Message from Life Ed Queensland CEO Michael Fawsitt
The latest report of the Chief Health Officer, reveals Queenslanders continue to quit smoking, but vaping has emerged as a serious new lifestyle-related public health threat. In Queensland, 14.5 per cent of adults aged 18 to 29 currently vape, with trend data indicating overall e-cigarette use has jumped 40 per cent between 2018 and 2022.
While health experts are still gauging the long-term health effects of heated vape fluid, they’re already warning that many vapes contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals that can permanently scar lungs, cause breathing difficulties in the short term and cancer in the long term.
We know that people who use e-cigarettes are three times more likely to smoke cigarettes. That’s a dire potential outcome when you consider that two in three people who smoke throughout their lifetime will die from their habit.
Life Ed Queensland is in the process of surveying parents, teachers and students as part of a submission to the Queensland Government’s parliamentary inquiry into vaping.
Tobacco and nicotine education has always been a key part of the Life Ed program. As the largest non-government provider of health education to Queensland children, we’re now focused on getting the message about the harms of vaping to as many Queensland young people as we can. A new vaping module is also in the works to further strengthen Life Ed’s tobacco education program.
It’s going to take a concerted effort on the part of government, schools, parents, NGOs, and the wider community to tackle the vaping problem.
We need to act fast, for the sake of this generation of young people, and generations to come.
Not even the biggest floods in the region in a decade could prevent our annual trip to Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire in Far North West Queensland to deliver vital health education to children at a time of great need.
Our educators travelled to the remote community to present the program to 187 students from pre-prep to Year 10.
The Doomadgee community is predominantly made up of Gangalidda, Garrawa and Waanyi first peoples of Australia and the Doomadgee State School community has warmly embraced our program for several years.
With record flood waters at the time of our visit limiting supplies and access to the town, the school community was thrilled Life Ed was able to reach them.
Life Ed Queensland CEO Michael Fawsitt said remote visits to schools such as Doomadgee wouldn’t be possible without funding support from Queensland Health and the generosity of thousands of Queensland donors.
“Our Kids Protect Team supporters and our partnership with the Queensland government have enabled us to educate children in some of Queensland’s most remote communities, where the need is immense and our work is truly life changing,” Mr Fawsitt said.
“Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire is a staggering 2,200 kilometres from the Life Ed Queensland head office in Broadbeach. Yet, delivering health education to these communities is fundamental to our mission and vision.”
Doomadgee State School teachers say the annual visits over the past five years have instilled vital learning which has a significant impact on community health and safety.
“Life Ed is a great opportunity to reinforce lessons learned in their health class and extend upon that learning so that students gain new knowledge and new strategies.”
“There’s always a lot of excitement when we take the program to Doomadgee, but this visit especially, provided a welcome diversion from the frustration of flood isolation,” said Sue Osmond, head of Life Ed Queensland program delivery.
Primary school students loved the new module, The Inside Story, which helps children uncover what the body needs to be healthy. High school students received drug and alcohol education to help keep them safe from harm.
“Our focus was on empowering the students with knowledge about what the body needs to be healthy – water, nutrients, oxygen – but also looking at how alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs can affect the lungs, heart and other organs,” Sue said.
“It was so encouraging to see that the children had retained important health and safety messages from previous visits and were keen to engage in new learning.”
Moving into a brand-new home is always exciting, especially when you’ve waited 35 years for the new digs!
In February, we officially launched our renovated Broadbeach head office – headquarters for Life Ed Queensland’s statewide program delivery.
Thanks to the vision of Gold Coast City Council, the old brown brick centre that was our charity’s hub for decades has been transformed into a sleek architect-designed fit for purpose building that heralds a new chapter in our work with Queensland children.
Along with meeting hubs and spacious offices, the new centre, part of the Broadbeach Community Space, boasts a high-tech sound and video studio which means Life Ed program educators can deliver virtual lessons into regional and remote parts of Queensland.
The Hon. Rob Borbidge AO, our charity co-patron, was MC of the launch event which began with a moving Welcome to Country performance by Kombumerri man Lann Levinge and dancer Bianca Hayes.
