How Australian schools develop presentation skills

Ever wondered how Aussie kids seem able to stand up in speak in front of their classmates or peers without showing too many nerves? The answer may lie in Australia’s education system, which puts a focus on verbal as well as written communication skills.

Public speaking starts early in Australian schools, with even kindergarten kids expected to gain competency in speaking, listening and other communication skills.

“Being able to communicate is fundamental to children’s everyday lives, including their ability to express their ideas and feelings, to question, to learn, to connect and interact with others,” the Queensland Curriculum & Assessment Authority (QCAA) states.

The QCAA points to the benefits of a child being able to use oral language effectively, including an enhanced sense of self, improved relationships with others, an ability to learn in the classroom and academic success.

Techniques used by teachers to foster oral language skills include reading and telling stories to children; poetry; questioning; learning discussions; and using technologies such as apps.

This is based on research showing the language quantity (eg. number of words) and quality (eg. sentence complexity) that young children hear are the foundation of later language and literacy skills.

Communication skills are further developed in primary and high school, including the study of foreign languages such as Japanese, French or German. Certain schools in Queensland such as Wellers Hill State School in Brisbane even offer a full language immersion program in Japanese.

Students also are exposed to public speaking through debating and other competitions. As noted by Brisbane State High School, “Debating fosters self-confidence and requires participants to listen to others and to comprehend the validity of others’ points of view.”

While these are competitive events, the Brisbane school notes the importance of “students learn to work together as a team, speak before an audience, articulate their case, listen to, comprehend, analyse and refute the opposing case and at the end, shake hands with the opposition.”

Australian schools also use oral and visual presentations as part of the assessment process, including the use of technology such as PowerPoint, podcast or vodcast presentations. Students are required to present their ideas verbally to their teacher and classmates and are evaluated on their performance.

Asking questions of the teacher is encouraged and debating with other students is not uncommon in an Australian classroom. While students are expected to raise their hands and seek permission to speak, these discussions can become quite animated compared to a traditional Japanese classroom.


Japanese experience

The Australian classroom’s focus on communication differs from the traditional Japanese classroom, where students may feel inhibited from speaking.

Leicester University’s Jim King argues the “wall of science” in Japanese classrooms is due to a range of factors, including psychology, culture and teaching methods.

In a study of English language classes in Japan, King found many students had a “neurotic dread” that their English was insufficient and felt they would “lose face” among friends if they tried to speak it.

“Many Japanese learners are socialised into being aware of people around them and are taught to consider other people. This causes people to monitor themselves,” King said.

Many teachers also gave students little opportunity to practice English among themselves.

However, others argue that Japanese junior and senior high school students are reluctant to appear too proficient at English due to peer pressure.

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a familiar saying in Japan, with students feeling under pressure not to stand out by speaking too much or too well.


Developing better skills

How can your child break away from the competition and get better presentation skills?

Having strong speaking skills is an important asset for future career success, such as succeeding at a job interview or presenting to potential clients.

“Things are changing in our educational paradigm where it’s not just about going to school and getting a job,” says Sarah L. Cook, co-author of The Parents’ Guide to Raising CEO Kids.

“Kids need to have some entrepreneurial skills to even land a job. They need to be able to engage with people confidently. Public speaking allows them to show that confidence.”

Parents can help foster their kids’ speaking skills through various techniques, such as encouraging “show and tell” at home, practising using technology such as mobile phone cameras or participating in activities such as drama or debating.

However, there is nothing like exposing your child to a different environment, such as an English-speaking country like Australia, to give them a head start in their English listening and speaking skills.

At Hello Kids, show and tell is a common practice at our learning centres, together with encouraging kids to speak in front of others.

Talk to Hello Kids about how we can assist you and your child on their English journey, with the skills learned while young likely to become extremely valuable later in their career! (HelloKids Admin)



Immigrating to Australia

Australia’s clean environment, unique nature and multicultural population together with its healthy economy have made it a popular choice for immigrants. For those considering a move, here are some steps to take before starting the journey, including a brief history of migration ‘Down Under.’


A migrant nation

Australia has a history of immigration, from the ‘First Settlers’ who arrived from Britain in the 18th century, to the post-war European migrants, Vietnamese in the 1970s and newer arrivals from China, India and elsewhere.

When European settlement began in 1788, Australia’s population was estimated at around 400,000. The first migrants comprised convicts transported from Britain and Ireland, with around 80,000 arriving in Sydney through to 1840.

‘Free’ settlers soon followed, but the discovery of gold in the 1850s spurred a bigger wave of migrants. Some 600,000 arrived during this decade, including from Britain and Ireland but also Europe, China, the United States and nearby New Zealand and South Pacific.

By the time of Federation in 1901, Australia’s population was close to 4 million, of whom around one in four was born overseas. While most were of British or Irish heritage, there were also a large number of Europeans, particularly Germans, together with Chinese.

However with Federation came a change of policy, with Australia focusing on British and Irish migrants and effectively excluding immigrants from Asia or elsewhere.

Yet after World War II, the Australian government adopted a new policy: “populate or perish”. Immigrants, particularly British, were actively sought to boost the population, yet a large number also arrived from war-torn Europe, including Italians, Germans, Greeks and Poles.

Australia gradually eased its immigration policy, however it was not until 1973 when the ‘White Australia’ policy ended and all migrants were afforded equal treatment.

Following the Vietnam War, a large number of immigrants arrived from Vietnam and Cambodia, later being joined by others from East Timor, China and the Middle East.

