Public Education Foundation Scholarship Awards Night

Julie Moon

The annual Public Education Foundation evening is a celebration of the achievements of students from public schools in NSW.

Along with the presentation of scholarships, the evening provides an opportunity for students to display their talents through song, music and dance. The scholarships focus on removing the barriers to achievement created by social and economic disadvantage as well as rewarding excellence.

The keynote speaker at this year’s awards was Professor James Arvanitakis, Head of the Academy at the University of Western Sydney and a member of the Institute for Culture and Society.

Professor Arvanitakis recounted his early days at school and the expectations of his migrant parents. He told of his struggle to succeed in university, and the roadblocks he encountered along the way.

The turning point in his academic career came when, after failing most of the subjects in his first semester, he encountered a lecturer who changed his life by encouraging self-belief. Dr Peter Simmons, a lecturer at University of NSW, so transformed Professor Arvanitakis’s convictions about himself and his abilities that he went on to win the 2012 Prime Minister’s University Teacher of the Year Award.

Professor Arvanitakis said he loved being an educator, recognising that public education has the power to transform lives — to change a person’s world view.

He said the Public Education Foundation recognised how difficult it was for some students to reach their potential and applauded it for making possible the scholarships presented on the night.

The NSW Teachers Federation and Teachers Mutual Bank are major sponsors of the Awards.