Three of a kind – College’s doctoral trio

Posted by Gavin Box
Dr Khim Harris, Dr Lindsay Graieg and Dr Gavin Marcus. Picture: Gavin Box

The number of highly-credentialled staff at Geraldton Christian College is building.
The arrival this year of Dr Gavin Marcus, Deputy Principal Teaching, brings to three the total number of College staff or board members who have completed studies at a doctoral level.
The others are Secondary Teacher Dr Lindsay Graieg and Geraldton Christian Community Schools Association Board Secretary Dr Khim Harris.

In a three-part feature, starting today with DR KHIM HARRIS, they share their learning journeys. Dr Harris has an interesting story to tell – with a background as a science teacher, marker/examiner for tertiary entrance exams, UWA teacher and Perth Zoo administrator. His research findings, as part of his thesis on Christian schools, also contain a timeless warning for all Christian families and educators.

Dr Khim Harris: A passion for Christian education

The field of expertise for my doctorate was in the history of education. The title of my thesis was The Influence of Anglican Evangelicals on English Education in the Late 19 Century. I was awarded that doctorate by the University of Western Australia in, I think, about 2001.

Before that I had done a Science Degree at UWA and a Diploma of Education and was a science teacher for five years, teaching chemistry. During that time I was asked to get more involved in what was then the TER (Tertiary Entrance Rank) and now the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank), where I was responsible for marking the exam papers for chemistry.

I was largely invited to do that because a number of my students had excelled in various chemistry competitions that were held around the State, competitions like the West Australian titration stakes and various other competitions. That kind of gained the attention of what was then called the Curriculum Council and of course they oversee the examination process.

So I was involved in marking exams and then, because of the reputation I had developed through teaching chemistry in a small non-government school like Geraldton Christian College, I was invited to take up a teaching-only position at UWA, teaching chemistry to students who were enrolled in science and medicine and some other areas who had either not done chemistry at ATAR level or who had failed it. It was like a bridging course. I had something like 230 students who were coming through in their first year and that required a high level of good teaching skills. That’s why I was recruited really by UWA. The other reason I was recruited was that I had started on a PhD. That was very significant in terms of UWA looking for someone who was good teacher and who was also looking at doing higher level studies at UWA.

Five years into the job I was awarded a PhD. In fact I had finished and moved on to head up education at Perth Zoo. I was in charge of that and while I was working at UWA I moved from being a marker of ATAR chemistry to being an examiner. There were three of us who were actually writing the exams and so I changed from being among about 200 teachers who were involved in marking exams to being among three people who would be at the front of the lecture theatre with a whole lecture theatre full of teachers, who used to come and get very angry about the questions that we had set!

Of course we tried very hard to come up with new questions that tested the same concepts and teachers often complained about the fact that they were different, but they also understood the importance of having some freshness in the exam every year. I did that for three years. Being a marker and then being an examiner for what was then TE chemistry meant that I got a really good understanding of all of the different areas of education. Also, teaching chemistry too meant that I understood the practise of teaching and then the practise of assessing the work and the understanding of the students.

I was only telling Geraldton Christian College Principal Gavin Hirschhausen today that some of the things I used to do at UWA were what we used to call chemistry magic shows, which we would hold during open days. We would have huge numbers of people coming, would put on a real show, quite a performance, demonstrating different chemical reactions. That’s something that we could do at this school I think.

Although I used my PhD in education at both the secondary and the tertiary level, I was also able to take that into other settings, firstly in management at Perth Zoo and then in broader administration roles.

A doctorate is a way of researching new areas of knowledge. What drives most people to do a doctorate is that they have a particular interest and they want to add to the world’s knowledge base in that area. For me that was very important.

The schools that I researched were all set up by Christians in the UK in the 19th Century. They’re really the equivalent or our Australian parent-controlled Christian schools. The reason the parents set up these schools — and there were five of them — is because they were unhappy with the English public schools, which are our equivalent of the big private church schools.

In every case the board changed and there were people who came on to the board who were non-believers or who were weak in their Christian faith.


Those parents were concerned there was no support for the pupils who were from Christian families. They observed that the students who went off to these schools — and we are talking about people who would have been regarded as the middle class in those days — were having their faith destroyed. They were basically choosing to not continue as Christians, to give up their faith and turn their back on what was their family history as churchgoing, mostly evangelical Anglicans.

So they set up set up their schools, similar to Geraldton Christian College, and they still exist. Some of them have maintained their faith and, interestingly, those that haven’t became schools that are no longer Christian. This happened as the school boards, governors or governing group chose not to follow a Christian basis for their school.