Guests heard stories about the incredible national impact of the Life Ed program over more than 40 years. Healthy Harold fever took hold when our iconic ambassador made a special finale appearance and showed off his dance moves.
The office relaunch also marked a special milestone for Jack Ray, who is Life Ed Queensland board deputy chair. Jack’s father, the late Brian Ray, founded the original Life Education Centre in 1987 along with fellow Gold Coast business leader Ron McMaster, the duo able to fund the building construction with support from the local business community.
“My parents strongly believed in the positive impact that Life Education has on children’s lives, so it’s a proud moment that we are now celebrating this new chapter for Life Ed Queensland,” Mr Ray said.
“I’ve always believed in the power of the Life Ed program with its focus on preventative education and teaching kids about drugs, alcohol, smoking and vaping, but I’m so excited to see how the organisation has evolved to deal with the issues schools and young people are dealing with today.”
Thanks to Life Ed Australia Board chair Sue O’Malley and national CEO Russell D’Costa for joining the celebration, and Life Ed Queensland CEO Michael Fawsitt, Queensland board members, staff, school partners, supporters and media.
Harold and the whole Life Ed Queensland team couldn’t be happier with our new home base.
Like thousands of parents, Katie has vivid memories of her childhood Life Education experience. The 35-year-old mother of two from West Moreton says participating in the program as a youngster was life-changing and she’s grateful her son Jacob is now receiving vital social and emotional education as part of his own Life Ed journey.
When Katie’s son Jacob attended Life Ed recently with his Year 4 class, he found it enlightening to learn about consent, which is a growing focus of the Life Ed program.
“We’ve had domestic violence in previous family relationships, and so he has been aware of things that have not involved consent or been appropriate,” Katie says.
“I think it’s important to have that message taught in an environment where he is safe and to understand what he has seen in the past wasn’t consent and it’s not okay.
“I wish no child had to experience violence, but to have that message being backed up and taught to the kids is really important.
“Having an organisation such as Life Education coming into schools and being able to teach those messages, plus the resources that you provide for parents as well, it’s really important to know that that’s there.”
Katie says the Life Ed program was a fixture of her primary school education.
“The Life Ed program was life changing for me,” Katie says.
But today’s kids are facing different challenges – cyberbullying, bullying, vaping and anxiety to name a few – and they need new skills to manage a changing world.
In fact, more than 1000 parents of primary school children who responded to our parent survey last term shared their top three concerns for their children – bullying and cyberbullying, mental wellbeing and resilience, and cybersafety.
“Safe relationships, cyberbullying and consent – these are all important issues. It was very different when we were growing up,” Katie says.
Katie is reassured to know that the Life Ed program is supporting her son Jacob, as it did when she was a child.
Our Life Ed Podcast is all about supporting parents and teachers with expert advice on key topics. In our latest podcast, Let’s talk about consent, we spoke to author and physician Dr Melissa Kang, a puberty and relationships educator to find out what consent is, what it means for younger children and how to approach the conversation.
Although we often think of consent in terms of intimate sexual relationships, consent can apply to other situations as well, and is an important concept for children to learn about from an early age. Understanding consent can lead to better relationships with family, friends, peers and eventually, romantic partners.
In simple terms, consent is permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something involving your body. Even common everyday situations such as getting a haircut, visiting the doctor or allowing a coach to place their hands on your body to demonstrate technique, require consent. Respect and honest communication underpin the consent conversation.
Author of Welcome to Consent and practising physician Dr Melissa Kang says the conversation begins with giving children an understanding of their personal space and boundaries, as well as helping them to understand and identify the boundaries of others.
Consent education is also about helping children to recognise when a situation doesn’t feel comfortable. It also helps young people to understand that their bodies are their own and they have the right to make decisions about their body.
This might include situations like letting your child decide if they would like to hug or kiss a family member rather than forcing the interaction, or for older children, not entering their bedroom without knocking first.
So don’t put the consent talk in the too-hard basket any longer. Consent is an important conversation to have with young people, and when it’s all unpacked, it’s not as complicated as you might think.
To find out more in our Let’s talk about consent podcast, head to our Life Ed podcast website.