British immigrants, previously the largest group, dropped to second behind New Zealand before being overtaken by China, with new arrivals coming from India as well as refugees from Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since 1945, when Australia’s immigration department was established, some 7.5 million people have settled in Australia. This has helped boost the population to more than 25 million and make Australia a multicultural society.

The 2016 census showed nearly half of all Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was, with more than one in five Australians speaking a language other than English at home. The most common countries of birth after Australia were England (5 per cent of the population), New Zealand (2.5 per cent), China (2.3 per cent) and India (2.1 per cent).

The latest census also recorded 42,421 Japanese living in Australia, up nearly 20 per cent from the 2011 census. New South Wales state had the largest population of Japanese with some 14,000, followed by Queensland’s 12,400, Victoria’s 8,500 and around 4,200 in Western Australia.

In fiscal 2020, there were more than 7.6 million migrants living in Australia, with nearly 30 per cent of the population born overseas, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The same year saw net overseas migration to Australia of 194,400 people.

However, with Australia’s borders largely closed currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of new immigrants is expected to significantly decrease until borders reopen.


Migrating to Australia

Migrating to another country is a big step to make. Fortunately though, the Australian and state governments together with various non-profit organisations provide a range of assistance to migrants, making the transition easier.

The Victorian government recommends a number of steps before making the move:

  • Step 1: Research your employment options – the Victorian government provides information to make finding a job easier; there are also various employment sites, the largest being
  • Step 2: Plan your move with a pre-departure checklist – this includes finding a place to live, developing a budget and potentially using a registered migration agent to ease the process
  • Step 3: Apply for a visa – a range of visas are available, including business and investor visas, skilled migration visas, studying and training visas, family and partner visas and others. Three common ways of becoming a permanent resident include through a family-stream, work-stream or business/investor-stream permanent visa.

The Australian government’s “Beginning a Life in Australia” booklet provides helpful settlement information for newly arrived migrants and is available in 39 different languages, including Japanese.

The Queensland Government also provides a range of information, including Australian wages and conditions, public holidays and recognition of overseas qualifications.

Remember that moving overseas can be challenging, but it can also offer new opportunities and experiences that you likely would never encounter at home.

And if you need further assistance, don’t forget to talk to Hello Kids about how we can make your journey to Australia easier!


Lifestyle lessons from Australia (and Japan)

Australia has outperformed at the Tokyo Olympics, beating far larger nations to win gold medals in swimming, sailing and other events. Are there tips for Japan and other countries in Australia’s healthy, sports-loving lifestyle, which stresses work-life balance?

The Tokyo Olympics have highlighted nations’ sporting performance, with Japan and Australia among the best-performing nations in the medal tally. While Japan delivered its best result ever with 27 gold medals, Australia equalled its previous best haul with 17 gold medals, dominated by its female swimmers.

Australia’s sixth-placed finish in the medals tally is especially admirable considering its small population of around 25 million, compared to Japan’s 126 million and the even larger populations of second-ranked China (1.4 billion) and top-ranking United States (328 million).

With the world still struggling to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, what lessons can be learned from Australia’s sporting prowess?


Healthy lifestyle

The Queensland Government provides a guide to healthier and happier lifestyles via its website, with a range of materials on fitness, food and families.

Among its tips for getting started are:

  • Make a plan – it offers a weekly meal and exercise planner
  • Add fruit and vegetables to your day – these reduce risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes
  • Less sitting, more moving – physical activity not only burns excess kilojoules but also reduces stress, protects against ailments and helps sleep
  • Choose healthier options when eating out
  • Cut back on sugary drinks and replace them with water or unsweetened tea.

The guide suggests getting 30 minutes of exercise daily. For the time-poor, this can be achieved through incidental exercise such as taking the staircase instead of the elevator, or walking or cycling to work instead of driving or using public transport.

The Australian Government’s Department of Health also provides physical activity and exercise guidelines for a range of age groups.

For adults aged 18 to 64 years, physical activity is recommended for most days, with a weekly total of at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous activity, together with strength exercises twice a week. It also recommends sedentary time be minimised and broken up to prevent long periods of sitting.

A 2012 report for the department noted a proven relationship between physical activity and reduced risk of mortality, with a significant risk reduction shown for those physically active. For example, around a quarter of all cancer is attributed to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.


Woman feet standing on Weight Scale on wooden background

Obesity rising

Yet despite the guidelines and proven evidence concerning the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, Australians are struggling to live up to their sporty image.

In fiscal 2018, an estimated two in three of all Australians aged 18 and over were overweight or obese, particularly men, with obesity more common in older age groups.

“Overweight and obesity increases the likelihood of developing many chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, back problems, chronic kidney disease, dementia, diabetes, and some cancers…It is also associated with a higher death rate when looking at all causes of death,” the report noted.

The OECD’s “Obesity Update 2017” found the United States had the highest obesity rate, with 40 percent of its adult population aged 15 years and over considered obese. This compared to Australia’s 27.9 percent.

Japan had an obesity rate of just 4.2 percent, making it the best performing in the OECD. This reflects data showing Japanese typically consume fewer calories than Westerners, helped by healthy traditional diets, as well as high levels of incidental exercise such as walking and cycling.

Japan also enjoys world-beating life expectancy levels, with an average life expectancy for men of 81.6 years and women of 87.7 years. Japanese women have the world’s highest life expectancy, with the men second only to Switzerland.

Australia’s life expectancy is also high, with a boy born in 2017-19 likely to reach the age of 80.9 years and 85 years for a girl.


Work-life balance

Finding a suitable balance between work and daily living is “a challenge that all workers face,” according to the OECD.

“Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardise safety and increase stress,” the report notes. More time spent working means less time for other activities such as personal care or leisure, diminishing overall quality of life.

