Curriculum development & academic articles


During four decades as an educator, Zela has taught people of all ages and backgrounds, from early childhood through to adults. She facilitates the development of innovative curriculum units in consultation with partner groups including natural resource management groups, environmental education projects, Indigenous organisations and local government.

Her works so far have included study units for primary and secondary schools aligned to the Australian curriculum in science and sustainability, short courses for teachers and natural resource management professionals.

Her writing also includes children’s books, poetry, award-winning short stories and a radio play.

From an early age, Zela has had great empathy for the injustices suffered by Indigenous Australians. The year 2006 saw the publication of her children’s book “Melly and the Bilby” co-authored with Kullilli academic, Stephen Hagan.

“Zela is a mature woman with many years of experience in diverse educational settings and an ongoing visual arts practice. She has demonstrated a gift for helping diverse groups find common ground and get inspiring projects off the ground.”
Chris McCarthy, BMRG

Zela co-authored and illustrated Melly and the Bilby, a children’s book



Selected publications


Examples of past work


Bunya Tree Education Unit

After completing a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education, Zela was invited in 2011 to help develop an education unit with Indigenous elders and educators, World Wildlife Fund and Education Queensland. She employed a backwards mapping technique to work back from the knowledge and skills the elders wished the students to acquire. She then planned the learning experiences to enable the students to reach a deep, respectful and informed appreciation of the role of the Bunya tree in the traditional economy, culture and diet.

Zela Bunya Bounty curriculum

Curriculum development session with Indigenous elders from South Burnett region, WWF and BMRG developing Bunya Bounty curriculum unit 2011.

Mary River Turtle Education Unit

Zela’s interest in conserving the endangered species of the Mary River combined with her specialised role as a science consultant for the Queensland Education Department in 2010-2011 enabled her to develop engaging learning experiences about freshwater ecosystems. Her strong relationship with natural resource management organisations lead to her being invited to work on a curriculum development project for Year 5 students attending schools in the Mary River catchment in 2013. In partnership with Churchill fellow Marilyn Connell, Zela developed a full term unit about the Mary River Turtle, its habitat and adaptations to its environment, aligned with the Australian curriculum. The unit has already been delivered in two state schools in the Mary River catchment.

Zela releases a large adult Mary River Turtle back into the Mary River after scientific testing and tagging.

Science Sparks Program

Zela joined the Science Sparks project at its inception in 2010, when the Bligh state government put $50 million on the table to encourage innovation and achievement in science by Queensland students via improved science teaching. She was appointed as a primary science facilitator (PSF) after a competitive selection process. Zela used her connections with local teachers to create exciting new experiences in science for teachers and students. Her team was commended personally by then Premier Anna Bligh for their successful work in helping students and teachers enjoy science more.

Zela with Gympie South School students teaching water quality investigation

Indigenous education

In 2007, Zela made the commitment to teach in an Aboriginal community at Cherbourg, Queensland. During this time, she completed a research project investigating Education for Sustainability, an active, participatory educational methodology, as a means of helping Indigenous learners engage more successfully in formal education. She presented a paper entitled Environmental Education with Indigenous Learners, at the national conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) in Canberra in September 2009. Zela received an Excellence in Teaching Award and an educational futures grant of $15,000 from the Queensland Department of Education and Training to complete this research. Her paper dealing with her Cherbourg experience, Bala ga lili: Meeting Indigenous Learners Halfway, can be found at Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 28, pp 7891 doi:10.1017/aee.2013.2

Zela with Warren Collins Cherbourg CEO

Zela with Warren Collins Cherbourg CEO