Peggy Hora and Helen Scales: the joy of vocation

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Today was a delightful day for me travelling into and out of Canberra. It was a beautiful late Spring day. All the recent rains have left the paddocks green and verdant. As usual I was switching between Radio National and Classic FM on my radio looking for news, stories and music.

On my way out of Mongarlowe I picked up the start of the Law Report on Radio National. It is not a program I listen to that much but when I heard Peggy Hora speak I realised I needed to stay tuned for the next half hour. I was fascinated by her discussion with Damien Carrick of problem-solving courts and therapeutic jurisprudence.

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By the time I reached Bungendore I was trying to think how the principles of problem-solving courts could be applied to learning and teaching and an individualising approach to learning to learn. In her discussion Peggy observed:

The focus is on the treatment and recovery of the person in front of you. The system is setting up multiple places to get help, based upon scientific assessment and programs that really work and have an evidence basis for working; getting that person in treatment, holding their feet there long enough so they can engage, and then get them on their merry way after graduation and on to a mature recovery.

Her story of Nick helped me clarify my thoughts:

I think he was 18 plus two days old when he came into my adult court. He was angry, he was acting out, he was thrashing about, he was a very, very upset young man. And his father was an alcoholic and a rage-aholic. His grandfather was an alcoholic, so he came by it all very naturally. And I used to tell Nick he was the hardest son I ever raised, because I’m the mother of sons, and he did not go through things smoothly, but boy, when it finally worked, it was the most amazing thing. And the amazing thing was once he got clean and sober, his mother said to his father, ‘If Nick can do it, you’d better do it or I’m going to leave you.’ So his father started going to AA meetings with Nick, and then Grandma said, ‘If Nick and father can do it, then you’d better do it, or I’m going to leave you’. So all three generations of men ended up in treatment and recovery. You know, it still makes me choke up a little bit to think about that. So that was my story of Nick, the hardest son I ever raised.

I was left with a sense of Peggy as someone with a passionate, vocational commitment to therapeutic jurisprudence and am keen to follow her year as Thinker in Residence in South Australia. On my way home from a day of meetings at the University of Canberra I happened upon another passionate speaker, Helen Scales.

Helen was interviewed by Philip Adams on Late Night Live on Radio National. I encourage you to download the podcast of her interview about her new book Poseidon’s Steed. Her enthusiasm and knowledge is a shining example of what the joy of discovery can yield. I am going to circulate the link to the podcast to all my colleagues. I am hopeful that Helen’s infectious energy can be a most wonderful tonic.

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So … my day was book ended by two remarkable women interviewed sensitively by two informed radio hosts. I will use both these interviews in a range of contexts and as a result of my new awareness of Peggy’s and Helen’s work will follow their progress with enormous interest.

Postscript

Peggy Hora’s report Smart Justice is available (February 2011).

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