Earlier this year, after over 35 years of developing and leading Lions Quest in Australia, Donna Munro retired from the role, so we took the opportunity to sit down with Donna who kindly shared her Lions Quest story.
“It seems a lifetime ago that my involvement with Lions Quest started in Australia” begins Donna, which isn’t surprising when Donna explains her journey began back in 1987 when she first heard of Lions Quest.
From 1986 Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence became active in Australia under the leadership of CC Brian Hammond and supported by PDG Lion Roger Sherrington and PDG Alan Moore who travelled Australia promoting the program and were successful in getting a pilot established.
Donna’s involvement started when she heard of Lions Quest while working as a curriculum consultant in the Education Department in Sydney in 1988 and she became involved in her work capacity in a year-long pilot of the program in 12 Sydney high schools, which was accompanied by an evaluation. Rick Little, the founder of Lions Quest, attended the evaluation launch in Sydney, and it was here that he invited Donna to do the Australian adaptation of the Lions Quest curriculum.
“A key finding from the evaluation was that Lions Quest was an effective program, but it needed an Australian version” Donna recalls. So Donna began working with Lions Quest to create an Australian edition of Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence. “it was a big task but ensured the program was mapped to our curriculum and had a local focus”.
During this time, Donna worked with Dr. Michael Morley, a former teacher and National Director of Lions Quest. Their first challenge was to engage Lions, which Michael was great at, while Donna focused on program development and teacher training. They went to lots of Lions conventions and many principal and teacher conferences to raise awareness. Both Donna and Michael also trained to become Lions Quest Trainers, with Donna travelling to the US to complete her training.
Lions Quest went from strength-to-strength, running from a small-scale set-up but achieving fantastic outputs. Donna recalls a printer coming to the small office in Bondi Junction expecting to visit a Publishing Department. “He was amazed that ‘the team’ developing all these print materials was just two people in a small office!” On this occasion, they ordered a print run of 12,000 of the student booklets, followed by a second run of 10,000.
When Michael retired and the office moved to a bigger space in Mascot, Donna recalls celebrating a record volume of sales, with boxes of curriculum kits and student workbooks being dispatched almost daily.
By now, Donna had also completed the Lions Quest Senior Trainer training, which enabled her to train new trainers, and at this stage, they had six trainers located in WA, QLD, VIC, and NSW. “For a Lions project, it was quite remarkable,” recalls Donna. “Lions Quest was embraced by the education world as a unique program that had a sound research base, offered flexible delivery and helped create happy kids who were able to reach their potential. We ran teacher training in every corner of Australia which reached thousands, and at this time there was fantastic Lions support, with a Lions Quest Chairperson in each of the 19 Lions Districts, and District Chair training weekends held in Sydney and Brisbane.“
“The impact Lions Quest had is very humbling and satisfying,” Donna recalls. “We constantly heard from teachers about how Lions Quest had transformed their classrooms, their way of teaching, and how the children’s behaviour improved. We would hear from canteen staff to bus drivers about the improvement in behaviour. It was heart-warming to hear these stories and it kept us going.”
In 2002 the Board voted to move the office to QLD where Lions Quest was supported by an amazing group of Lions on the Redcliffe Peninsula who would come once a week and pack up curriculum kits. “It was so wonderful to have that Lions support. It was also at this time that the Australian Lions Quest Youth Institute was formed.”
In the same year, Lions Quest (formerly a partnership with LCI) was purchased by LCIF and Donna was invited to become a Technical Advisor on the LCIF Lions Quest Advisory Committee. Through this role, and her position as a Senior Trainer, Donna was fortunate to travel to the USA, China, India, Finland and Indonesia, and train teachers throughout Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. In 2008 Donna was awarded the International President’s Medal for her work.
There were many dedicated Lions Quest champions along the way. They ranged from teachers that Donna trained in Papua New Guinea who then returned to Australia and brought the program to their local schools, to the many wonderful Lions that supported them. These included PDG Lindsey and Pat Barton and PDG David and Annette Knowles from district Q3 and Pam and Alan McHardy from Q4. And of course, Lion Bronte Cameron who came across Lions Quest in the early 1990s and ended up being Donna’s right-hand man right up to the last face-to-face workshop they ran in South Australia in 2020 and more recently the online workshops.
In 2010 Lions Quest became part of the ALWF portfolio and Donna completed an update of the K to Yr 8 materials with funding from LCIF, a big task! Donna liaised with the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA), and the University of Queensland who mapped the Lions Quest lessons to the Australian Curriculum and produced “Lions Quest Supporting Schools and Teachers to Implement Social and Emotional Learning in Schools”.
Alongside her work with Lions Quest Donna has also been an active Lions member, joining Randwick City Lions Club in 1997 and more recently transferring to Port Macquarie -Tacking Point in 2017, with youth programs always catching her interest.
“Lions Quest had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of Australian children, teachers and parents and it is such an honour to have wonderful memories and to know that my work and passion for Lions Quest made a difference.” reflects Donna.
After 35 years of dedication to Lions Quest Donna has now retired from the role. The Foundation thanks Donna for her commitment and the knowledge she has applied to Lions Quest since its inception that made it such a success.