In every case the board changed and there were people who came on to the board who were non-believers or who were weak in their Christian beliefs or, in the case of the Church of England, who were progressive or liberal in their beliefs. They didn’t believe in the Bible, for example, and they changed their constitution so now they are just like any other public school in England.

The ones that maintained their Christian foundation continue on as being great foundations for Christian ministry. From those schools we see lots of people going off to be missionaries or into church leadership roles, or into education, or with a really firm Christian foundation. So it’s not dissimilar to what we’re trying to do here at Geraldton Christian College.

My thesis has also been published as a book. It’s called Evangelicals and Education (Paternoster Press 2004) and is available from Amazon.

What were some of the benefits for you of studying a PhD?
I think most people who do high level research and who write a PHD, and who’ve done it by thesis or by research rather than by coursework, come away with much higher level skills in writing, in editing and general research.

When I was doing my PHD, the internet was only in its early days. I wasn’t able to research like we can today. Back in the day, in the late 1990s, you had to go to a library to find something or go to a school and go to their archives to read things.

We still do a bit of that but a lot of it can be done online now of course. So the skills I developed in both research and writing took me into administration, where I was increasingly having to do a lot more writing and communications.

The job at Perth Zoo required someone who needed to not only understand the curriculum, key areas of pedagogy and key areas of understanding of education, because I had a team of teachers who looked after the students who came on site.

But more broadly I was also responsible for all of the signage, all of the website, a lot of the media that was being developed for the zoo, so that meant I had to have broader communication skills.

After that I went off into other management roles, again requiring skills in communications and marketing. As I say, research and writing for a PhD really gives you a fantastic basis in the general area of communication.

At UWA you cannot complete a doctorate in any less time than three years full-time or six years part-time, so I did the six years part-time because I was lecturing at UWA during that time. That means you have a very intense period of research and writing and it helps you appreciate the time you put into research and writing is time well spent.

It also helps you to realise that you have only studied a very small area of a subject. While you are contributing to the world’s knowledge base, the more you study the more you realise how much you don’t know. So that leaves you wanting to do further study.

So I’ve continued to do further study, mostly in business and administration and governance. I’ve got a Diploma of Business in governance and I’m constantly going off on courses or doing extra training in the job that I’m in. So it’s lifelong learning. I’m very much a believer of that. I’ve found as a manager I’m very much wanting to encourage my team members to do extra training. I guess you bring that as an educator as well as someone who spent a lot of time educating themselves.

Why is it important to encourage schools to have staff with postgraduate qualifications?
How are we supposed to encourage our students to go on to not just university undergraduate studies but postgraduate studies, without having some teachers who’ve done postgraduate studies? It’s almost impossible if at least some of your teachers haven’t done that. Also, people who have done postgraduate studies can appreciate the hard slog that an ATAR student is having.

So, for example, most of us who have done doctorates have picked up on the idea that the only way you’ll get through your doctorate is if you’re interested in your subject. If you’re interested in the subject it spurs you on. It’s the same with Year 11 or 12 students. If they’re not interested in a subject they generally can’t make it through their course, even though it’s only two years.

Why is an understanding of worldview so important in education?
Schools which were set up in another country and another time recognised the importance of laying a Biblical worldview foundation for the students and having teachers who are Christian. That’s very important.

With all of the schools that I researched, the teachers were Christian and the principal was not just a Christian but a leading Christian. They recruited very carefully and always had a chaplain, who was well versed in the Bible. All of these people – teachers, principal and chaplain – were committed to teaching the Bible to their pupils. That was the foundation they were building back in the day and I would say we’re still doing that here at Geraldton Christian College.

The new cargo net in the Primary nature playground is a hit with students


Focus on care is the heartbeat of God

By Gavin Hirschhausen

Recently a student requested a meeting to highlight that recent changes to playground interactions, that separate students into cohorts, adversely affects students in ways we may not be aware of. 

The student was not impacted themselves, but observed the impact to other students with sensory challenges who have older siblings and their friends in high school.

A student’s letter to Mr Scally and Mr Hirschhausen.

This is a great example of what we as a College focus on and highlights the many levels of complexity schools face in ensuring student wellbeing is maintained while restrictions are imposed to also protect others.

Our children are impacted in many ways we do not see and it’s so encouraging to see that our focus on caring for our community mirrors God’s perspective on it.

As an aside, I’m pleased to announce further upgrades have been completed to the Primary nature playground, with the recent addition of a cargo net.

