Carmel Nash OAM – Executive Director, Catholic School Parents Queensland

View video of Carmel Nash OAM – Executive Director, Catholic School Parents Queensland talking at the 2019 Brisbane Archdiocesan P&F Council Parent Evening.

Listen to a podcast of Carmel Nash OAM – Executive Director, Catholic School Parents Queensland talking at the 2019 Brisbane Archdiocesan P&F Council Parent Evening.


Catholic Schools Parents Queensland (CSPQ) has been in a process of transition.

At a recent CSPQ event, Executive Director, Catholic School Parents Queensland, Carmel Nash OAM explained the transition.

“We’ve had a move to move our P&F’s from being a very rigid, practised, sitting under a constitution model, to a model that will work for your school,” Ms Nash said in the video and podcast above.

Ms Nash also took the time to talk about where the organisation had come from and what brought it about in the first place.

Read the transcript.

Speaker 1: I would like to introduce to you Carmel Nash, OAM. And I say OAM because the whole reason that … Oh, stop it, Carmel. The whole reason Carmel has that is her passion and her drive to create that space for every child to shine, to let their gift out, find their place, have a purpose, and that is what drives her to find a space for parents, to have their voice, for people to hear, to make a difference.
Speaker 1: I always say “bland”. Who wants to be bland? Bland. We all look the same, we all sound the same. We want diversity, we want to hear your voices. And so, like your P&F’s, our P&F’s have to change as they come up, and I would like to introduce Carmel to be able to talk to us about the new way forward for P&F’s.
Speaker 1: Now, do you have [inaudible 00:01:09] Carmel Nash: No, [inaudible 00:01:09].
Speaker 1: [inaudible 00:01:09] Carmel Nash: Thank you, Brother . She tells me to smile.
Carmel Nash: It was very interesting for me ’cause what I’m going to say will connect very well with some things that Br Damien had to say, how we can work as parent bodies in that space to really work with and engage with our children and our schools and how we do it together. So I’ve called it Now’s the Age to Engage all school parent bodies in the archdiocese and council.
Carmel Nash: Most of you will know that we’ve had a move to move our P&F’s from being a very rigid, practised, sitting under a constitution model, to a model that will work for your school. We’ve taken away the rules, in some ways, and what we’re doing is encouraging you to build something in your school that will work for you, that will engage your families with children’s learning, well being and their faith.
Carmel Nash: So, we’ve got lots of very good ideas around what’s happening, and people are moving with it, calling their P&F, their old P&F’s, all sorts of different things. My favourite … is anyone here from St Eugene’s? My favourite is the name at St Eugene’s, and it’s called the CAFE. It’s Connecting and Achieving through Family Engagement. That’s what is stands for, and that says everything about what we’re trying to do.
Carmel Nash: We have for sometime thought about the archdiocese and council and how it might work, so I’m going to talk to you a bit about those ideas. So, bit of a history lesson. P&F’s began in the ’50s and the ’60s, the nuns and brothers were running the schools and we didn’t have any school funding. There was none. So they relied on fees and the fact that the nuns and brothers didn’t have to be paid as such, and slowly lay teachers were coming in at that time and things began to change and we did need school funding.
Carmel Nash: They slowly became fundraisers and social function organisers, they lost some of the other aspects that were intended when they were formed, and we believe we’ve got to move on from that. Now, I’m not saying fundraising is a bad thing, I’m saying that there’s more to life than fundraising for a parent body.
Carmel Nash: So, we might just have a look at what the constitution says are the objectives of a local school P&F. It says, “In particular, the association will participate in the optimum spiritual, intellectual, social and physical development of pupils in this school …” the word “pupils” might have to go … “providing a medium of support, information and involvement of parents or carers in their children’s education in the school community, developing collaboration between parents, carers and school staff, promoting the principles of Catholic education, fostering a distinctive Christian environment in the school, and providing a medium for parents and carers to participate at the diocese at state and national levels.” There is no mention of fundraising.
Carmel Nash: Now, lots of our schools need it and it does support the work they do, but that fundraising needs to have absolute purpose around what we do so that if you are fundraising, you know exactly how it is going to support learning in the school and how it’s going to improve learning in the school more than anything, which is what we’re all about.
Carmel Nash: So the paper, Now’s the Age to Engage, is a paper we commissioned, and it’s in the bags that are on your seats, so that’s the paper we’re using to make change. We’re not forcing anybody to make change, we’re encouraging people to really think about how their P&F works, and does it just involve parents, or does it engage families in their children’s learning and well being?
Carmel Nash: So, involvement are all the things any adult could do, so any adult could do tuck shop, any adult could organise a social function, any adult can do many things, but engagement is learning is the things you know, and it comes back to something Br Damien said around your knowledge, being you and what you know. So it uses the knowledge you’ve got as a parent, as a husband or wife, in your working life, your cultural life, it’s all of the things that make you up as a human being that are useful to your child and what an experience you bring as a parent to engage with your child and help them to learn.
Carmel Nash: And that can be useful to the school, because school does many things that is connected to what many of us do in our working life, and we have skills and attributes that we could share and we could work with the school with those things, so it’s just changing the dynamics a little.
Paul: G,day, Paul here, president P&F. How are you? Just a really quick video to update you on some changes that are coming to the P&F over 2019. These are great changes that are focused on getting you, and me, more engaged in our kids’ education. I’m just about to head up to Rocky now for a quick one and a half day conference where we’re going to learn a bit more about it, so why don’t you tag along? Let’s go.
Paul: This renewed focus on getting parents more engaged with their child’s education is also reflected in the recent name change to Catholic School Parents Queensland, or CSPQ for short. While I was there, I asked Carmel Nash, Executive Director of the CSPQ, why being active participants, not just bystanders in our kids’ education, was so important.
