Tag Archives: innovative thinkers

Dick Smith. Essay 3

The third essay we had to submit asked us to find an Innovative thinker who has influenced our lives. I chose for my subject Dick Smith (The Australian Philanthropist and adventurer, not the Hollywood make-up artist). I hope you enjoy this essay. He is a truly remarkable man.

Dick Smith is one of Australia’s most popular businessmen and philanthropists. He is consistently in the top 20 of most trusted Australians .He is a staunch nationalist, believing that Australians should support Australians and the Australian way of life. Smith is also a great believer in Social Justice and possesses a deep-held conviction that everybody deserves a fair go. He was awarded Australian of the Year in 1986 and was made a Member of the Order of Australia (A.O.) in 1999.

Smith likes to challenge the status quo. He is not content with people telling him, ‘That’s just the way it is’. It is for this reason I believe he is an innovative thinker and a person whose actions and attitudes constantly challenge me to do the same. He inspires me to always look for a way forward, never to accept inaction on the basis of ‘that’s the way we do things’.

Smith seems to want to do things to the best of his ability. He has been involved in many areas of business, social justice and philanthropy including:

  • Dick Smith Electronics (1968)
  • Dick Smith Foods
  • Australian Geographic (1986)
  • AustGrow
  • Civil Aviation Safety Board (1997-1999 & 1990-1992)
  • National Council for the Centenary of Federation (1996- 2000)
  • Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (1998)
  • Population Sustainability.

Each of the above endeavours serves to demonstrate Smith’s own approach to life and living.

Smith was born in 1944 at Roseville and grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney. His father and uncle were away at war when he was born.  Smith’s uncle never returned.

At age eight, he was given a key to his uncle’s room to discover his uncle was a radio enthusiast.  This led to Dick’s passion for all things electronic. Dick received his amateur radio license at 17 and seven years later, started Dick Smith Electronics with a start-up capital of $610.

Growing up, his family was not in a good financial position and in fact in 1964, the business owned by Smith’s father failed, and the family was rendered bankrupt.

Although he is a risk-taker in his personal life, the opposite is true in his business career. He has never taken out a business loan, and states that he only takes on a business which he knows can be successful. “There’s a formula for being successful in business. That’s a simple formula. Copy the success of others”. (Smith, 2007).

When he started Dick Smith Electronics in 1968, Smith could see that the Electronics industry in Australia was not serving the needs of ordinary Australians. While in Britain he noticed how a popular electronics company was doing things and decided to emulate its model; right down to copying the catalogue.

Australian Geographic followed the pattern set by National Geographic and Dick Smith Foods was developed on the same framework as Paul Newman Foods.

As an Aviator and adventurer, Smith witnessed how the aviation industry, in different countries he visited, had adopted important air traffic control and safety measures. He lobbied to have similar policies implemented within Australia when he chaired the Civil Aviation Authority and the Civil Aviation Safety Board. This was without success. Australia is highly regarded in terms of aviation safety in the world, but the Boards would not be swayed by Smith’s arguments for further improvement.

As an adventurer however, the appeal for Smith was not in doing things others had done before, but to go beyond. He has flown around the world, equatorially and from pole to pole and describes himself as a responsible risk-taker. Smith is known for his helicopter flights. He flew over Everest and K2. More recently he has flown hot air balloons from New Zealand to Australia, a feat not before attempted due to the strong head winds.

Smith credits his 14 years in the scouting movement to his adventurous spirit. During his time in scouting he achieved the Baden Powell Award in 1966. “I owe a lot to Scouting. It had to be the most fantastic influence on my life. It taught me responsible risk-taking.” (Smith, n.d.) He also states that scouting taught him organisational skills and how to motivate people.

The foundations of Smith’s deep sense of patriotism and support of local industry is evidenced in his outrage when, in 1987, he discovered that the Australian Encyclopaedia was not owned by Australians, but an American company. He purchased the company and the rights and sold it on to the Australian owned Fairfax Media Group in 1995. It was during this period also that he began Australian Geographic with the aim of showcasing Australia to the world, and to highlight Australians achieving remarkable things throughout the world.

Similarly Smith was angry that Australian companies were being bought out by multinational companies with bases mostly in the USA and China. He is passionate that Australian farmers should prosper and that Australian companies should remain owned and operated by Australians. Hence he started Dick Smith foods in 1999 and is Patron of AustGrow.

