New teachers kicking off the school year in Alice Springs have been left baffled by a gift that seemed to imply that educators were growing marijuana at their desks.
Teachers embarking on their first posting in the Northern Territory received an ‘anti-cannabis pot plant’ as a welcome gift – containing an empty terracotta pot, a packet of thyme seeds and an educational poster.
The ‘promotional item’ sent by the Department of Education encouraged users to grow thyme instead of marijuana at their desk, and urged them to seek help and information about addiction and the side effects of cannabis use.
Teachers were confused in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory when they received this strange gift telling them not to grow marijuana
‘I thought it was a bit of a joke,’ one teacher explained to the ABC.
‘I thought it was a teaching resource — that was my initial thought — to use with the kids…But hopefully my students aren’t that addicted.’
She added that she had no idea who the pot plant was intended for and what message the department was trying to convey.
Text on the accompanying poster reads: ‘To stay on the right side of the law, don’t let weed into your desk pot plant.’
It also includes promotional material that directed users to a cannabis information and support website that promoted a quit cannabis app. The website features a section for teachers with online resources for classroom education.
Australian Education Union NT president Jarvis Ryan said the plant seemed to be an ‘odd’ gift for incoming educators, given that there was no evidence of teachers using cannabis in Central Australia.
‘Certainly it would be very strange if we had any teachers — or anyone in an office environment, for that matter — that was growing marijuana in one of their office plants,’ he said.
‘On the surface it strikes me as a particularly unusual thing to include, it’s a bit unclear what message it’s trying to send.’
It’s been suggested that the plant was intended to be a reminder that marijuana laws vary from state to state in Australia – or that possession of the substance is a criminal offence.
Australian Education Union NT president Jarvis Ryan (left) said the plant seemed to be an ‘odd’ gift for incoming educators given that there is no evidence of teachers using cannabis in NT
‘We typically take in a large number of teachers at the beginning of each year, they come from all over Australia and in some cases outside Australia,’ said Centralian Middle School principal Paul van Holsteyn.
‘The specific laws on marijuana, cultivation use and possession can vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.’
However, the the Education Department said including the cannabis pot plant was an ‘innocent mistake’.
In a statement, the department admitted to providing all new Alice Springs teachers with a welcome pack which included information about the department, community organisations, businesses and government agencies.
‘One of the items included in the pack was a drug awareness message containing a small five-centimetre pot and thyme seeds,’ it said.
‘The item was provided by the Department of Health and is designed for the general community, not specifically for teachers.’