In Australia, 13 percent of employees work “very long hours,” above the OECD average of 11 percent, the report said. Full-time workers devote 60 percent of their day on average to personal care and leisure, below the average of 15 hours.

In Japan however, 17.9 percent of employees reported working very long hours, with less time than the OECD average spent on personal care and leisure.

“Parents in Japan find it difficult to combine work and family commitments. Workplace practices, private costs (housing and juku), and social norms put pressure on young people,” the OECD states.

The organisation suggests better access to childcare and improved workplace practices would enhance Japan’s work-life balance, with indications that COVID-19 restrictions are forcing changes such as teleworking on companies.

Are there lessons from the data? The evidence suggests Australians could learn from Japan on diet and incidental exercise, while Japan could improve its corporate culture to facilitate a better work-life balance.

And if you are looking for a taste of Australian lifestyles, contact Hello Kids to see what opportunities are available once COVID travel restrictions are eased.



COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage globally, including in Australia. But with vaccines now being rolled out, there is hope of normal life eventually resuming, including international travel.

Australia might not have been as badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic as other nations, but it has lagged Western countries in terms of the vaccine rollout.

As of June 5, around 5 million vaccine doses had been administered nationwide, with around 20 per cent of the adult population having received their first dose.

However, at the current rate of vaccination it would take another year for the entire nation to be inoculated, compared to the government’s original target of October 2021.

This compared to the United States, where 63 per cent of adults had had at least one dose as of June 5 and Britain, where the figure was 75 per cent. In Japan though, only 9 per cent had received at least one dose, according to Reuters data.

Fortunately, Australia had only 137 active COVID-19 cases as at June 5 and a total of 910 deaths, reflecting the impact of government measures including the closure of international borders as well as state lockdowns.

The Australian government has declared that “everyone in Australia will be offered a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” with the Pfizer vaccine prioritised for those aged under 50 years and the AstraZeneca vaccine for those older.

The difference in vaccines followed the establishment of a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare but serious side effect, which has caused blood clots at a rate of around four to six people in every million vaccinations. The Australian government notes that “this rate is lower than the natural background occurrence of a blood clot in people who have not received the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

In a bid to speed the vaccination program, the Australian government appointed a senior military figure, Lieutenant General John Frewen, as head of a COVID-19 vaccination taskforce.

The government also announced it was planning a domestic vaccine certification program, to potentially facilitate travel exemptions for interstate travel during state lockdowns, for those already vaccinated.


Borders closed

However, with Australia’s borders closed, international travel remains off the agenda for now.

“If you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident, you can’t leave Australia unless you get an exemption to travel or you’re travelling to a destination that’s exempt from the ban. Foreign citizens are able to depart Australia at any time,” the government’s “Smart Traveller” website states.

The only destination currently exempt from the travel ban is New Zealand.

Foreign visitors are also largely barred from entering Australia too. As of June 5, Australia’s borders remained closed to overseas visitors, with only citizens and permanent residents allowed back into the country, together with some exemptions.

Those travelling to Australia, such as from Japan, must be tested for COVID-19 72 hours or less prior to flight departure and display evidence of a negative test result at check-in.

People arriving in Australia are required to quarantine for 14 days, typically in designated quarantine hotels, together with having to comply with other state and territory travel restrictions. Such quarantine can cost up to A$3,000 per adult, depending on the location.

For Japan, Australia’s government was recommending “do not travel” as at June 6, “due to the health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant disruptions to global travel.”

The website noted that Japan had extended a state of emergency until June 20 in a number of prefectures including Tokyo.

For Australians seeking to travel to Japan, the Japanese government announced effective March 19 that a negative COVID-19 test result was required, with the test having to be conducted within 72 hours prior to departure.

Visitors entering Japan were also asked to refrain from using public transport for 14 days, quarantine at home or other designated area and provide necessary location data as required.


2022 travel?

While Australians can currently enjoy quarantine-free travel to New Zealand, there is hope of access opening up to other countries including Japan from 2022.

On May 9, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said international travel could return in 2022. He said, “We’re hoping, we’re counting, we’re banking on, of course, international travel being back to some sort of pre-COVID normality next year.”

However, the latest federal government report suggested international travel would not resume until mid-2022 at the earliest, with a quarantine program remaining in place for overseas visitors.

The Australian government has however flagged the possibility of “travel bubbles” being formed with other countries, such as Pacific Island nations, depending on the status of their COVID-19 infections.

Singapore, Japan and South Korea have been named as among the next potential destinations for quarantine-free travel.

Yet with the vaccine rollout globally still far from complete, it appears a quick return to normal international travel is unlikely, particularly with newer and more deadly variants of COVID-19 now appearing.

For Australia-Japan travel, it appears the earliest date for quarantine-free travel could be mid-to-late 2022, likely requiring such travellers to be fully vaccinated first.


Australia’s postwar history: Did you know?

Australia has grown up a lot since the end of the Second World War. Here’s a look at some key historical turning points from the 1950s to the modern day, to inform your next visit ‘Down Under.’


1950s: Suburban dream

The 1950s saw an economic boom in Australia of full employment and low inflation. New suburbs were developed with detached houses on large blocks near the city as Australians enjoyed the “suburban dream.”

Australia’s population swelled to 10 million on the back of postwar European immigration, including from Greece, Italy, Holland and Germany, as well as its traditional source, Britain.

Liberal Party leader Robert Menzies regained office in 1949 and ruled through to 1966, becoming Australia’s longest serving prime minister.

