time was still being carried by this tour guide. I was deeply concerned and I don’t even want to refer to the words she used to describe Aborigines. She also presented some of the stories that were told to Aboriginal children to stop them looking for their mothers as though they were truths.


I want people to know that in certain places in our country, this is how our history is still being told.


I spoke privately with the tour guide afterwards, inviting her to listen to another way that this story could be told; inviting her into a narrative that needs to be shared and deeply understood if real change is to occur. Finally, I added, “You have an amazing opportunity here for real learning, education and for healing to occur, if you can open to a different perspective.”


It is my belief that we have this same opportunity for learning and healing by changing the date of Australia Day.


Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, recently declared that local councils will be forced to hold Australia Day ceremonies on January 26, even if the councillors personally believe this should not be happening.  Many see this as an unusual and authoritarian stance. In my own experience as a teacher of many years, we would be better to apply critical thinking and utilise Collaborative Debating to open up the topic to exploration. In this way, we do not tell people what to think, yet we invite them to think.


Let’s be very clear, Australia Day falls on January 26. This is the day that Captain Arthur Phillip stabbed a flag in the soil of, what they had named, Sydney Cove. If we want to be pedantic, on that day they claimed the colony of New South Wales, and a penal colony at that. Not a nation, not Australia!


There is nothing pedantic in stating and understanding that this was the beginning of a genocide for the peoples of the British Government’s “Terra Nullius.”


If we continue to celebrate on a day that many of the First Peoples and others regard as a day of mourning but as a nation, we can’t see or understand or empathise – then that is an ongoing tragedy. Where is the inclusivity we are teaching, put into practice? It is time to change.

William Ricketts Sanctuary Photo credit Margaret Hepworth

William Ricketts Sanctuary Photo credit Margaret Hepworth


I have been running Collaborative Debating workshops over the past couple of years in schools in Melbourne. This topic: “Should we change the date for Australia Day?” is a popular choice. The responses from secondary students have been nothing short of extraordinary and I wish more adults were in these workshops to hear these young people talk.


I want to be very clear here – I don’t tell these kids what to think. We set up a Collaborative Debate, which has a framework that invites respect, listening and participation from all involved, including the audience. Speakers may even acknowledge that they have changed their mind throughout the debate. They may even apologise to the other side! And halfway through what are always very active, robust debates, we have a mindful moment of stilled silence, allowing new wisdoms and insights to enter the debate. Can you imagine politicians doing this?


Students have told me: “Saying sorry doesn’t mean we are ever going to change.”

What these young people understand is it is all about what the date represents and it will take a change in attitude for real change to occur. For most, they want to see the date changed as a mark of respect and so it allows them to freely celebrate all the wonderful positives about our country, together. Australians all let us rejoice.

“because of the damage it represents that none of us can ignore”

16 year old participant in a school Collaborative Debate


Some students have suggested, “Not changing the date yet changing our attitude.” They say we should keep this date but not to be celebrated, instead to “have it like ANZAC day”, as a commemorative day. Then to have a separate day of celebration, inclusive for all. At one school, after this same decision had been made, one boy put up his hand. He spoke vehemently, from the heart. He said that he could understand a commemorative day, and yet, with what had occurred through our history, the biggest way we could show we were taking action in regards to commemorating, was to change the date, “because of the damage it represents that none of us can ignore.” He received thunderous applause.


In all cases, the final decision from the majority of these secondary students was to change the date of Australia Day.


This year I want to walk the Songlines in Western Australia. I want to learn. One truth that we commonly forget in this country is that the Aborigines actually aided many white ‘settlers’ and early explorers. It is thanks to local tribes, that many of these people survived.


I am hoping they will now include me, teach me, and that in doing so I will not only survive, I will thrive.

Do we need to change the date of Australia Day? 

I believe it is a question that speaks to the hearts and minds not just of our country, but reaches out to hearts and minds across the globe, to any country who claims to value inclusivity, empathy and equality as values that pillar their nation. After centuries of colonisation / invasion, the ‘victors’ across the world are still unable to empathize or listen deeply. Perhaps this shows they are still carrying the hallmarks of colonialism, even whilst proclaiming we have progressed into a 'modern world.'

Inclusivity is a value that could change the world. I believe Australia has an amazing opportunity to be an exemplar to other nations with similar histories who continue to undermine their First Peoples or other marginalized groups.

I am not telling you what to think. Yet I am inviting you to think.


Margaret Hepworth

Founder The Gandhi Experiment

William Ricketts Sanctuary Photo credit Margaret Hepworth

William Ricketts Sanctuary Photo credit Margaret Hepworth

Speaker / Author / Educator Margaret Hepworth is an expert in teenage motivations & behaviours; a thought leader in peace education; the founder of The Gandhi Experiment;  an English and Humanities teacher of 30 years; author of The Gandhi Experiment – teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens; recipient of the 2016 Sir John Monash Award for Inspirational Women's Leadership; creator of Collaborative Debating ©.  