Smith has a proven commitment to philanthropy and a sense of compassion, which is demonstrated in many events across his life.   Smith credits Paul Newman and his food company “Newman’s Own” for his motivation for starting Dick Smith foods in 1999 with the aim not just of giving Australian farmers a way to sell their produce at a profit, but also to give something back to charity. In the beginning most of the profits (approximately 90%) went to charity and the rest to establishing and maintaining the business. These days 100% of the profit is returned to various Australian charities.

Smith has no prejudice when it comes to generosity. He receives hundreds of letters per week asking for assistance. With his wife Pip, they carefully decide which causes to support not only with money, but at times to provide support by way of his name and reputation.

Smith encourages others in the same financial position to be socially responsible. He credits Dame Elizabeth Murdock as an inspiration when it comes to philanthropy, and calls for her son Rupert to return to Australia to “Give something back”. (Smith, 1986)

Smith is constantly named in the top 20 of Readers Digest of Australia’s 100 most trusted people. “Trust is being able to believe in what a person says. Trust is developed from experience, from knowing a person over a long period of time. Trust is the most important part of human relationships.”(Smith, 2010).  Like Smith I believe honesty is of paramount importance in all relationships, business and personal.

Most recently Smith has been studying population sustainability which illustrates his continued efforts to tackle big issues which he believes he can play an important role in effecting change. Smith believes perpetual growth in the use of resources and energy, is not sustainable. At our current rate of growth, our resources will not last for long into the next generation. ”Some time in the next few months, the world’s population clock will tick over 7 billion people. Global population has tripled in my lifetime, and is continuing to rise. The United Nations has just predicted we face a world of 10 billion in 2100. This has immense implications for all of us, and Australia will not be immune from the impacts.” (Smith, 2011)

Smith is supported in this belief by Bill Clinton and other leading thinkers who argue for population control strategies Statistics show Australia’s birth rate is 1.98 per woman. The Population Referencing Bureau Report of 2010 highlighted the difference in the population growth rate of Germany (1.3 births per woman) and Ethiopia (5.4). (PRB, 2010). Australia benefits from immigration as its birth rate is low. We should open our borders to those from developing countries where the birth rate is high and unsustainable.

Smith received the honour of being the Australian of the year in 1986. Smith was nominated for the award by Labor MP John Brown, who wrote that Smith’s talents derived from ‘an unfettered need to explore and understand.’ (Brown, 1986).

Smith is passionate about Social Justice and the right of all persons to a fair go. He paid $60,000 towards costs to free David Hicks from Guantanamo Bay. It wasn’t Smith’s belief that David Hicks was innocent, but that like anybody else, he deserved a fair go.

Peter Qasim, a refugee, was held in detention from 1998 to 2005 making him the longest serving refugee in detention because he couldn’t prove who he was and where he came from.  In 2003, he decided to give up his fight for citizenship and return home to India. The Indian government identified that he was from the Kashmir region on the basis of voice patterning, but refused to take him back. Dick Smith chose to support his cause and lobbied the Minister for Immigration to release him from detention.

‘If my profile can be used to help just one or two people get a “fair go”, I’m well pleased and I don’t care about the flack I get. ”. (Smith, 2010)

“My father fought in the Second World War so we could have certain freedoms and one of those freedoms is that you are going to have a fair go.” (Smith, 2010)

Dick Smith has been a source of inspiration to me as an innovative thinker in so many areas of my life. He has inspired me to be adventurous, but also to be a responsible risk taker. It is because of my national pride that I have chosen to concentrate my artistic pursuits on Australian Native Birds, however it is Smith’s influence that has motivated me to narrow my focus to those that are considered endangered; with some of the profits to go to Australian Geographic, the magazine founded by Smith, and which he remains a patron.

I continue to explore Australia with thoughts of Smith and others who have been before me, and to bring beauty back to those who can’t see it for themselves through my art and photography.  Smith showed me some of the beauty of Australia through Australian Geographic. It is this reason, and the further inspiration of the Leyland brothers that leads me to explore our great land, to photograph and paint it, documenting the beauty that others can’t see up close.

Smith’s core beliefs resonate with my sense of compassion and social justice and remind me that compassion is not limited to those with resources; that one needs to stand beside others who are being unfairly treated or even abused by those in higher authority.  I add my voice to Smith’s by demanding a ‘fair go’ for everyone, especially those incapable of voicing it themselves.

I share Smith’s passion to give people a fair go and to not be judgemental. My viewpoint is that I know that I too have my faults and failures. If people have seen fit to give me a fair go, what right have I not to give others the same?