Major events of the decade included the British royal tour of 1954 and the arrival of television in 1956, also the year of Melbourne’s Summer Olympics. The decade was mostly peaceful too, despite Australia’s involvement in the Korean War (1950-1953) and the ongoing threat of the Cold War.

Australia-Japan ties enjoyed a renaissance, with the signing of the Australia-Japan commerce agreement in 1957 spurring a wave of bilateral trade and investment. 


1960s: Protests and prosperity

The 1960s marked a turning point with the children of the postwar era coming of age and exerting their influence. Large-scale public protests were held against conscription and the Vietnam War, together with campaigns for women’s equality and the rights of Indigenous Australians.

Culturally, Elvis Presley and the Beatles ruled the airwaves, with an estimated 300,000 people welcoming the British band to Adelaide.

In 1966, Australia welcomed then U.S. President Lyndon Johnston, the first visit by a U.S. president. Menzies’ successor, Harold Holt welcomed the U.S. leader with the slogan, “All the way with LBJ.”

Economically, the decade also saw the start of a mining boom, with increased exports of minerals such as iron ore fuelling Japan’s industrialisation.


1970s: It’s time

The 1970s was a period of great change for Australia, marked by the 1972 election of the left-wing Labor party led by Gough Whitlam. Campaigning under the slogan “It’s time,” Labor enacted a raft of reforms, including ending the ‘White Australia’ immigration policy, withdrawing Australian troops from Vietnam and enacting free university education and national healthcare.

The end of the restrictive immigration policy opened the door to a wave of Vietnamese refugees and other immigrants, marking the beginning of a multicultural Australia.

Economically, in 1973 an oil price shock caused by OPEC disrupted the global and Australian economy, leading to sharply higher inflation and rising unemployment. 

In 1975, amid political turmoil, the Whitlam government was dismissed by the governor-general, John Kerr, under the authority of Britain’s Queen. Whitlam was replaced by Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser, who ruled until 1983.


1980s: Greed is good

The 1980s saw an economic revolution characterised by the ‘greed is good’ ethos of the 1987 U.S. movie, Wall Street. Young, upwardly mobile professionals known as “yuppies” were seen enjoying the fruits of prosperity with their imported cars and smart suits.

Unfortunately, the stock market crashed on October 19, 1987, a day known as ‘Black Monday’ for its global impacts. Australia plunged into recession, with Labor treasurer Paul Keating describing it as the recession Australia “had to have.”

Culturally, “Advance Australia Fair” became Australia’s official national anthem in 1984, replacing the British anthem, with green and gold becoming Australia’s colours.

Labor’s Bob Hawke ruled as leader from 1983 to 1991, gaining a record high approval rating of 75% in 1984 and enacting a range of deregulatory reforms. Hawke also famously celebrated Australia winning the America’s Cup yacht race in 1983, declaring that “any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up [to work] today is a bum.”

The fall of the Berlin wall in November 1989 also marked a new era, with the end of the Cold War heralding a new phase in global relations.


1990s: Recession and recovery

Japan’s ‘bubble economy’ crashed in 1990 and Australia also experienced a downturn at the start of the 1990s. Unemployment reached a record high 11.4% in 1992, with airline and bank failures hitting the business sector hard.

Socially, increased immigration resulted in nearly one in four Australians being born overseas, representing some 100 countries. The 1990s also saw the arrival of the internet and mobile phones, heralding a new era of communications.

Politically, Paul Keating ended Bob Hawke’s reign in a successful leadership challenge in 1991. However, after 13 years in office, Labor suffered a landslide defeat to the conservative Liberal-National coalition in 1996, led by John Howard, who ruled until 2007.

Overseas, Australian military forces supported the U.S.-led Iraq War in 1990. Closer to home, Australian troops led a U.N. peacekeeping force into East Timor in 1999. 


2000s: Celebrations and terror

The new decade began with a celebration for the new millennium, with Sydney hosting the Summer Olympics in 2000 and the centenary of Australia’s federation being marked on January 1, 2001. Economically, the growth of the internet led to a “dot-com boom” on the stock market which saw massive gains for internet-based companies.

However, terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center in September 2001 signalled the start of the global “war on terror” with Australia contributing troops to U.S.-led campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ordinary Australians also felt the effects of the war, with Islamic extremists bombing a bar in Bali, Indonesia, killing 88 Australian tourists.

In 2008, the global financial crisis (GFC) plunged the world into recession. However, the ‘Lucky Country’ managed to avoid a significant downturn, thanks to government spending and a mining boom driven by China’s rapid industrialisation.

Politically, Australia saw change again with John Howard’s long-serving government losing office in the 2007 election to Labor, led by Kevin Rudd. Rudd’s changes included ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and an apology to Indigenous Australians for the “Stolen Generations.”


2010s: Political topsy-turvy

Australia sailed into the new decade on the back of a seemingly unending boom, with the nation continuing to enjoy economic growth despite the GFC.

Yet while the economy remained stable, politically the decade was marked by a revolving door of leaders knifed by their own parliamentary colleagues. Kevin Rudd was the first to go, falling prey to his Labor party rival Julia Gillard in 2010 before snatching back the top job in 2013. 

Liberal leader Tony Abbott then trumped Rudd at the 2013 general election, before he felt the pain of a political backstabbing just two years later from his colleague Malcolm Turnbull. 

Turnbull however suffered the same misfortune, being overthrown by Scott Morrison in 2019. It all seemed very different to Japan’s period of leadership stability under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Natural disasters hit hard however, starting with the Brisbane floods in 2011 and followed by the bushfire disasters of 2020, known as “Black Summer” for burning some 1.8 million hectares and killing an estimated billion animals.

