Educator receives recognition for her creative work with youth

18 November 2015

Dr Cath Keenan is this year's Australian Local Hero (NSW)
Dr Cath Keenan is this year's Australian Local Hero (NSW)

A former journalist, Faculty of Education and Social Work Honorary Associate, Dr Cath Keenan has provided assistance to thousands of primary and high school students in order to improve their writing skills and cultivate their creativity.

In recognition of this achievement, Dr Keenan received the Australia's Local Hero Award (NSW) for 2016.

Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Sydney Story Factory, Dr Keenan said she was "thrilled and humbled" by the award, which is part of the Australian of the Year Awards.

"I was also extremely surprised, as my fellow nominees are an incredible bunch and would have been excellent winners," she added.

"A huge thanks to everyone at the Sydney Story Factory: our board, our incredible staff, our phalanx of awesome volunteers, our community partners and, most especially, our students, who make our lives better every day.

"This award is for all of you."

Established four years ago, Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to nurture the creativity, confidence and wellbeing of young people, aged 7 to 17, through creative writing and storytelling workshops.

Designed particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and children from non-English speaking backgrounds, Sydney Story Factory’s workshops are open to all, with each student receiving one-on-one assistance from volunteer tutors.

Workshops are designed to foster creative thinking and engagement in learning, improve writing skills and boost confidence in a fun environment.

A team of academics from the Faculty of Education and Social Work is currently undertaking an evaluation of the impact of Sydney Story Factory workshops.

“The Sydney Story Factory evaluation focuses on the importance of creative writing in helping to develop children’s imagination, creativity, confidence and writing skills over time,” said Robyn Ewing AM, Vice President of Sydney Story Factory and Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts.

"Strong creative thinking and learning skills are critical to students' social and emotional well-being, academic achievement and lifelong learning."

Professor Ewing is overseeing the research project undertaken by colleagues Associate Professor Jackie Manuel and Honorary Associate Professor David Smith.

Researcher Amy Mortimer, a Sydney primary school teacher, will also complete her PhD on Sydney Story Factory later this year.