One of New England’s own has recently been appointed the new CEO of Life Education NSW … Jonathon Peatfield is a graduate of the Life Education programme himself; he personally experienced the excitement of Healthy Harold visiting his school in Martin’s Gully when he was a child, and he’s looking forward to helping to develop the programme and share it with as many children as possible in is new role.
Hi Jonathon. What’s your background in the New England?
My grandparents lived in Kingstown, outside of Uralla. Mum and Dad moved back to the family farm near Uralla when I was about four or five. I grew up there, went to Martin’s Gully Public School and then went to The Armidale School (TAS) for high school.
My first paid job was cotton chipping in Wee Waa!
I still get back to the area pretty regularly to visit. I spent four months in the first half of this year on the farm helping Dad feed stock because of the drought. I love the area and am keen to move back one day!
What’s your work background? How did you come to be CEO of Life Education NSW?
When I left Armidale, I went to the Australian National University in Canberra and studied commerce and psychology. Straight out of uni, I got a job as a sales rep for a hardware company.
Through that job, I progressed and took on a state manager role in Queensland, then ended up doing national account management for Woolworths. When Woolworths bought into Masters and Home Hardware, the company I was working for were one of their major partners, well; until Masters folded … It was an interesting time, and I learnt a lot.
In 2011, one of my best friends, Sebastian Robertson, started a mental health charity called batyr, because of his own personal journey. It really shocked me that a close friend could go through such a challenge without anyone knowing about it, so I helped him out as a volunteer. The organisation grew to the point where it needed a partnership manager; my background in sales was appealing, so I became the first partnership manager and stayed with the organisation for almost five years. During this time, batyr grew from having six team members to over 60 running programmes across the east coast. A career highlight was bringing the programme to Armidale and facilitating the programme with TAS.
I saw an opportunity pop up to become the CEO of Life Education NSW, and I’d had such an amazing experience with Life Education when I was a kid, I thought it couldn’t hurt to throw my hat in the ring – and here we are! It’s been a tremendous opportunity to take the skills I’ve learnt around partnerships, strategy and innovation from a brand-new start-up like batyr to an organisation like Life Education, with 40 years of history.
It’s been an exciting journey so far; I’m only ten weeks into my new role and looking forward to helping create the strategic direction for the future.
What are your favourite memories from when the Life Education van used to visit your school?
The best part for me growing up in a smaller community was that the visit from Healthy Harold generated so much excitement. There was always such a buzz at school and so much anticipation as you waited for your turn to visit the van. I think this is so important – that children are excited about learning – and this is what Life Education brings to schools.
I remember walking up the steps to the van, seeing the stars on the roof and TAM (Transparent Anatomical Model) – the body which lights up so you could see the nervous and circulatory systems – then the visit from Harold at the end.
Since taking on the role, I have heard so many positive stories and experiences that people have had. I met a young girl recently, who told me that after the Life Education visit, she convinced her dad to stop smoking. How good is that!
How do you feel Life Education has changed since you experienced the programme yourself? Have the topics evolved?
There’s been a lot of development on the programme. We’re always looking at the latest trends, so we’ve included modules on things like bullying, cybersecurity and safety, and respectful relationships.
The TAM that many people may remember is now an augmented reality app, which is incredible! Kids can scan a QR code on a tablet and up pops up a 3D augmented reality version of the body on a screen. They can see the impact stimulants and depressants have on the body, the impact of smoking on the lungs, how the digestive system works (the TAM eats an apple, and you can follow it through the digestive system until it finishes with a fart at the end – kids always LOVE this bit!)
Harold is still the hero, bringing everything together for the kids! The ways in which we can create excitement through innovation, technology and new styles of learning for the kids have developed a lot.
How far does the van travel these days?
We cover every corner of the state; we’ll go to any school that requests us.
It can be quite challenging to take the van into some regional areas and also some inner-city suburbs, so we’ve designed a pop-up classroom where kids can still have the same experience, but everything packs away into a ute at the end.
Across NSW, we deliver programmes to nearly 300,000 students each year. Nationally, we currently reach around 700,000 students a year.
You’ll be visiting Uralla with a new van on November 11 and 12. How much are you looking forward to this?
I can’t wait! I love coming home. We’re launching our revamped mobile learning centre in Uralla. One of our partners, Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, helped refresh our van in the region, which is fantastic.
Final say …
We’re hoping to engage as many Life Education graduates as possible, so if any of your readers or their children have a story to share about their experience with Life Education and Healthy Harold, we’d love to hear from them.
Life Education is a non-profit organisation, so we’re always looking for people to support us in reaching more young Australians. We receive some government funding, but we’re always happy to receive donations from individuals or businesses to support us in regional areas.
For more info about Life Education NSW or to get in touch, please visit: lifeeducation.org.au