In 2020, Australia was hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic, with the nation quickly shutting its borders to non-residents. The success of such measures has been shown by its limited toll from the virus, with 909 deaths reported as of March 31, 2021 among a population of more than 25 million.

As of April 2021, vaccines were slowly being distributed nationwide, with hopes of international travel resuming later that year or in 2022.


Did you know?

  • In 1957, Australia became the first nation to sign a trade pact with Japan since the end of World War II.
  • Bob Hawke, one of Australia’s most popular leaders, famously held the world record for drinking a yard glass of beer in under 12 seconds during his time at Britain’s Oxford University
  • Rosemary Follett was the first woman to lead an Australian government when she became chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory in 1989; Julia Gillard became the first female prime minister in 2010
  • The first Japanese settlers arrived in Australia in the late 1800s, working in the pearling industry.




Australian family life during COVID-19

Kids in Japan, Australia and around the world have been forced to stay home from school with travel also restricted due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has placed stress on many families, but there are ways parents can help manage it and alleviate fear among children.

Australian family life in 2020 since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has been far from normal. Schools were shut for a number of weeks and travel both overseas and within Australia has been severely restricted.

Grandparents have been unable to see their grandkids, while kids have missed out playing with their friends at school. Sporting activities have been suspended, cinemas closed and restaurants and shops shuttered.

While the restrictions have been gradually eased, with schools largely reopened in June, fears of a second wave have prevented a complete return to “normal” life.

For example, Queensland state, where Hello Kids operates, has declared its borders will reopen on July 10, but visitors from the southern state of Victoria still face restrictions even after this date.

Australians are also prohibited from travelling overseas unless granted an exemption, while the nation’s borders are closed to overseas visitors, except for citizens, permanent residents or their families.

While wearing a face mask has become part of daily life in Japan, in Australia it is still only voluntary. However, citizens have been asked to maintain “social distancing” by keeping 1.5 metres away from others, washing hands regularly and getting tested if any symptoms occur.

Fortunately, Australia has had a small number of COVID-19 cases compared to many countries. As of June 30, the Department of Health had reported a total of 7,834 cases, with 104 deaths, largely of elderly people aged 70 and above.

However, while Australia’s situation may have stabilised, fears remain and children are susceptible to anxiety over the constant bad news in the media.


Talking to kids

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state children may worry about themselves, their family and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Parents and other trusted adults can help children make sense of the situation and reduce their anxiety through a number of methods:

* Stay calm – try and remain calm when talking to your children, since they will react to both what you say and how you say it.

* Reassure children they are safe – let them know it is okay if they feel upset or stressed.

* Make yourself available to listen and talk to your children.

* Avoid language that might blame others and cause stigma.

* Pay attention to what children see and hear on television, radio or online. Too much information on COVID-19 can lead to anxiety.

* Provide information that is truthful and appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level. Some information on the internet and social media may be inaccurate, so make sure they get the right information.

* Teach children daily actions to reduce the spread of germs, such as washing their hands frequently and avoiding people who are coughing or sneezing. Make sure they cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow.

* Discuss the situation at school and actions being taken to protect children and staff.

The Australian Red Cross also has a number of tips for parents on how to explain COVID-19 to children, such as describing what germs are, how they spread and how to prevent it spreading further.

When self-isolating, the charitable organisation suggests parents give kids “a sense of being in control” such as by getting them involved in family plans, checking in on friends and relatives via telephone or video calls and undertaking community volunteering activities, such as delivering food parcels to neighbours.

A helpful resource for parents is the charity’s “kids activity kit” which gives kids at home some engaging activities while parents are busy working. The charity also has advice on helping kids learning at home, as well as tips on staying physically active.

One benefit of the enforced lockdown from COVID-19 is many families have been brought together closer than ever before. With the kids baking in the kitchen and parents working remotely via computer, family life has taken a different but enjoyable turn.

Will life ever return to its pre-pandemic state again? Only time will tell, but in the meantime Australians – and citizens worldwide – anxiously await a return to normal activities such as eating out, shopping and travelling without the fear of COVID-19.

(HelloKids –  Yuta)






Brisbane for kids!

Brisbane is one of Australia’s most liveable and family-friendly cities yet it is often overlooked by tourists. Here’s a list of some of the Queensland capital’s top attractions, most of which are accessible for free.


South Bank Parklands

South Bank is Brisbane’s cultural centre but it also features an aquatic park perfect for those hot Brisbane summer days, along with other attractions.

Covering 17 hectares, the Parklands provide free facilities including riverside pools, walking tracks and children’s playgrounds. There are always plenty of activities going on too, from outdoor cinema to children’s workshops, fun runs, food and wine festivals and more.

Offering 360-degree views of the city, the Wheel of Brisbane in the heart of South Bank is another great way to keep the kids entertained, riding in fully enclosed, air-conditioned gondolas.

If you need somewhere to eat, neighbouring Little Stanley Street has more than 30 cafes, bars and restaurants offering a range of styles including Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Vietnamese, while the adjacent Grey Street hosts South Bank Cineplex, which features the latest movies at family-friendly prices.


South Bank Cultural Precinct

Queensland’s arts capital, the South Bank Cultural Precinct has something for everyone.

Check out the latest exhibits at the Queensland Museum and gets the kids’ brains engaged at its Sciencentre. Learn about Queensland’s history at the State Library of Queensland or indulge your children’s artistic sensibilities at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.

Alternatively, check out the latest musical, concert or other top-rated show at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), which hosts everything from The Wiggles to the Paris Opera Ballet.

And if that isn’t enough, the nearby Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre hosts a range of events throughout the year, from the Lifeline Bookfest to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and more.


