Communities of Support: Leadership Fellows Scheme 2020

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney

Since 2012, the Departments of English, History, and Classics and Ancient History have worked with low-socioeconomic high schools across NSW to engage with a wider cohort of students, make us better, more inclusive teachers, foster aspiration, and encourage students of diverse backgrounds to participate in higher education. Further information about these programs can be found here: and  

This year, as part of a successful Strategic Education Grant (Widening Participation), we will recruit Leadership Fellows from across the Faculty (two per School), for HDR students to play a critical role in our new project entitled “Communities of Support: First Generation Students and the Transition to University.”

This Faculty-wide two-tier project will address student transition and retention issues among some of our most at-risk students, and contribute to student well-being and satisfaction. The project aims to create a pool of trained student volunteers and Leadership Fellows from each School who will work closely with current low-ses and First in Family students to co-create an intensive mentoring experience for incoming students in 2020. We hope to build a community of engaged, informed, and trained students and enrich the student experience for all, as well as hep inform a more formal Faculty-wide transition program in the future.

Our Leadership Fellows will be given the opportunity to advance key academic skills, including inclusive teaching and mentoring in higher education; providing mentorship to undergraduate volunteers, design support activities for volunteers to support their mentees, lead cohorts of volunteers in the delivery of grant projects, and provide general event coordination and publicity support.

The Leadership Fellow program runs from February to December 2020. The specific responsibilities, dates of commitment, and key programs of involvement for Fellows are outlined below. All duties will be conducted under the supervision and guidance of Project Manager, Dr Kieryn McKay, with the support of Project Assistant, Simon Wyatt-Spratt, and under the general direction of Associate Professor Melissa Hardie and Professor Michael A. McDonnell.

All Fellows will receive training in Inclusive Teaching and Low-SES Volunteering to qualify for their position. Fellows will receive a $500 honorarium and a certificate of achievement for their contributions to the program, both of which will be presented to Fellows at the end of their Fellowship term. 


To apply to become a Leadership Fellow, you must be currently enrolled in a Higher Degree Research program in FASS.


Application forms are available via this Qualtrics link:

Applications require candidates to provide a brief outline of relevant experience and the details of two referees.

All applications for the 2020 Leadership Fellow scheme are due by noon (12:00 pm) on Friday, January 31st.  

Leadership Fellows 2020 – Responsibilities 

The specific duties, dates of commitment, and key involvement for Fellows are outlined below. All responsibilities will be conducted under the supervision and guidance of the Project Manager, Dr Kieryn McKay, and with the support of Project Assistant, Simon Wyatt-Spratt, and under the general direction of Associate Professor Melissa Hardie and Professor Michael A. McDonnell.


Responsibilities and time commitments for Fellows are outlined below. Please note that some activities require advanced preparation, and you will be required to communicate with a small pool of volunteers (4-6 maximum) throughout the year.

Time commitment:  welcome and training session, 10 am-4 pm on Friday, February 7th; Mentor/Fellows Partnerships Lunch, 12-1 pm Friday, Feb. 28; a once-monthly lunch with Project officers and involved academics; end-of-semester and year Social event and evaluations.   

Outline: Leadership Fellows will be trained by program leaders in inclusive teaching and support, and will then in turn be responsible for coordinating and supporting small groups of undergraduate students as they mentor new first year students through the year. Leadership Fellows will also provide valuable input into the mentoring program and meet with undergraduate volunteers at least once a month, as well as meeting Project officers and academics every month. As a Leadership Fellow you will help to coordinate the program and will play a key leadership role for our group of volunteer mentors.

Miller Technology High Social Inclusion Program – Essay Writing Celebration

On the 29th of November Mike McDonnell and Clair Sole visited Miller Technology High School to celebrate the work the Year 11s did in their did in their Historical Investigation Projects. Miller Technology High students worked alongside Sydney University student volunteers over five meetings from April-August to complete a written essay. The students also had to prepare a speech and give a presentation in front of their friends, students from Granville Boys High School, and staff and students at the University. The topics ranged from the impact of William Wallace on ideas of Scottish independence to the experiences of Iranian women in the twentieth century.