It has certainly been a hit with the students.

Stay tuned for more news on campus upgrades.

A close-up of the cargo net.

Addison and Jacob are wide-eyed over the chemical experiment!

Year 7 students turn up the heat

By Joshua Arundell
Secondary Teacher (Science, Chemistry & Biblical Life and Worldview)

Year 7 students turned up the heat in science recently, with their very first experiment! There were burners and bubbles, as our solutions boiled. Students learned about the properties of the dangerous chemical compound, dihydrogen monoxide! Studious studies were undertaken, results recorded and diagrams drawn. All in all, students had a blast.

Indi and Emmy have some fun in chemistry.


Congratulations to Merit Certificate recipients

Congratulations to the following Primary students who this week received Merit Certificates:

Pre-Primary: Jake H, Hannah S.

Year 1: Isabelle B, Erica W, Charlie S, Finn VR.

Year 1/2: Ellie T, Emily D, Will S.

Year 2: Isaac V, Mannat S, Leandri DB.

Year 3: Abi R, Indie R, Walter A, Dane C.

Year 4: Asher L, Erica P.

Year 4/5: Samuel DK, Sarah C.

Year 5: Cooper P, Aaliyah B.

Year 6: Azelia V, Stella B, Jet P, Tobias B.

Terri T, Allysa P and Jenayah D with their commendation letters. Absent: Larnie B

Students encouraged to consider university

Four College students received formal commendation letters from the University of Western Australia Vice-Chancellor for their participation in the 2021 UWA Aspire Camp.
Allysa P, Jenayah D, Terri T and Larnie B experienced life at the Crawley campus during the camp, where they were accommodated at University Hall.
Their time at the University included learning about physics, sports science, human biology and more.
They also visited Scitech and Boola Bardip WA Museum.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma expressed his hope that the students were inspired to explore potential future career choices and were helped in deciding which study pathway to pursue in their senior years at Geraldton Christian College.
“I encourage you to continue imagining yourself pursuing a University education,” he said.

From left: Jackie Graham, Larishia, Fiona Davidson and Tori Smit.

Pancakes and cuddles

By Fiona Davidson
Executive Assistant to Principal & Enrolments

One of the perks of being a staff member at the College is that we sometimes get invited to eat food prepared by Food Technology students. This week Mr Derek Goforth put a call out for staff to come and eat pancakes, which had been cooked by the Year 9 students. Myself and Mrs Jackie Graham, Receptionist, leapt at the chance! Here we are pictured with Larishia who went above and beyond in serving us pancakes with our desired toppings, then cleaned up all the dishes afterwards. Added bonus, I got to have cuddles with Tori, Mrs Aneke Smit’s baby. What a blessing to be part of such a wonderful College community.

Helen Ferguson worked at Rehoboth Christian College WA for 13 years before coming to Geraldton.

Helen Ferguson: Primary Teacher (Year 5)

Where and when did you obtain your teaching qualification? Graduated Murdoch University May 2007

When did you start in your position at Geraldton Christian College? 1 January 2022

For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself. My career path has been one of discovery, starting as a very average secretary to working at Telstra Mobile Net and then on to becoming a teacher’s aide from which I was encouraged to become a teacher, which I feel extremely blessed to have been able to do. 

I have worked most recently at Rehoboth Christian College for 13 years in Year 3, 5 and 6 and also Harmony Primary in Atwell and Canning Vale Primary, both on short term, yearly contracts.

Where have you lived before coming to Geraldton (assuming you weren’t born and raised here) and what has been your journey of faith? Originally from New Zealand, I moved to Australia over 27 years ago. I had lived in Perth prior to this as a teen and came to faith during this time, when I was 18 years old. I had always felt a calling to the Lord but really didn’t know what this was until I met a group of Christians in Perth and was invited along to Perth Christian Reformed Church. Through this building of relationships, I began to understand that God had always had His hand over my life.

What would be the key life-shaping lesson you would like to impart to students? Coming from New Zealand, I have a dry sense of humour and at times, find myself very funny. I love to share my life experiences with the children to help them to understand how precious a childhood is. If I could teach the children one thing, it would be that they are made perfect in Christ and to rest in Him at all times.

What is the greatest joy of your life? My greatest joy in life has been the blessing of my two children, James and Rachel. I have recently re-married and have an amazing husband, Ben, for whom I am truly thankful (he gets my jokes).

What has been the toughest time of your life and how did God help you through it? There are many times that I have felt the weight of the world pressing down onto my life and in these times I have found solace in the knowledge that my Father in heaven is with me at all times. He has strengthened me, even when I thought I had no hope. He is true to His word.