Mt Coot-tha Lookout

There is no better way to see Brisbane than from the Brisbane Lookout at scenic Mt Coot-tha.

Located just 7 kilometres from the CBD, the lookout offers panoramic views from the city to Moreton Bay.

If you are feeling energetic, there are 70 walking tracks around the mountain. Another nearby attraction is the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, a 52-hectare oasis that has been recognised as Queensland’s premier subtropical botanic gardens.

The gardens include a “hide and seek” children’s trail, where kids can hunt for native bees, a crocodile, water dragons and other wildlife.

Budding astronomers will also enjoy the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, which includes a cosmic skydome offering a tour of the galaxy and a life-size replica of U.S. astronomer Neil Armstrong’s lunar space suit.

For Japanese visitors, the gardens include a Bonsai House with around 100 plants, while the Japanese Garden designed by leading landscape architect Kenzo Ogata has delighted visitors since its opening in 1989.

The Japanese Garden also hosts the annual Japanese Cultural Day, offering a range of cultural activities including ikebana, calligraphy, rice cake making, tea ceremony and music.


City Botanic Gardens

Brisbane’s original botanic gardens, the inner-city City Botanic Gardens host attractions including a bamboo grove, weeping fig avenue, concert Riverstage, ornamental ponds and more.

The gardens feature regular events including concerts, exhibitions and shows at Riverstage and the Main Rotunda, together with fitness activities such as the South Bank Parkrun and family-oriented festivals.

Other parks worth checking out include the 16-hectare Roma Street Parklands near the CBD, historic New Farm Park and Chermside’s Kidspace, which boasts the “Buckingham Palace of cubby houses.”


Museum of Brisbane

Located in Brisbane’s heritage-listed City Hall, the Museum of Brisbane helps bring the city’s art, culture and history to life through exhibitions, workshops, tours and special children’s activities. Sunday is family day at the museum with special family-themed activities and tours.

Visitors can also book a free, 45-minute tour of City Hall to get further insights into the 1920’s building, including a ride in its historic lift up to the Clock Tower, which offers a special view of the city from its 92 metre high observation deck.

Alternatively, the organ and auditorium tour provides a view of the imposing 19th century organ, with the tour accompanied by a professional organist and guide.

For a look at Brisbane’s convict history, the 1828-29 Commissariat Store has a museum that explores the city’s colonial period. Queensland’s oldest building includes rotating and permanent exhibitions, including the infamous “convict finger.”


Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Get up close with Australia’s unique wildlife at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Cuddle a koala, hand-feed a kangaroo and enjoy the bird show and other activities at the centre, which was founded in 1927 as a refuge for sick, injured and orphaned koalas.


More ideas

Looking for other things to do with the kids in Brisbane? Here are some more ideas:

  • Take a “CityCat” ferry ride down the Brisbane River, or explore the city on two wheels by hiring a “CityCycle” bicycle
  • Book a free walking tour with a Brisbane Greeter and learn the secrets of the city, including wartime Brisbane, Aboriginal history or a lifestyle precinct of your choice
  • Go shopping at the Brisbane City Markets or the pedestrian-only Queen Street Mall, including a visit to the heritage-listed Brisbane Arcade
  • For rail fans, take a trip to nearby Ipswich to explore the Workshops Rail Museum
  • Feed the dolphins at Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island, a 75-minute catamaran cruise from Brisbane
  • Enjoy a spooky tour of the notorious former prison, Boggo Road Jail, which is said to be haunted by ghosts
  • Get sporty by checking out a game of cricket or Aussie Rules at the Gabba Stadium, or alternatively soccer, rugby union or rugby league at Suncorp Stadium
  • Dance to some of the world’s biggest musical acts at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

With so much to do, you and the kids won’t be bored by a visit to Brisbane, rated by National Geographic as one of the coolest cities to visit in 2020. Hello Kids will be happy to provide more information to make your trip as fun as possible!

Technology in early childhood education

Once the domain of chalkboards and sandpits, early childhood learning has now evolved with the digital age to incorporate tablets and other devices. How can educators respond and what are the pros and cons of the new technologies?

For children aged three and above, technology can be a pathway towards success and high achievement. However, there are also risks to manage that require a proactive approach from both educators and parents.


Technological benefits

A 20-year research project showed that the more mental stimulation a child receives around the age of four, the more developed the parts of their brains dedicated to cognition and language will be in future decades. Such mental stimulation could include books and educational toys, as well as new technologies.

Other potential benefits from technology include improved hand-eye coordination, better language skills, enhanced visual attention, greater problem-solving and dynamic spatial skills. For example, by reading eBooks, children can learn new words and their correct pronunciation, while multimedia presentations can expose children to different cultures and environments.

Infants and toddlers often enjoy looking at digital photographs and videos of themselves and family members and these images can be used by educators to promote opportunities for collaborative language development, according to advocacy group Early Childhood Australia (ECA).

Young children can also use digital technologies for purposeful communication with adults, such as sending photos and emails. Research shows that using digital technologies for video communication can be socially beneficial for young children, such as using “Line” to communicate between Australia and Japan.

Another example might be using “Siri” – a voice-controlled, virtual assistant – to help build a child’s curiosity. The simple question “Siri, what time is school tomorrow” can help encourage assertiveness and leadership in young children, including speech pathology.

Tablets such as iPads give children direct feedback and outcome control, with responsive signals that encourage success and accomplishment, based on “hands on” touch screen media.

Educators can create opportunities for children to use digital technologies collaboratively, such as creating content, developing ideas and documenting learning. For example, two or more children could use a digital microscope to examine natural materials found in the environment, then share their observations on a display screen, facilitating discussion with others.