The Gandhi Experiment - Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens Purchase here

Maragret is the ‘go to’ for Collaborative Debating. For workshops you can contact her on


Students workshop the topic prior to the Collaborative Debate

Students workshop the topic prior to the Collaborative Debate

Last Friday, I was very excited to be back at Preshil, running a Collaborative Debate with all their Yr 10s. Having studied ethical questions around the Fourth Industrial Revolution - digital revolution - social credit, advanced surveillance technology, facial recognition and more, the topic of our Collaborative Debate was ‘That we need more surveillance strategies.’ Oh yes, it was challenging!

I was impressed at how quickly these Yr 10s learnt to shift to this new framework of collaborative conversation, not trying to point score or denigrate, but to open the topic up to further examination. 

In Collaborative Debating we learn that we may need to pose new questions - create a question chain that will then take us closer to the answers we are seeking. One such question raised by one of the Preshil Yr 10s in relation to new surveillance strategies was ‘What are the outcomes we would be seeking?’ It helped to clarify the purpose and intent of our debate. 

And as much as we were talking about 'screens' here we were fully engaged in face-to-face conversations, in deep learning. Love it!


Sello Hatang, CEO Nelson Mandela Foundation, speaks at the opening of Mandela, My Life exhibition, Melbourne Museum.

Sello Hatang, CEO Nelson Mandela Foundation, speaks at the opening of Mandela, My Life exhibition, Melbourne Museum.

“Mandela did not carry bitterness.”


There were many ‘aha’ moments listening to Sello Hatang, the quietly measured, impressive speaker - CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation - at the opening of the Mandela, My Life exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. I had the privilege to meet and hear Sello speak again, the very next day, to a more intimate audience at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission where I was working with the Mandela 365 organisation, the Commission and 20 young African Ambassadors seeking to become advocates for their communities.


Sello’s ‘ahas’ were coming thick and fast: stories of Mandela – his ability to remain humble in the face of potentially usurping adoration; his willingness to travel the journey that we should all be travelling; and that Mandela saw hope as a gift.

Sello Hatang2.jpg


God knows how he held on to that hope, spending 27 long years in jail.


Yet this is the ‘aha’ that resonated with me that day and left me wanting to unpack it – to discover its secrets for education: “Mandela did not carry bitterness.”


In my leadership workshops with community groups, I call on Mandela as a role model. Only two weeks earlier, with this very same group, I had placed the name ‘Mandela’ on the whiteboard, circled it, and invited the group to explore the values that this man exhibited. They swiftly came up with a weighty list: courage, inclusiveness, empathy, the ability to self-reflect, forgiveness, tenacity – that ability to persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. And more.


Then came the real challenge: ‘You see, any one of us knows how to answer this question – to throw a list of impressive qualities up there that reflect really great leadership. Any one of our current world leaders could do this. Yet, the real questions are these – ‘Do I carry these qualities? Have I really learned how to be humble? To genuinely feel equal – with everyone? To treat everyone with respect? How am I going to learn to do these things? How am I going to work on not only my capacity to ‘get the job done’, but also on my character?’

Mandela Sess2 4.jpg


But one of Sello’s observations had not been on our list. ‘Mandela did not carry bitterness.’


I guess you could argue that this is another way of saying Mandela had the ability to forgive. Not just say it; really do it. Forgive. Yet, for me, this statement was beginning to reveal to us clues we all need if we want to build a more forgiving world. Not carrying bitterness is one of the keys to learning how to forgive. It is the what comes before forgiveness. And forgiveness is paramount in a world that needs healing.


‘Mandela did not carry bitterness.’ Let’s unpack this a little. You will note the statement does not say Mandela never got angry; Mandela never got bitter / upset / frustrated. What it says is that he did not maintain it.


Was this innate for Mandela? Was he born like this? I am not sure and certainly he may have been somewhat wired that way. However, his early years and actions with the ANC would suggest otherwise. Or was it a learnt trait? And if so, if he could do this, then surely so can we all.


Thank you Sello Hatang for your insights into an incredible man. He told that small, attentive group, ‘We must find the Mandela within ourselves. We must be the legacy.’


What is the relevance of this to today’s world. Imagine the inter-generational / inter-racial / inter-communal / inter-cultural hatred that could literally be halted in its tracks, right here, right now, if we were all better able to not carry bitterness.

The CEO of the Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang, has put it out there. Yet the mantle has passed to us. How do we teach ourselves and our young people not to carry bitterness?