Similarly my generosity and compassion are without prejudice and are not limited by borders, skin colour, race or religion. In 1981 I read the quote “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet” (attributed to many). It was then that I began to do charitable works and to think of those less fortunate.

In 1993 I served as a missionary to the Philippines. In 1999, I was asked to sing in Indonesia to raise funds, sending doctors to outlying villages to perform eye surgery. I have worked with abused children, teenagers, underage prostitutes and drug addicts in Kings Cross. Although I am unable to undertake those roles now, Smith is a constant reminder keeping compassion and empathy in the forefront of my thoughts.

I share Smith’s concern that Australia is not immune to population sustainability issues. The bureau of statistics states that the majority of our immigrants come from the UK (21%) and New Zealand (9.1%) While I can see the benefits of having people of similar cultures come into Australia, it’s my opinion that we should reduce immigration from these countries and increase or sustain our immigration from developing countries, or countries in conflict, on humanitarian grounds.

In conclusion, it is obvious that Dick Smith operates from the soul. He is motivated by compassion, empathy, social justice and has an adventurous spirit. I believe his Myers Briggs profile would be similar to mine; INFJ which represents those who act from the primary traits of introversion, intuition, feeling and judging.

Smith recognises the plight of people less fortunate than himself, listens and empathises with their situations, then finds a solution and acts upon it; whether this is a systemic solution or one where his finances or reputation could be used for the betterment of others.

Smith is an innovative thinker in the true sense of the term as he often discovers solutions which are not obvious to others; thinking outside the box. Dick Smith inspires me to be a compassionate, non judgemental human always looking for ways I can help others. He will continue to inspire for many years to come.

Smith, D. 2010. Australia’s most trusted people 2010. Retrieved from http://www.readersdigest.com.au/australias-most-trusted-people-2010


Gott, R. (1998). Dick Smith: entrepreneur and adventurer. Port Melbourne: Heinemann.


Brown, J. 2010 retrieved from  http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/honour-roll/?view=fullView&recipientID=90

http://www.scouts.com.au/main.asp?iStoryID=848 (n.d)

Smith,D (2010) retrieved from www.readersdigest.com.au/dick-smith-interview

http://www.abc.net.au/sundayprofile/stories/s1416294.htm July 2005

Smith, D. (1986). 1960-2010 Australian of the Year. Sydney: Murdoch Books.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-04-27/dick-smith-takes-aim-at-rupert-murdochs-philanthropy-record/4655184 April 2013

http://www.thebottomlinetv.com.au/interview/dick-smith-ao/?actscript=transcript 2013

http://www.smh.com.au/world/hostage-experts-should-have-been-called-dick-smith-20091127-jwz6.html  November 2009.

http://www.abc.net.au/talkingheads/txt/s1913699.htm May 2007.

Smith, D (2011) retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/society-and-culture/the-idiocy-of-endless-growth-20110529-1fata.html

Clinton, B (2009) Lateline. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2011/04/01/3179045.htm


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2011, Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012-13, (cat. no. 2071.0). retrieved from  http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/2071.0Main+Features902012–201

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A S Neill and Summerhill. Essay number 2

The second essay asked us to look at some of the Innovative Thinkers within education, and asked our opinions. It had to be a critical essay with peer review articles to support our views and findings.

I chose A S Neill and Summerhill as the subject of my second essay.

I disagree with A.S. Neill’s statement that “A child is inherently wise and realistic…if left to himself will develop as far as he is capable” ( Neill 1968). Wisdom comes with age and experience. This is not inherent in a child but must be nurtured and encouraged to grow to maturity.

I believe Neill’s ideas in education are admirable but simplistic. I certainly admire his goal to produce happy individuals, but his view on how to produce children that are happy, functioning individuals is simplistic and based on the notion that a free child is a happy child. It doesn’t take into account external factors and fails to acknowledge that feeling sad is a natural part of life.

The style of education presented at Summerhill, while producing happy creative people, is not realistic or conducive to producing a responsible member of society and does not consider the personal and social implications for the child who attends nor the community in which He is to integrate.

In my opinion, an educational institution should provide:

  • Guidance in the learning of basic skills such as reading, writing and elementary arithmetic
  • A framework which provides guidance to learners from those with the ability to make informed decisions
  • Basic tenets for individuals on how to function within a structured community
  • Situations which allow the child to recognise that life will include the full gamut of emotions.

