Until 2011, the early adopters of Positive Education in Australia worked largely in isolation or within small networks of schools in which knowledge and experiences were shared informally.

Early in 2012, The Peninsula School (Victoria), St Peter’s College Adelaide (South Australia) and Knox Grammar School (New South Wales) met with Associate Professor Lea Waters at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, to explore the likely benefits of forming an association of educators who shared the vision of promoting and developing Positive Education in all schools across the nation.

The notion of collaboration and learning from each other, as well as encouraging other schools nation-wide to embrace the tenets of Positive Psychology, was a shared vision of these three schools from the outset.

A list of ‘light-house’ schools from around Australia known to be adopting a Positive Education approach was compiled, and invitations were issued to attend a meeting at St Peter’s College Adelaide to further explore the formation of an alliance.

A few months later in mid-2012, the leaders of nine schools came together at St Peter’s College Adelaide for an inaugural workshop at which the foundations of the association were discussed.

Much work was done during 2012 and 2013 to develop the mission, vision and core values of the new association, which was to be named the Positive Education Schools Association. This work was assisted greatly by Michelle McQuaid, using an Appreciative Inquiry approach.

Membership of an Interim Board was determined, and Mr Simon Murray OAM was elected to the position of PESA’s first Chair. A Committee was formed at the same time, which would do much of the groundwork to prepare a Constitution for PESA.

The original PESA Board comprised nine members:

  • Simon Murray OAM, Chair (St Peter’s College, Adelaide)
  • Roger Bayly (Christ Church Grammar School, Perth)
  • Scott Watson (Euroa Secondary College, Euroa)
  • Stuart Johnston (The Peninsula School, Vic)
  • Anne Johnstone (St Catherine’s School NSW, and subsequently Seymour College, SA)
  • Steven Bowers (Burgmann Anglican School, ACT)
  • Stephen Meek (Geelong Grammar School, Vic)
  • Stefano Zolezzi (Knox GS, NSW)
  • Julie Townsend (St Catherine’s School, NSW)

The interim Committee included:

  • Assoc Prof Mathew White, (St Peter’s College Adelaide)
  • Anne Johnstone (Principal, Seymour College, Adelaide)
  • Phil Doll (Deputy Principal, The Peninsula School, Mt Eliza)
  • John Weekes (Knox Grammar School, Sydney)

From the outset, there was a strong commitment for PESA to be an egalitarian association of educators and schools from all sectors, across regional and metropolitan Australia: government, independent and systemic.

The founding schools of PESA provided countless hours of support and generous financial assistance, and the Peninsula School was a significant driver in the formation of PESA, generously providing the services of Phil Doll, the then Deputy Principal, who served as the Association’s first Executive Officer.

From the very beginning, PESA was very fortunate to have the support and encouragement of Dr Martin EP Seligman, who graciously agreed to be the Association’s Patron, and Professor Lea Waters, PESA’s Ambassador.

PESA was formally launched at the 4th Australian Positive Psychology & Wellbeing Conference held at the University of Melbourne in February 2014.

Since this time, the Association has grown substantially.  Major achievements have included the establishment of State and Territory Chapters across Australia, five national conferences, hosted by St Peter’s College Adelaide, The Peninsula School, Ravenswood School for Girls, Geelong Grammar School and RACV Royal Pines respectively, as well as numerous state conferences.

PESA’s growth allowed the association to appoint its first full-time CEO, Marita Hayes-Brown, in November 2016.

PESA now serves a diverse range of members, including educators, school leaders, academics, health professionals, parents and community members from across Australia and internationally.  We have forged relationships with IPEN (International Positive Education Network) and IPPA (International Positive Psychology Association).

Simon Murray retired as PESA Chair on 1 September 2020 after many years of service and leadership. Anne Johnstone assumed the role from 1 September 2020.

To our knowledge, PESA is the first national Positive Education peak body, and we are proud to be recognised globally as a Positive Education professional association leader.