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Brisbane chef using Home Economics education to serve up unique path to inclusion

Published:31 March 2021

Education student and scholarship recipient Rose Gray.

An experienced chef of 15 years, Rose Gray got the attention of the class pretty sharply when she gave a knife skills demonstration at her husband’s former high school – but it also pointed her towards an exciting new career.

The passionate Dakabin mum retrained to become a teacher’s aide five years ago, and is now in third year of her Bachelor of Education (Secondary) with CQUniversity.

She’s still using plenty of her kitchen skills, as she prepares to be a Home Economics and Psychology teacher.

Mrs Gray’s passion has been recognised nationally, with a recent $5000 scholarship from the King and Amy O’Malley Trust.

She says she’s motivated by her own experience as a mum to two children with disabilities .

Her husband’s journey to becoming a chef, and the teachers she works with, also provide inspiration.

“Home Economics plays a really important role in special education, and teaching inclusivity to the next generation – because it’s all about understanding people’s needs, and addressing those needs,” she said.

“Home Economics, psychology and special education all just fit so perfectly together, and in the classroom they mean that teachers can impart vital life knowledge and skills in a fun way, and also a really practical way, which is the basis of inclusion for any gender or learning ability, and for every age and every culture.”

Mrs Gray cemented her passion for Home Economics with support from CQUniversity Home Economics Senior Lecturer Dr Jay Deagon, who’s also a two-time recipient of the scholarship.

“Jay gave me the confidence to express what I had previously had trouble expressing,” Mrs Gray explained.

“I’m usually a really quiet person, and Jay gave me my teacher voice… she said they can’t read what’s in your head, but they can feel what’s in your heart, and if they can feel your passion, they’ll take it and run with it.”

CQUniversity is the only Queensland university that offers Home Economics as a holistic academic discipline, focused on achieving optimal and sustainable health and wellbeing for individuals, families and communities through multidisciplinary pathways as part of its Education degree.

That fact helped Mrs Gray choose the Bachelor of Education (Secondary).

“The inclusive program offers so much, including units like Individuals, Families and Communities - that showed me that CQUniversity understood what I wanted to achieve, and my values,” she said.

Mrs Gray is still working as a teacher’s aide while she studies, with breaks to do mandatory teaching placements coordinated by CQUniversity, juggled alongside a busy mum schedule.

“I always get through a term and go wow, I can’t believe I managed to fit all of that in!” she said.

But it’s worth it for the impact Mrs Gray’s planning to have in the classroom – and she’s already got plenty of skills for making an impression.

“Because I’ve had that experience as a chef, the students love asking me where I’ve worked and who I’ve cooked for!” she said.

“I did backstage catering at Riverstage and Brisbane Convention Centre, so I’ve cooked for people like Michael Bublé and Jack Johnson, the Brisbane Bullets basketball team, all the AFL footballers at the Brownlow medals – having those stories makes it really real to young people, especially when they’re trying to work out where their life is going.”

“I think Home Economics teachers have great advantages in the classroom – it’s the easiest way to engage someone, you just masterfully set some food on fire and they will definitely pay attention to what you’re doing!”

In addition to her role as Senior Lecturer, Dr Deagon sits on the Executive Committee of the International Federation for Home Economics where she the member representing the Pacific Region.

Dr Deagon said: “We need highly skilled people like Rose. She is very important to the profession. Home Economics is a high-demand teaching specialisation. Having unskilled teachers in busy kitchens and sewing rooms is undesirable for the health, wellbeing and safety of Australian young people.”

“Passionate teachers are so important to this unique teaching specialisation. I am very proud of her and her achievements. She is an outstanding role model and Home Economics advocate."

CQUniversity offers pathways for existing teachers to upskill into the high demand teaching specialisations of Home Economics and Industrial Technology and Design (Manual Arts).

CQUniversity also offers Education courses from Cert III and short courses to postgraduate level, for more information visit cqu.edu.au/courses/education-courses.