For a person to be able to survive successfully in a society basic literacy and numeracy skills are vital. “The school enables the children to develop their numeracy and mathematical skills based on their individual needs and choice and at their own pace. Summerhill Numeracy Policy “If a child doesn’t want to study mathematics, it is nobody’s business. (Neill 1964)

Neill’s vision of creating happy children rather than knowledgeable ones while admirable does not do the child or society justice where assessment is based on Summerhill being an academic facility. Neill claimed often that “Summerhill was not a boarding school, it was a children’s community.”(Neill 1964) I agree that it should not be considered an education facility however with its provision of teachers it is on some level striving to be one.

Education should be designed to prepare a young person for the future, both as an individual and as a member of the community. Summerhill does neither of these. Summerhill houses a child until they are 16 (maximum), and then thrusts them into the community to try to survive. Neill’s view of producing “happy street-sweepers” doesn’t work in a society where one is expected to know how to fill in an application form and communicate at an interview.

A child is not inherently wise. Wisdom comes with age and experience. A child is far from realistic. A child both then and even now lives in an instant society. They want things and they want it now. Children cannot fully comprehend that each action has consequences that are far reaching.

Freedom at Summerhill included freedom to be yourself, freedom to play and general freedom. (Neill 1964) Children enjoy as much freedom as is given. The self governing system at Summerhill while helping children see that there are consequences, needed far more guidance from those with the ability to make informed decisions; people who are able to foresee problems and able to circumnavigate any disasters rather than simply let them happen, and pick up the pieces afterwards. It was because of the self – governing aspect of Summerhill that the buildings were in disrepair, were dirty and the electricity was not operational. ( Cassebaum 2003)“This is a children’s community not a boarding school” (Neill 1964)

The community meetings were held weekly to discuss problems within the school and the breaking of the rules. Each person has an equal say in the community regardless of age or status. Fines are issued for misdemeanours and recompense overseen. The act of stealing from another student is not punished per say but if the offender confesses, the debt is to be repaid and then the matter is closed. There is no societal debt. If a child should commit a crime in the community outside Summerhill however, the child is berated at the meeting and given punishment that fits the crime, as this affects not only the victim but the reputation of Summerhill as a whole. Profanities were not dissuaded in Summerhill; rather swearing is an accepted form of communication at the institution.

Rules and Laws are generally put in place for the benefit of all society and as guidance for individuals on how to act within a functioning society. Summerhill itself had rules governing limits put on children of certain ages, and times. For example different bedtimes were allotted to children of a specific age group.

Happiness should not be the ultimate goal of an educational institution.   Happiness is not just a matter of “freedom to be oneself”. It is not a bad thing to be unhappy, it is a part of life and one should know that it’s ok to feel that way. Happiness is desirable but only one of the emotions that make up a full life.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that children at Summerhill do not benefit from such a liberal method of education and that the capabilities of children are extended by more formal educational facilities. When the wisdom of ex-students has matured, they discover they do indeed need more instruction in the three R’s and further their education later in life.

Ainsworth.S, Cunningham. I, Gray. H, Hannam.D, Honey.P, Horsburgh.J, Reid.C, Rosen.M. (2000)REPORT OF AN INQUIRY INTO SUMMERHILL SCHOOL – LEISTON, SUFFOLK JANUARY 2000

Cassebaum.A. (2003). Revisiting Summerhill:  The Phi Delta Kappan , Vol. 84, No. 8

pp. 575-578

Appleton.M. (2002) A Free Range Childhood: Self Regulation at Summerhill School

Review by: Donald Stucky Utopian Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 171-172

Neill. A.S. (1968). Summerhill, 1968 Middlesex: Pelican books

UEA East Anglia TV (1964) Recorded interview with A.S. Neill

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Attention. first essay

I have just finished a course within the Certificate of Liberal Studies which was entitled ‘Innovative thinkers and Education

Within that course were asked to do 3 essays. I will present the essays for you here for your perusal and comment.


The question for the first which I answered is ” Is attention essential to life and living?”

I agree with the question’s central proposition that attention is critical in life and living. Our choice as to what to give attention and to what degree determines the outcomes and quality of life.

 Firstly we must begin with a definition. Attention can be defined as the amount of energy one chooses to dedicate to the present moment. Focusing one’s full attention is important to our well being. It is optimal to devote one’s full attention to the task at hand; to consciously give full command of one’s senses to now. WE can see this in a number of instances that I will highlight in this essay:

  • Attention is a choice we make
  • Attention is important in terms of safety and mental wellbeing
  • Being attentive is critical to relationships for them to be fulfilled
  • There are many impediments to being fully focused
  • There are learned techniques we can employ to help us give attention


Attention is a choice. While the brain is capable of so many thoughts at once, one can choose which tasks to devote our attention to. While the brain is capable of many tasks at once, many of these are done sub-consciously; breathing, blinking for example.