I, for one, am going to keep exploring this. I believe it already exists in the lessons of my forum activity, The Best Forgiveness Role Play Ever, yet I will seek to emphasise it, draw out the learning so that we may all benefit. And I will keep you posted as to new ideas and tools that will come. And of course, the outcomes!


Cheery blessings to all,



Margaret Hepworth is the founder of The Gandhi Experiment. She travels widely, running forums in teaching non-violence as a conscious choice.

‘The Best Forgiveness Role Play Ever’ can be found in Margaret’s new book: The Gandhi Experiment - Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens Available at all amazon stores and bookstores worldwide

‘Fortitude’ - a compelling short story on Mandela, courage and expansive thought, can be found at

TGE Cover.jpg



Many years ago, my family were touring the US, when we entered a solemn doorway, the entrance to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Housed above us was the very Hotel room and balcony where Martin Luther King Jnr had been assassinated fifty years ago - April 4, 1968.

As we paused at the ticket booth, my young daughter, only 7 years old at the the time, looked up at the tall custodian, his welcoming hand holding our tickets. She asked, ‘Did Martin Luther King achieve his dream?’

As her parents, we were astounded. She really had been listening to our stories of the Dreamer and The Dream, the man with a vision as enormous as this country we were travelling across! She really was taking in the significance of the place we were about to enter! And...was it ok to ask him that?

The tall custodian stood back. Then he laughed, loud and heartily. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Look at us now! Just look at us now!’ But suddenly the laughter halted. He looked into her deeply. His voice quietened. ‘We still have a long way to go. But look at us now.’

On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, we would do well to pause, take stock and reflect. Years on -  why, oh why do we still have a long way to go? Why haven’t we got it right by now? Surely, oh surely, it just can’t be that difficult. Yet here we still are, in a world that needs to learn a better way.

There are choices people make in times of conflict and post conflict. To implement violence is a choice. Revenge is a choice. Yet those people who have held to the mission of non-violence, even through extreme circumstances, are those who have become the most respected; held within people’s hearts, globally. As we all well know, Martin Luther King was one such person.

The alternative choice, of non-violence, is often the less easy path. Yet to choose non-violence creates transformational change – both within and without. The conscious choice of non-violence reaches out to the hearts, minds and souls of others. This is the bolder choice.

Martin Luther King led a battle ‘fought not with guns and violence, but with ideas and beliefs.’ (Colin Powell). Millions fought alongside him.

Choosing violence is sure to bring change. Dead people, wounded people. Perhaps a change of leadership. People seeking revenge. None of this is transformational. It speaks to the ordinary, to the base, to reacting not responding. Of unconsciousness, not consciousness.

What we are seeking now is the extraordinary.

So we ask ourselves, how did he do it?

On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, let us remember his fight against poverty, against racism, against war, against a lack of freedom in all its forms. Let us remember his fight for equality. Now let each one of us fulfil his legacy.

Mira, a young Palestinian-Australian student in one of my Global Citizenship forums sent me an email. She wrote of a renewed attitude, an alternative to revenge: ‘If I did the same, I am no better than them, whether I have a right to revenge or not...My new (almost) Impossible thought is peace for my people and forgiveness to the people who hurt us, because I know not all of them wanted to.  I want peace and rights to my people and my family and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis...I have yet to forgive them, but I have no interest in revenge anymore, but instead to work towards forgiveness, but most of all, peace.

Change begins with me. Change begins with us. Mira, at 16 years old, is living the legacy of Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King’s dream was a dream for all humanity. Thinking back on our visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, and on my young daughter’s innocent enquiry, I am reminded of what Martin Luther King's god-daughter tells us:

‘You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream.’


Thank you Martin Luther King for your courage, your honesty, your tenacity and your highly respectable leadership. And for your encouragement of us all. 

Margaret Hepworth



Part One:

Are Gandhi's teachings still relevant in today's world?

William Ricketts Sanctuary Vic - Photo taken by Margaret Hepworth

William Ricketts Sanctuary Vic - Photo taken by Margaret Hepworth

‘Too many people are experimenting with war and violence. We need more people experimenting with peace and non-violence.’ This clear thought came to me when visiting Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram (memorial) a few years ago. Gandhi had a workable methodology for countering violence with non-violence. Today, we need to teach solution focused activities for positive change. So now I experiment with lessons in peace-building – through The Gandhi Experiment.

In my student workshop, Global Citizenship – it starts with us! I ask my teenage participants, ‘What are our current big global issues?’ It doesn’t matter which country I am in, Australia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia – or wherever these participants are from – Kashmir, Timor Leste, Vietnam, Malaysia, Afghanistan -  they name the same things: war and conflict; poverty; domestic violence; asylum seekers and displaced peoples; global warming; greed; over-competitiveness; terrorism; inequality; corruption; discrimination – religious, gender-based, Islamophobia. On occasion they even name a world leader as a global issue!

