A brief history of the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA)

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 where shared informally.

Early in 2012, The Peninsula School (Victoria), St Peter’s College (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 Positive Education in all schools across the nation. The notion of learning from each other, as well as encouraging other schools to embrace the tenets of positive psychology was clearly a shared vision of these three schools.

A few months later, the leaders of nine schools from across Australia came together at St Peter’s College in Adelaide for an inaugural workshop at which the foundations of the association were discussed. Membership of an interim Board was determined, together with that of a committee which would do much of the ground work towards preparing a constitution for the association.

Interim Board

  • Simon Murray, Chairman (St Peter’s College, SA)
  • Roger Bayly (Christ Church Grammar School, WA)
  • Steven Bowers (Burgmann Anglican School, ACT)
  • Jonathan Hensman (Anglican Church Grammar School, QLD)
  • Anne Johnstone (St Catherine’s School NSW, subsequently Seymour College, SA)
  • Stuart Johnston (The Peninsula School, VIC)
  • Stephen Meek (Geelong Grammar School, VIC)
  • Julie Townsend (St Catherine’s School, NSW)
  • Scott Watson (Euroa Secondary School, VIC)
  • John Weeks (Knox Grammar School, NSW)


  • Phil Doll (The Peninsula School, VIC)
  • Anne Johnstone (St Catherine’s School, NSW)
  • Mathew White (St Peter’s College, SA)
  • Steve Zolezzi (Knox Grammar School, NSW)

In January 2013, Anne Johnstone assumed the position of Principal of Seymour College (South Australia) at which time she continued on the Board but as Seymour College’s representative.

Much work was done during the period 2012 – 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.

From the beginning, there was a strong commitment for PESA to be an 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 to enable a formal launch of PESA at the 4th Australian Positive Psychology & Wellbeing Conference held on 8 February 2014 at the University of Melbourne. The Peninsula School is acknowledged as being a significant driver in the formation of PESA, particularly through the generous provision of the services of Phil Doll.