The Presentation Day involved awarding students for their hard work, and special prizes were given for the best Ancient and Modern essays and presentations. Mike was invited to talk to the students about the benefits of tertiary education and awarded the best essays and presentations for Ancient and Modern History. Rachael-Anne Benson was awarded the best essay and presentation for Ancient History and gave her presentation on the impact of William Wallace on Scottish independence whilst Shaedaa Hadi was awarded the best essay and presentation for Modern History and gave a speech about her experience in the social inclusion program.

The day concluded with a brief speech by principle, Dr Ken Edge, congratulating the students, and a Thai lunch with the students. The Social Inclusion Program looks forward to working with Miller Technology High again in the coming year!

The Theatre for Children Website Archive and Resources

The Jester: Logo for the Theatre for Children.

For my History Beyond the Classroom project, I collaborated with the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) to create a website that serves as a digital archive and education resources collection. In September 2019, a collection of photographs, plays, letters, newspaper clippings and logbooks were donated to SJM in a cabin sized suitcase which was filled to the brim. This collection, donated by Dr John McIntyre, centres around the Theatre for Children, which was run by a Jewish woman in Sydney from 1937-1957. The director of the Theatre, Rosemarie Benjamin, was extremely passionate about children’s theatre, education and psychology.

Eating, Working, and Learning

What I will remember most from my time spent at SJM is the warm, inviting atmosphere of the museum. Every Friday morning, I was invited to eat traditional Challah bread with the staff and other volunteers. We also went to lunchtime lectures together which helped me to learn more about the Holocaust and Jewish history from the museum’s resident historian and education team.

Two Teams: One Website

My project is particularly innovative as it will be one of the first online resources created for Stage 3 students by the Sydney Jewish Museum. The Education team at SJM were keen for me to make activities and resources for English for Stage 3 students, as this was an area in which they were lacking. This included writing comprehension questions, writing tasks and a questionnaire about the six plays uploaded to the website. These resources were also designed directly from the English Stage 3 Syllabus, to make the activities accessible and simple for teachers.

I was also part of the Curation team, which was why I conducted a lot of research into the collection, Trove and academic articles written by John McIntyre. The collection that was donated easily has three hundred documents in it, and gives a unique picture of Benjamin as an entrepreneur and advocate for children’s theatre.

The main audience for this website is Stage 3 students, in regional and suburban New South Wales. Having this collection of artefacts from the museum published online makes SJM more accessible for teachers and the general public, especially for those who aren’t able to physically visit the museum.

I think the most significant impact I’ve felt with this project is the preservation and dissemination of this otherwise unknown story about children’s theatre in Sydney. The successes and failures of this theatre highlight the economic difficulties experienced by those during the inter-war period, World War II, and the 1950’s. I have become very passionate about retelling the story of this theatre, and in particular, emphasising Rosemarie Benjamin’s passion and advocacy. Her determination to provide entertaining and educational plays for young children is evident in the fact that the theatre was self-funded.. As SJM is yet to upload their database online, the digitisation of this small part of their collection is also an important step in making the museum more accessible. I have also included both PDF and Word Doc versions of the plays, a full character and props list, and the length of the plays. This is to make reading and selecting the plays as smooth and informative for the teachers as possible.

Designed by the Professionals:

I will be passing on my website to SJM’s marketing team, so that they can convert my website onto their own website generating platform. With this in mind, I have tried to mimic SJM’s colour scheme from their website and education booklets, to make the design process more seamless. Once it has been edited by the marketing team, my website will be launched on the new Teacher’s Membership Platform. which will allow students in more rural and regional schools, who can’t visit the museum, to access the collection digitally.

