After many delays due to Covid_19, the biennial Doing School Differently (DSD) conference was held in Adelaide 30 June – 1 July 2022, following the success of DSD16 in Melbourne and DSD18 on the Gold Coast. It was attended by more than 400 delegates from all over Australia, including teachers, youth workers, First Nations support workers, policy makers and researchers.

The conference was organised by the Australian Association for Flexible and Inclusive Education, (AAFIE), the peak body for the flexible and inclusive education sector which supports ‘flexi’ programs that support young people to learn and succeed. The conference included opportunities for attendees to learn from industry experts and young people.

DSD 2022 was opened with a welcome to country by Senior Kaurna Man, Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien, who talked about how the area that is now Adelaide has always been a meeting place for exchanging knowledge and learning from others.

There were four keynote presentations by:

  • Helen Connelly, Commissioner for Children and Young People in South Australia.
  • Dr Tom Brunzell, Director of Education at Berry Street.
  • Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney, University of South Australia and Dr John Davis, Riteways and Deakin University.
  • Dr Luci Pangrazio, Deakin University.

The highlight of the conference was the panel of six young people from two flexible education programs in Adelaide, who shared their views about what made school ‘work’ for them. This panel was introduced by Associate Professor Glenda McGregor (GIER) and founding board member of AAFIE.

The young men and women shared their personal stories of exclusion and suspensions in previous schools, and their feelings of being unwanted and rejected. They shared that they wanted schools that show respect and care, empathy and connection, support, flexibility, and love. For all present, they represented the reasons for the conference and the work being done throughout the non-traditional schooling sector.

The students also spoke about their current schools, Youth Inc and Specialised Assistance School for Youth, and described how they now felt equality and support in their relationships with the adults there. Youth Inc. is a partner organisation on Associate Professor Glenda McGregor’s ARC Linkage project Supporting teachers and teaching in flexible and non-traditional schools.