Carmel Nash: If parents are bystanders in their children’s education then it happens to them rather than with them, so the move is to have families really understand the influence they have. About 50 years research says 60 to 80% of the success a child has at school is what happens at home.
Carmel Nash: Families need to be engaged in their children’s education because it is what makes a difference to their learning. Involvement is fabulous, but it is all the things like helping at tuck shop, doing those jobs that any adult could do, but engagement is about families genuinely knowing and understanding their children’s learning and communicating with their children’s school.
Paul: The take home messages here were very clear. The more we, as parents, are engaged in our kids’ education, the better outcomes for everyone. As a P&F, we need to provide events and opportunities to help parents, teachers and kids take those first steps.
Paul: So, guys, it’s been an amazing couple of days, met some fantastic people, but now it’s time to head home. One of the take home messages for me is we don’t have to do more, we just have to start doing things differently.
Paul: Keep an eye out for videos and updates as we implement some of these changes that I’ve learned about today across the P&F in the Shalom Community, but in the meantime, I will remind you of the slogan, and I apologise for any Trekkie fans out there, but now is the time to engage.
Carmel Nash: That gentleman is the president of the P&F at Shalom College, and we just had a mini conference in Rockhampton. Their diocese and P&F had sort of come to a bit of a standstill, so between Leesa Jeffcoat, the director, and myself and the two representatives on the state council, we had a bit of a chat and decided we would try to do things a bit differently, so we ran this mini conference thinking if we got 30 or 40 people we’d be happy. We had 110 people on Friday night and about 85 on Saturday.
Carmel Nash: He asked me beforehand if he could do that interview, so sorry about the old duck in the interview, but anyway. But he made that video and it’s actually a bit longer than that. We’ve shortened it a little, but it’s just getting the message out about doing things not more, but differently.
Carmel Nash: So, we might have a bit of a think about the archdiocese and council. They began shortly after school P&Fs, and they were about bringing schools together across a region to hear their issues, help them, to lobby for funding, give parents a voice and be informed and involved in all aspects of their children’s education, representation on the state parent body and work collaboratively with the archbishop and Catholic Education office.
Carmel Nash: Those things have been sort of going along but not going anywhere. It’s sort of slowly morphed into a few people, it doesn’t sort of represent people across the whole diocese, which is a problem, so those voices of the people in the north of the archdiocese, the south, the west, it’s become very Brisbane-centric, so we think we need to do a few things.
Carmel Nash: So, what do we need for the future? We want it to include all schools in the archdiocese, we want to work better with the archbishop and the Catholic Education office through PAM, have a focus on parent engagement in learning and well being, provide leadership to local school P&Fs, provide opportunities for everyone to learn, provide opportunities for local P&F’s to ask questions and get direction for advice, so not to give the advice but to direct people to where they can get the advice they need. It needs to provide opportunity to share and help each other. I think that’s an important one. We need to use a shared wisdom model where everybody can have a voice and then we work through that and listen to what people need and want.
Carmel Nash: Use this modern technology. We have all this technology in our schools and as I go to P&F’s in schools, as do some of the other staff, we see people doing innovative things with their P&F. Meeting I was at St Columba’s at Wilston the other night, and they were live streaming their meeting through Facebook so other people could come in. There were a couple of people on teleconference, different ways so that people who can’t get there at the time we decide can be part of what’s happening if they want to.
Carmel Nash: We want to share the tasks across a number of people and the regions, we want to support advocacy for Catholic schools, be more skilled in that space, support the state council members and work for the good of all. That’s the most important thing. It’s not about your school. As a Catholic school we’re about all schools in the archdiocese, and we should be working to support and help each other.
Carmel Nash: So, what do you think? What’s needed, what will work, and how will it work? They’re the questions. We’ve done a similar thing in Rockhampton. What we decided was that it was probably best to go with a model that was more collaborative in that we didn’t elect an executive. What we elected was a coordinating group, and that group could be made up of people from the northern part of the diocese, Sunshine Coast and north, from the Gold Coast, from our western schools, and get some representation, as well as from Brisbane, so that we can connect those people to what we’re trying to do, because at the moment they’re left out.
Carmel Nash: The other thing that we thought was we would have an equal number of representatives from each of those, but in Brisbane it might be we have some from the north side, some from the south side, ’cause we know about the great divide, and that could work. And what we thought was, that way the Gold Coast might make a decision to put on a particular parenting event, even something like tonight, and we could live stream it to everybody else. The northern region might do it, we do the same thing, but give those people an opportunity to have what they want and be able to get somebody to do that with them and everybody could share in it. So you could do it from home, we could get a group together in schools, different places. We can massage the ideas.
Carmel Nash: But I think the other thing is to have that opportunity to listen, and we talked about that with Brother Damien as well, not only listening at home but listening to each other so we can support each other. So, spending that time hearing, well, what are the issues, what do people want to know, and how do they want to do it?
Carmel Nash: So, we’re wondering if we go ahead with an AGM as such, with the old model, and we keep trotting along, or do we change the model and try to get whoever’s here tonight … we need people to put their hands up to be part of that group, and then we’ll pursue others from other areas, ’cause we don’t have, actually, anyone from outside Brisbane.
Carmel Nash: So, give yourself a few minutes to talk to the person next to you and then we’ll get some feedback. But for now it’s been a great evening, so thank you everybody, and give yourself some time to think about it and then we’ll talk.