Educators also have the opportunity to document children’s learning using digital photographs and videos, with such content easily shared with parents via social media or other platforms.

ECA suggests digital technologies can also be used to promote physical activity, such as using virtual game devices that require whole-body movement (such as a dance step game on an electronic dance mat), or using wearable technologies to measure physical activity.

Children can also use digital technologies to promote different postures, such as crawling and moving around on their hands and knees when playing with technologies such as robots.


Balanced approach

While digital technologies have many benefits for early childhood learning, educators and parents need to pursue a balanced approach.

The Australian Government warns against excessive sitting and long periods of sedentary time such as screen viewing, suggesting that such time should be limited to no more than one hour per day for children aged two years and older. It is important that screen-based digital technology use does not replace periods of active physical movement.

Researchers also warn against children’s sleep being interrupted by digital technologies. There is strong evidence that having digital screens available in sleeping spaces can result in poorer quality and reduced sleep for young children.

Children’s wellbeing can also be affected by digital games and activities. When children experience frustration or disappointment within a game, or are invited to move onto another activity, this can lead to challenging behaviours, according to research.

In such situations, young children can benefit from educators setting timeframes for technology usage as well as providing emotional support, the ECA says.

Educators also need to be mindful of online safety, such as using filters and setting restrictions on devices and networks used in early childhood education to promote safe experiences. It is important for educators to help children develop an understanding of the internet, based on proactive adult supervision.


Australia’s position

Recent studies have highlighted the growing use of technology in the classroom in Australia, including primary and secondary schools, with a similar movement occurring in early childhood learning.

A 2018 survey led by Curtin University professor Dr Juliana Zabatiero found that Australian children were spending an average of 86 minutes per day on devices, led by TV and followed by tablet, mobile phone and desktop or laptop computer. For early childhood learning, the figure was 41 minutes, dominated by TV, followed by tablets.

Early childhood services are “increasingly integrating technologies into play-based learning,” Dr Zabatiero found, with the survey showing the main usage was for games (37 per cent), educational (23 per cent), videos (21 per cent) and general (19 per cent).

Nationally, Australian schools have one computer for every student compared to the OECD average of one for every five students, ensuring students are prepared in how to learn, train and live in a digital world.

Stressing the importance of exposing young children to digital technologies, U.S.-based academic Dr Chip Donohue said: “The digital age is moving far too fast to say, ‘I choose to not engage.’

“These are tools of the children’s world, these are tools of their culture, these are tools that will be critical for their school readiness and success.”

If you are preparing to send your child to Australia for study, you can be confident that your child will have access to the latest educational technologies to ensure they are ready for the challenges of the digital age.

Home discipline for children: Australia vs Japan

Japan has banned parents from physically punishing their kids, while in Australia and other countries it remains legal. Should corporal punishment of children be banned or is it a necessary part of child raising?

In June 2019, Japan’s Diet enacted a law banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing children.

The move came following several fatal cases of abuse dealt out in the name of discipline, involving children aged as young as 2 years old.

“The state has declared that violence is not allowed for discipline,” Seinan Gakuin University professor Kazuhiko Abe told Kyodo.

The new laws also require local child consultation centres and related entities to share information, together with greater coordination with centres handling domestic violence.

Governments and child welfare centres are required to counsel parents with a history of child abuse, to prevent reoccurrences.

However, the new laws have no penalties for offenders. A civil code provision on the “parental right to discipline children” will also be considered within two years after the laws enter into force.

Japan’s move follows similar “smacking bans” by 58 other countries, including many European nations, Israel and Brazil. In addition, the use of corporal punishment in schools has been prohibited by more than 120 countries.

However, a number of Western countries still allow parents to discipline their children using force, including the United States, Canada, Italy and Australia.


Australia: ‘reasonable’ defence

Australia prides itself on being a liberal, democratic country with modern laws. However, it is still legal for parents and guardians to physically punish children, and in some states, corporal punishment of pupils by teachers is also legally permitted.

In some states of Australia, a common law defence permits parents (and sometimes teachers) to lawfully administer “reasonable” corporal punishment, while in other states the defence is written into legislation.

The “reasonable” defence relates to the age and size of the child; the method of punishment; the child’s capacity for reasoning; and the harm caused.

For example, in Queensland, the Criminal Code Act 1899 states that it is lawful for a parent to use reasonable force “by way of correction, discipline, management or control.”

However, New South Wales (NSW) state has specified that physical punishment by a parent “should not harm a child more than briefly” and restricts which parts of a child’s body can be subject to force.

NSW banned corporal punishment in government schools in 1990, before which it was common to see headmasters wield a cane to discipline unruly children.


Smacking children: the debate

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says children should be protected from “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”

Critics argue that even mild physical punishment of children risks causing serious psychological harm.

“There is strong, if not entirely conclusive, evidence associating parental smacking with the risk of a range of undesirable behaviours and outcomes in children,” claims University of Technology Sydney associate professor Patrick Lenta.

A 2016 study by researchers Elizabeth Gershoff and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor found that parental spanking is associated with “increased aggression, antisocial behaviour, mental health problems and low self-esteem in children, as well as negative parent-child relationships.”

Another study in 2013 argued that “compared to other forms of discipline, there is no clear benefit or positive outcome for using corporal punishment.”

Research undertaken by Saunders (2013) on children found that corporal punishment by parents aroused “negative emotions including anger, sadness, fear and confusion” and “diminishes positive relationships.”


Alternatives to corporal punishment

What then are the alternatives to corporal punishment?