Challenges vs Opportunities:

This project certainly had its challenges, including the complexity and brevity of the collection, my lack of website editing knowledge, and the fact that I am not training to be a teacher. I chose to see this project though as a chance to digitise part of the museum’s artefacts, and as an opportunity to gain some experience in web design and producing education activities. This allowed me to see history through a more modern, digital, and educational lens, and to expand my skill set and understanding of how history is portrayed in the public sphere. It was also quite difficult upon reading some of the plays and guides, as some of them included quite racist and sexist material, despite the young target audience. I have deliberately added a disclaimer to make my, and SJM’s position clear on these issues. Whilst I personally disagree with the racist and sexist remarks in some of the plays, and know that the Sydney Jewish Museum does not support this or any type of discrimination, I felt that it would be historically accurate to preserve the original version. I also believe that it is not right to change what’s written in any play, literature or historical source, despite my lens and perspective on these matters being vastly different to the opinions that Benjamin expresses. In particular, I, and the Sydney Jewish Museum do not condone, endorse or support any racist, sexist or culturally vilifying  behaviour, whether they be verbal or written, and will therefore be writing an ‘updated’ or modern version of the play which removes these words and lines, which will also be available on the website. The remarks made by characters, especially in Martha’s Toyshop and Katherine and Frederick, are a product of their time, and whilst this doesn’t excuse the opinions conveyed in these plays, I will later be amending them so that teachers can decide which versions to teach. I have also provided teachers with a possible activity idea around this topic, linked with Outcome HT3-3 of the History Stage 3 syllabus. This way, the teachers don’t have to perpetuate the vocabulary and opinions from these plays, thereby teaching students the importance of respect, understanding, communication and historical perspective.

The Future:

I’ve discussed staying on with SJM for another couple months to continue transcribing the other seven plays, and to accession the collection into their database called Adlib. I’m glad that this collection will survive in the museum’s database and through the website I’ve created. I’m also planning on providing a guide of how to use Wix and my thought process in designing the website, so that if the museum should want to add to it in the future, or complete a similar type of project, they can do so.

History Student (almost) Becomes Polar Bear

Website: Cronulla Polar Bears Major Project

My journey of learning the histories of a swim club and almost becoming an affiliate member nears it’s final chapters.

The Cronulla Polar Bears is a club rich with over 70 years of history. The stories and memories of the club are all shared and cherished between members both past and present. Oral histories have been a key component of the club’s incredible sense of camaraderie. With the honest and casual nature that oral histories provides, it’s dependence on memory proves as it’s greatest hindrance. Through my work with the club, I began to realize the beauty in talking to members about their experiences and then learning to respect and understand the culture of the club. The downside of course is investigating particular years proves challenging on some of the older members and reignites those memories. Nonetheless, the process of being welcomed into their homes and discussing some of their most cherished memories was incredibly heartwarming as merely a daughter of the cook. Through my work this them, I often caught myself claiming membership to the club by saying ‘our club’ or ‘our members’ which in itself is a testament to their hospitality. Te Bears were very keen to have their stories in the physical form, in addition to leaving the website in my hands and taking it in any direction I saw fit. More importantly, I understood and respected that some stories were better left to be appreciated between members not for publication purposes.

The website is focused on showcasing the camaraderie and rich history of the club for not only members and their family or friends, but also those looking to join the club. Ensuring there was a means of contact was important to me as I wanted people to finish navigating the website and want to become part of the family. That was my aim in relaying their history and stories, for people to see themselves joining the club and actively being able to.

Considering the countless successes of the club since foundation, there are still many men who describe their swimming as ‘floating like a brick’. Of course, in true character and humour of the club, these gentlemen still continue to swim every Sunday regardless of ability. By removing that sense of competition and introducing the handicap system, they put a greater onus on the mate-ship and character of the club, which proves the uniting force behind its success. Working with this group has been an honour, to not only learn their stories but also help them make their own history for years to come.

Through the website I created, I hope it will be a platform that is easily adaptable for any further work I will be doing with them. For example, in the next few months I’ll be writing summaries about life members and significant characters of the club. I can’t wait to continue my work with the club and help them create something they can be proud of; it’s been a pleasure helping them preserve their history.

Cronulla Polar Bears circa 1960, photo provided by the club.