Kellie Sloane was once a familiar face for many Australians, broadcasting news and current affairs stories for various daily TV bulletins and shows. But about six years ago, that all changed as she took on an even more challenging role as the CEO of Life Education NSW, an organisation bringing vital health education to children.
Then in April last year, she accepted the role of CEO of its national body, Life Education Australia (LEA). LEA is the largest non-government provider of health and drug education for schoolchildren across Australia. It was the brainchild of the late Reverend Ted Noffs, who in 1979 had noted that health and social issues had a negative influence on children’s lives, creating the vision for the organisation.
Kellie kicked off her broadcast career at the ABC, before becoming a host, presenter and newsreader at the Nine Network where she stayed for around 13 years.
She was the Director of Miracle Babies for four years, Principal of Connolly Communications for four years and then she made the move to the Seven Network. In her time at LEA, she has seen many changes in the lives of children as education, technology and the concept of family have adapted to fit the times. These shifts include the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck just as Kellie took on the role of CEO.
“It’s been a fascinating time of change. I think LEA has always been a great support for young people, their families and their teachers,” she tells The CEO Magazine. “But over the past seven years or so, we’ve really seen a marked shift in their needs. It’s a very complicated world children are growing up in today, and a lot of that’s caused by what they are seeing online, the pressures of a very fast-paced life and not much downtime.
“We have gone from an organisation historically focused heavily on drug and alcohol education in schools to one that’s focused on mental health and resilience. We understand that is the most pressing need currently – not to the exclusion of drug and alcohol education – but we have had a very strong shift in that direction.”
Kellie has particularly noticed the growing impact of technological change. While it’s an exciting time to be working in education, she points out that LEA has had to adapt, especially through COVID-19, to make sure that at a time when families are facing more stress, the organisation is able to see children wherever they are.
During lockdown in their homes, it broadcasts directly into their lounges, delivering virtual lessons from its new TV studio or sending packs of information to children who don’t have access to the internet.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” she reveals. “Over the past seven years, there’s been a big change in data and being able to get feedback on what we’re doing. I think technological change, communal change and seeing an organisation like ours with offices in every state, working collaboratively, provides real strength in supporting kids and families.”
While technology can provide assistance, it is the direct connection with children that is the primary objective, Kellie explains. Each year, the organisation sees about 700,000 children face to face, but its aim is to increase that reach to a million children across the country within the next three years.
“Often for schools in regional centres, there are few charities or excursions that come to them, but LEA is one of those. The kids in regional areas are often the most excited about our mascot Healthy Harold coming to town, and those schools ensure that they see us year on year. We also deliver our program in very remote areas of the Northern Territory, and one of the highlights of my time here was spending a week with our NT educator going through East Arnhem Land. In some of those communities, our educators deliver their lessons under a tree if it’s a hot day and the air-con’s not working in the remote classroom. We ensure that we are accessible.”
LEA can’t achieve its goals without significant support from sponsors, volunteers and others, who provide both finance and time to ensure its longevity. Kellie spends a lot of her time speaking with LEA’s corporate sponsors about how their assistance makes such a difference to children around the country.
LIFE EDUCATION AUSTRALIA has signed a partnership agreement with ACCO Brands to feature its iconic Healthy Harold character on more than 400,000 stationery products in the 2022 school year.
“We’ve been able to put a compelling case to corporate Australia to say, ‘Convert your passion into supporting Australian children.’ We have been able to shine a light on some corporations who have joined us, who care about what we do. That includes the likes of Woolworths, Aussie Home Loans, Sanitarium, Dairy Australia and ACCO Brands,” she attests.
“Our tech partner is 3DAnatomica. We’re in the middle of a very exciting rebuild of our website, so we’ve contracted Frank Digital to work with us on that, and brand agency 10 Feet Tall from Melbourne helps to create the magic that is LEA. Allens, a very esteemed law firm in Sydney, has supported us for about 20 years.
“We would love to hear from more corporates who feel they can make a difference because we’re making great progress, but we have a long way to go yet, and we need more support to reach our goals.”
Kellie is proud of delivering financial stability to the organisation because it enables it to invest in resources for children. Its health directly translates into healthier kids, she says, so she is looking forward to the next few years, ensuring that LEA reaches its million-children target by 2025 and that they have healthier, happier lives.
“For me, it’s all about the kids, and the impact that we can have on children. As CEO, my job is to ensure that I can create a stronger business. We are in the business of saving lives so if I can steady the ship, work with corporate Australia as well as the government in a more meaningful way, we are making a greater difference,” she points out.
We have gone from an organisation historically focused heavily on drug and alcohol education in schools to one that’s focused on mental health and resilience.
“At the end of the day, that’s why I am with this organisation. I had a very exciting career in media and other corporate avenues, but I choose to be here. I’m very fortunate that I have a very fulfilling role. “I believe that every child deserves a chance to thrive, and so the work we do helps lift all children from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter if they are in the city, the country or in remote areas, if they come from a traditional family or a single family, or if they have other challenges like developmental or learning challenges – we are there for every child, and that’s what gets me up in the morning.”
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