Australia’s Parenting Research Centre’s Raising Children Network suggests a range of discipline strategies, including:

  • Deciding on family rules, such as speaking nicely to each other and helping out around the house
  • Teaching what behaviour is expected – showing your child the behaviour you like by doing it yourself, such as sitting down together to eat family meals
  • Praising good behaviour – descriptive praise is recommended in encouraging good behaviour, such as telling your child, “I really like how you used please and thank you just then. Great manners!”
  • Setting clear limits and consequences – deciding on consequences for breaking the rules, such as withholding pocket money or “time out”.

How do you discipline your child? While the global debate continues to evolve, ultimately every parent has to set their own rules to help children learn how to behave appropriately.


Australian history: Did you know?

Australia may be a young Western democracy, but its history dates back thousands of years.

Here are some facts to help inform your next visit to the land “Down Under”.


Early settlement – 40,000-70,000 years ago

Australia’s earliest human settlement dates to around 65,000 years ago, in the Northern Territory, with Aboriginal Australians believed to have arrived by boat from Southeast Asia.

By around 30,000 years ago, Aboriginal Australians had occupied all of Australia, including Tasmania. The traditions they established, including art, language and music, are among the longest surviving and it is still possible to explore Aboriginal culture.


European explorers arrive – 17th – 18th centuries

Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon is believed to be the first European to land in Australia, in 1606. Later the same year, Spaniard Luis Vaz de Torres navigated the Torres Straits between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Following in Janszoon’s footsteps, some 29 other Dutch navigators explored Australia’s western and southern coasts in the 17th century, dubbing the continent “New Holland”.

Other Europeans followed, until in 1770, Britain’s Lieutenant James Cook chartered the east coast of Australia and returned home promoting the colonisation of Botany Bay (now Sydney).


British colony – 1788

Cook’s promotion was received favourably in London and in January 1788, the “First Fleet” of 11 British ships carrying 1,500 people arrived to establish a penal colony. Britain’s jails were overflowing and Australia was seen as an ideal location for criminals from Britain and Ireland, many of which were transported for minor crimes or political activism.

The establishment of a penal colony was followed by the arrival of free settlers. In 1825, a group of British soldiers and convicts settled near modern-day Brisbane, while Perth was settled by English settlers in 1829. In 1835, a “squatter” chose the location for Melbourne and at the same time, a private British company settled Adelaide.


Gold Rush – 1851

The discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria in 1851 sparked a “gold rush” to these regions, transforming the Australian colonies. Gold-seekers from around the world, including China, arrived to chase their dreams, helping to expand the population and establish a national identity.

Between 1851 and 1860, Victoria’s population grew seven-fold as new migrants chased the precious metal. At one stage the state was responsible for more than a third of global output.

However, restrictions imposed on goldfield workers in Victoria led to the Eureka Stockade rebellion of 1854, where miners at Ballarat fought against police. The miners lost the battle, but it led to improved conditions for workers and paved the way for greater democracy.


Federation – 1901

Originally founded separately, Australia’s six British colonies comprising New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania all had their own separate armies, tariffs and even separate railway gauges.

Recognising the weaknesses of this system, the colonies agreed to unite. On 1 January 1901, modern Australia was born as the colonies united as a federation under a single constitution.

While both Sydney and Melbourne wanted to become the new nation’s capital, a compromise was reached and it was decided to build a new capital city at Canberra, with its foundation stone laid in 1913.


Australia at war

Australians embraced World War I with a strong sense of patriotism towards the British Empire. From a population of less than 5 million, more than 400,000 enlisted, of which more than 60,000 were killed.

The failed landing at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915 helped develop a sense of nationhood, in what became known as the “Anzac legend.”

Japan was allied with Britain in the war, with Japanese battleship Ibuki one of the ships that escorted the Anzacs across the Indian Ocean.

The war was followed by the ‘Roaring Twenties’ with its new music, movies and prosperity, however this came to a halt with the Great Depression of 1929.

Despite World War I being called the “war to end all wars,” the world was embroiled in war again by 1939 and this time Australia was directly threatened, with enemy bombing raids on Darwin and a submarine attack in Sydney harbour. Almost a million Australians served in the war, fighting in Europe, Africa and Asia, until the end of hostilities in August 1945.

Australian soldiers were soon in action again in Asia, participating in the Korean War (1950-53) and then the Vietnam War (1955-75).


Opening up

Believing that the nation must “populate or perish,” Australia opened up to mass immigration in the 1950s and 1960s, principally from Europe and the Middle East. Major nation-building projects such as the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme and the Sydney Opera House employed many of the new migrants.

In the 1970s, Australia embraced multiculturalism, with people from more than 200 countries now calling Australia home.

Trade with Asia flourished as Australia pursued new export markets. A 1957 commerce agreement helped build economic ties with Japan, which became a major investor and Australia’s largest trading partner, until it was overtaken by China in 2007.

In 1988, Australia marked the bicentenary of British settlement with the opening of a new Parliament House in Canberra. In 2000, Sydney hosted the Olympic Games as the ‘Lucky Country’ celebrated its sporting and economic fortune and looked ahead to the new century.


Did you know?

  • Australia commemorates its war dead on April 25 (Anzac Day), the date of the first landings at Gallipoli
  • The first Japanese consulate was established in Townsville, Queensland in 1896 following a growing pearl diving industry with Japanese divers
  • Australia was the second country in the world to give women the vote, in 1894
  • France’s La Perouse expedition arrived at Botany Bay in January 1788, just days after the landing of Britain’s First Fleet
  • The Gold Rush helped Melbourne to become the world’s richest city in the 1880s.