But attention is a conscious act. As the mindfulness training coursebook notes, when we are offering our attention, we can respond with awareness and clarity rather than out of habitual patterns, or learned behaviour. We can become aware and to some extent control sub-conscious tasks if we pay attention to them.  Breathing, moving, sensing, seeing, hearing, even balance can be regulated by being attentive.(2012)


 Attention is self- regulated. Nobody can force you to pay attention. Humans are a curious race. Our desire to learn demands that we give the subject our full attention for results to be optimal. The level of importance we place on learning the lesson subconsciously dictates the level of attention we dedicate to it.


Attention is about making what you are currently doing the most important thing in the world. Leave the past behind, it cannot hurt you. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (NIV Bible 1984, p. Matt 6:34)


 “If you take care of each moment, you will take care of all time. There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. The time is now.”

(Jack Kornfield… taken from Mindfulness Training Course Book 2012)


Concentrate on now; live in the present. Focusing on the present is taking care of current needs as this is what will take you forward to the next, and the one after that.


Paying attention to the task at hand is important to our wellbeing. This includes not only our physical safety, but also our mental health.





 (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2013), defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. If we are able to concentrate on the now and not worry about the future, anxiety is lessened and our mental wellbeing increased.


On the other hand, being aware of the body, with all limitations, current pains and feelings let us compensate for weaknesses so one can assess what tasks the body is capable of doing; not subjecting the body to extra stress. So we can see that paying attention to the present, not letting the past control us, nor worrying about the future is optimal to our health, and the health of those around us.


Attention is important to achieving a fulfilling relationship. Relationships of all kinds demand some level of attention for them to continue. Eye to eye contact when speaking shows attention is given to the speaker.


Relationship can be defined as communication or connection between two or more people (oral workshop “looking for Mr Right” at ACON 27 August 2013). Giving attention selflessly is an important part of a loving intimate relationship. So attention is critical for maintaining and fostering relationships.

Impediments to attention are an important consideration and we can see the potential effect on the quality of life through a number of items.


Multitasking is said to be a talent that the female of our species are blessed with. Is it an actual talent? Or does it perhaps imply a lack of attention to the task at hand? Can one be fully attentive to more than one task at one given time?


The RMS (Roads and Maritime Services of NSW) suggests in advertising that driving demands the full attention of the driver. Without that full attention, the risk of accident is far greater.


“In-car distractions can seriously impair driving and potentially contribute to accidents. In-car distractions include mobile phones, entertainment systems, interaction with passengers, and most recently satellite navigation systems. ( Nevile & Haddington.” 2010,piii).



There are many other impediments to giving full undivided attention to the task at hand. These could include personal, internal and physical distractions including comfort, temperature, and hunger.


 Today’s society is an instant society demanding to be constantly stimulated. If that stimulation is not forthcoming quickly, then attention could be lost or not fully given when required.


To combat some of these impediments, there are learned techniques available to help us achieve a greater level of attention in our lives .Mindfulness training is teaching people to be attentive not only in everyday tasks, but to be attentive to oneself. Recognising different sensations throughout the body and becoming aware of different thoughts and feelings within oneself. This allows the student to be more attentive within and without to the present moment and the tasks it presents. Mindfulness helps one to overcome the distractions to attention.


As I have highlighted in the key points above, the ultimate goal for devoting full attention is quality of life. It allows the lessons that life offer to be fully comprehended. One can have an epiphany to the meaning and purpose of one’s life, giving one a goal to work towards, and the means to get there.


Attention is important to life. It assists in the development of meaningful relationships. It assists to keep one safe and well. Attention allows one to experience the fullness of the moment, getting the most out of life’s lessons and embracing all that life has to offer at that moment. There are many impediments to attention but these can be overcome by choosing to give our attention to the present time.




Openground Training and consulting: Mindfulness Training Course Book (5th ed.) (2012) Double Bay NSW


Holy Bible New International Version: Matthew 6:34  (NIV Anglicised text 4th ed.) (2008) Minto NSW


Nevile, M., & Haddington, P. (2010) In-car distractions and their impact on driving activities. Canberra: Department of Infrastructure and Transport


Anxiety. (2013) Retrieved from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/anxiety?q=anxiety Oxford University Press.


Oral workshop “looking for Mr Right” at ACON 27 August 2013


Keating, R. (2013) Reading #1; Let us begin with attention. Sydney ACU








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