Recreation/hobbies/interests? When I am not teaching I love to be creative through drawing and painting. I also love the beaches here in Geraldton and love to swim and float.

A little known thing about you? People may be surprised to discover I am pretty good at tennis and enjoy a good quiz night, ( I am very competitive – at times). Oh and I pick up accents for some reason, which I have recently discovered.

Anything else you would like to add? Ben and I were wanting a change and after visiting Geraldton and seeing how friendly the people are and how beautiful the area is we thought to move.

Thank you for all of your welcoming kindness and support to us during this move. We look forward to being part of the community for many years to come.


School photos

School photos will be taken by Kapture Photography on TUESDAY 22 MARCH and WEDNESDAY 23 MARCH.  More information will be sent to families soon, with details on how to order photos and book sibling photos online.

As we are still in uniform transition, students may wear either the new Geraldton Christian College uniform, or the old Strathalbyn Christian College uniform on photo days. 

Scripture Union holiday camps

By Kate Gibson
College Chaplain

Scripture Union will be running a number of camps over the autumn holidays for various school age groups, from Primary students through to Secondary.

Scripture Union camps are known not only for their diverse activities and fun adventures, but also for their solid Bible teaching and brilliant camp leaders.

If you are interested in finding out more or registering your child for a camp, please visit the Scripture Union WA website (or see brochure above).


Arriving soon: College-branded face masks

The College has ordered masks with our school logo printed on them. Production is ahead of schedule and they should hopefully be delivered early next week.

We have added face masks to QuickCliq online – so parents can order and pay now and we will take masks to students in class once they arrive (search under Accessories to find them easily).

Masks are 2 ply with pocket insert, 55% poly/40% cotton/5% spandex and have adjustable ear straps.

Both ADULT and CHILD (primary age) sizes available, $10 each.


Relief administration staff

The College is in need of staff who could work in the Front Office on a relief basis, covering Reception, Student Services and/or Uniform Shop. You will be an adaptable team player with good administrative skills, proficient in the use of MS Office packages.  Experience in the use of database management systems would be advantageous (the College uses Sentral – training can be provided). We may have regular ongoing part-time work available immediately.

Applicants must have (or ability to obtain) a valid Western Australia Working With Children Check and be vaccinated for COVID-19, according to WA Government Mandatory Vaccination Directions.

You can apply online using the Staff Application Form.  If you have any questions, please contact Rachel Monster,  

Relief cleaners

The College is in need of cleaners. The hours of work will be from 3.00-6.00pm on school days.  The role includes:

  • Cleaning classrooms, offices, toilets, outdoor areas, staff rooms/kitchens and common areas;
  • Waste management (collection and removal of rubbish);
  • Stocking consumables (toilet paper, hand towels, chemicals etc);
  • Working as part of a team.

The College will accept applications from Senior Students (Years 11 & 12) however, approval from a parent/guardian is required.  Students must be able to comply with the below requirements.

Must have (or ability to obtain) a valid Western Australia Working With Children Check and be vaccinated for COVID-19, according to WA Government Mandatory Vaccination Directions.

You can apply online using the Staff Application Form.  If you have any questions about this role, please contact Rachel Monster,


Mar  1

8.40am – 3pm. Hockey Clinic at College – Yrs 1 to 6

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  2

8.40am – 10.27am. OLNA Writing Test

8.40am – 2.30pm. Interhouse Secondary Swimming Carnival – Yr 7 to 12

Mar  3

9.00am – 3.00pm. Primary Swimming Carnival (Yr 3-6)

3.00pm – 4.00pm. Maths Support in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 10 to 12 only*)

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  7


Mar  8

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  10

3.00pm – 4.00pm. Maths Support in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 10 to 12 only*)

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  15

08.40am – 10.27am. OLNA Reading Test

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  16

3.00pm – 4.00pm. Maths Support in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 10 to 12 only*)

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  22

Kapture School Photos

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  23

Kapture School Photos

8.40am – 9.35am. OLNA Numeracy Test Yr 11 and Yr 12

10.47am – 11.40am. OLNA Numeracy Test Year 10

Mar  24

3.00pm – 4.00pm. Maths Support in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 10 to 12 only*)

3.30pm – 5pm. Homework Club in College Library (in-Term and Yrs 3-12 only*)

Mar  25

Interim Reports Published

* For students to participate, parents will need to email and ask for an Operoo Home Work Club and/or Maths Support permission form.