Every item in their list is a form of violence – violence to others and violence to our planet. And then comes the realization – at a deep and intrinsic level, these all pertain to violence to ourselves.

At The Gandhi Experiment, we don’t study Gandhi, the man himself, per se. What we do examine is the essence of his messages. To keep it simple, easily learnt and applied, I teach our teenagers what I call the ‘three plus one model’. Essentially, Gandhi stood on three platforms:

1.   In conflict situations, always choose non-violence as a conscious choice.

2.     ‘Satyagraha’, Gandhi’s word for your 'truth-force' or 'soul-force.' Yet when ‘my truth’ does not match ‘your truth’, we always revert to the first platform, to choose a non-violent method to sort out our differences.

3.     The third one is oh-so-relevant to us all today. Gandhi would sit and pray each morning and night. Thoughts would come in; insights and wisdoms that paved the way forward. Then, Gandhi would get off his backside and take action. There it is, the third platform - action. How often do we sit around the dinner table, whinging and whining, blaming the rest of the word for all its problems? Yet we fail to take the actions required to meet real change head on.

And the ‘Plus one’? The over-arching theme that encompasses all three of the ‘platforms’ is to profoundly understand that ‘Change begins with me.’

Gandhi is often quoted as having said the famous line, ‘Be the change you want to see in this world.’ Now a little digging research will tell you, he didn’t say exactly that. To paraphrase, what he did say was, ‘If you can change yourself, the world around you will change.’

Sit for a moment and breath that thought in to your being. If, in mid-screaming match with your teenager or in a heated dispute with a co-worker - what is the change that you can make to effect the change you want to see in this world? If you can change your own behavior, then the world around you will change as well.

What is the change that you can make to effect the change you want to see in this world?

It doesn’t mean giving in, or giving up. But it does mean giving – respect, understanding and listening – even at your most troublesome times. And sometimes it means giving all of these things to yourself – respect, understanding and deep listening.

I apply the learning through Gandhian philosophy, making it relevant to today’s context. Here are just a few examples:

1.     ‘Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong’ underpins The Best Forgiveness Role Play Ever.

2.     ‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed’ underpins the Dinner Party to Save the World.

3.     Respect at all times – even for your enemy. ‘It’s always been a mystery to me how people can respect themselves when they humiliate other humans’ underpins Collaborative Debating. I once had a young man, 15 years old, who said to me, ‘We should ask your enemy, what is your truth?’ A young Gandhi in the making.

4.     ‘The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear,’ underpins a break-out workshop I run with adults: ‘Why should you never use fear to control a classroom? Why should you never use fear to control your home? Why should you never use fear to control a country?’

And so, so much more.

I often ask myself, why is it that our kids seem to know more about Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein than they do about Mohandas Gandhi? Why aren’t we taking the lessons of Gandhi, Mandela and King and using them more effectively in our classrooms? Let’s don’t study them as people of history; let’s study them as lessons for the present. It’s time for us to put these lessons into action.

Peace building is an attribute of the strong.

Will you whisper peace with me?




Photo permission granted

Photo permission granted

When I wrote 'The Gandhi Experiment - Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens', the readers I had in mind were parents and teachers. I never expected to be contacted by two 12 year olds telling me, 'We are reading your book' and 'we are up to “The Best Forgiveness Role-Play Ever”, we really, really loved the thinking shown by the Babemba Tribe that you talked about in your book and we would like to show our class an example of this.' 

Kids teaching kids - it doesn't get better than this!

'The Gandhi Experiment' was given to Loren, and read with her, by her mum, who intentionally seeks ways to teach peace-building strategies in their home. Mum wrote to me too, 'She is very inspired by the work you have been doing, as am I. Both my daughters feel really empowered that they can now make a difference in the world.'

Loren's teacher then fully supported her and her friend in using 'The Gandhi Experiment - Teaching our teenagers how to become global citizens' as part of their research on their project on Conflict Resolution. These two young people contacted me over Skype and asked a series of questions about conflict negotiation. I was so impressed with the maturity of their questioning and their thinking. And more-so that they were pursuing conflict resolution as something they felt they and their peers needed to learn more about to enhance their own lives. 

Amazing teamwork - parent/teacher/student all working together - to achieve valuable life-skills. 

Blessings to you all. This article comes with Loren's mum's blessings too. She is a proactive parent who believes that teaching her children life-skills, such as conflict negotiation, will auger well for their futures. 

#TheGandhiExperiment #PeerLearning #PeaceEducation #ValuesEducation 

Available worldwide at any good bookstore

Available worldwide at any good bookstore