Public education: Building great Australian lives

Becoming an actor was an unlikely career path for a young Deborah Mailman growing up in the north-western Queensland mining town of Mt Isa.

But her speech and drama teacher wouldn’t hear of it. “Miss Murphy was a speech and drama teacher in school,” Ms Mailman said. “She was a constant for me all through high school, her belief in me, and she was actually the one who said ‘Deb, you can be an actor’.”

The AACTA and Logie award-winning actor, star of TV series Total Control and movies such as Bran Nue Dae and The Sapphires, has joined with the Public Education Foundation as one of three “public education champions” for its campaign, Public Schools. Building Great Australian Lives.Then. Now. Always.

In a video message to promote the campaign, she becomes emotional as she recalls her public school teacher. “Miss Murphy, I can’t thank you enough. You gave me the opportunities that I never thought were possible.”

With Ms Mailman, Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley and ABC journalist Juanita Phillips, all proud products of the public school system, have put their considerable talents towards promoting the value of public education

The Foundation’s campaign will launch on 21 July, with the official campaign hashtags #ProudlyPublic and #PublicEducation, with key stakeholders in the sector, including NSW Teachers Federation, adding their voice to raise awareness and instil confidence in parents and the community that Australian public schools were, are and always will provide a vibrant, inclusive and high-quality education to all Australians.

“My kids are in public school,” Ms Mailman said. “They have fantastic teachers and I really just believe education, and great education, belongs to everyone.”