Teaching our boys to be Goodfellas

Jack Ellis teaching a class


After a career full of twists and turns, each adding to a broad skillset, Jack Ellis (BEd(MS),BA ’11) now finds himself using those teaching and acting skills to help break outdated stereotypes to boys and young men across the country through a program called Goodfellas.

With a family full of teachers, including his grandfather Jim Judd who was the South-East Regional Director of South Australian Teachers, Jack felt like it was only natural to follow the same path.

Hailing from regional Mount Gambier, South Australia Jack lived at Flinders University Hall while completing his Education studies, just as his older sister Claire had done a few years prior.

“I also had some friends coming to live on campus, so that helped. I really loved living at University Hall, it was a community unto itself,” says Jack.

After he graduated, Jack did relief teaching before he landed a role teaching drama at Catholic primary school, St Margaret Mary’s.

“My drama electives at Flinders prepared me for a fantastic role as an early-career drama teacher,” he says,

The year he started teaching at St Margaret Marys’ was also the fourth year running that he’d auditioned for the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA).

“I had my teaching degree, but I’d also had this dream as a boy to become an actor. Then in the same year I began teaching, I was accepted into NIDA for a three-year acting degree,” says Jack.

Within a just few weeks, Jack was living in Sydney. Fortunately for Jack, his teaching degree allowed him to work for NIDA as a tutor. Reflecting on those times, Jack says, “They were long days, studying during the day and teaching at night. It was stressful at times but it paid my way through that degree.”

“Not long after I graduated from NIDA, I was invited to do a few episodes on Home and Away.

“They’d seen me act in a play and liked my work. My first character was in a few episodes and ended up in jail. Later, I went back on the show again as a different character for four more episodes. I was also in A Place to Call Home for a couple of seasons, and Netflix’s Sweet River, plus a few other film, TV and stage roles. I was also the acting coach for the Cirque de Soleil show, Kurios. The work was coming through steadily.”

While Jack was acting, he also began presenting for Enlighten Education. From 2016 he was presenting to boys from 10 to 18 years of age. He says, “My teaching background helped with program development and my acting skills really helped with presenting.

“After about five years of presenting for Goodfellas, I decided to take over the NSW franchise and I took on the role as Program Director.”

“Goodfellas breaks the myths and stereotypes around things like strength, masculinity, vulnerability, respectful relationships, and consent. Depending on the age of the boys we talk about domestic violence, abusive relationships, the traits of respectful relationships, and we talk about some pretty damning statistics. I often present to a whole year level at a time and have worked with over 10,000 boys.”

Jack runs half-day Goodfellas workshops to schools around the country for boys aged six to 18. Many of the schools that Goodfellas work with are also introduced to their local women’s community shelter, and the school adopts this shelter for the next year. The schools support their shelter in any way that they can, whether it’s through fundraising or just promoting awareness.

“It’s service learning for the kids and a way of bringing hidden things out into the open. I feel really blessed to work with the boys in this way,” says Jack.

As a child, Jack never foresaw himself becoming a teacher or a presenter or a business owner. He says, “I was a bit reckless as a teen, and I think I had a few people worried for a while there, but I’ve come good. Though I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!”

“As a country kid at Flinders living on campus, I felt safe and comfortable and had a great community around me. I had a great time there and made lifelong friends. I couldn’t be prouder to be a graduate of Flinders.”


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