U-turn Training School – Gympie

“The first human value is Truth. Where has come from? Who taught and wrote about Truth? None. Truth lies in the harmony between thought, word and deed. Those whose thoughts, words and deeds are in perfect harmony are noble ones. This is the truth which great and noble souls have been teaching. Truth comes from one's own heart”

- Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai U-turn Training School was a "not for profit" programme that was totally free to participating students and was operated by volunteers. The programme was supported by the Sathya Sai Organisation of Australia and Papua New Guinea and was coordinated by the participants of Zone A - South East Queensland.

The training programme was based on Sathya Sai Education in Human Values Educare programme, manual skills and positive encouragement. The programme was suitable for male and female students aged 12 to 16 years who had been assessed by their school as requiring special needs and required additional support.

watch-diagramThe programme was underpinned each week by a simple self-examination activity and a discussion session which focused on five basic principles of Watch your Words, Actions, Thoughts, Character, and your Heart (W.A.T.C.H.). Additional to this was Trust which was their boundary and was measured at 100% initially. Their weekly actions were reflected in this score.

Silent sitting, story telling and discussion were used to draw out the students’ awareness of their behavior in relation to W.A.T.C.H. This awareness built to a daily experience and formed a foundation to develop Good Character and Self Confidence.

A range of craft, trade and life skills were selected for the students that were supported and demonstrated by facilitators, mentors and volunteers. This group provided a mentor relationship during these activities. The U-Turn School was committed to providing a quality service for the students and the community.

Our preference was not to teach but instill human ethics into the minds and hearts of our students through enquiry, example, experimentation, awareness, discussion and the practice of these values in their daily lives. This allowed our students to understand that they had choices in their lives and what was important was not the end of the journey but the time spent getting there.

The programme commenced in 2000, and ended in 2011 due to the retirement of many of the key programme leaders.

Development History of Sathya Sai U-turn Training School


The W.A.T.C.H. programme was first introduced at the Amamoor School of Arts as part of an Education in Human Values after school programme for children. The programme started June 17th, 2000 and was operated by Cooran and Kybong Sai Groups until Friday, 10th August, 2001 when it finished due to lack of students. This programme provided the basic skills required for working with children and developed a committed volunteer group of people with similar interests.


Mt Perry “Inward Bound” camps were the opportunity for the Cooran Group to carryout service activities with boys “at risk” in the school system. Part of the Inward Bound programme which was organised by the Bundaberg Sai Centre required “hands on” activities for the boys.

Doug Bettens who has skills in metalwork chose blacksmithing as the property has a working blacksmith shop. Blacksmithing allowed Doug to communicate, discuss and exemplify the Five Human Values with the boys through the mystique of the fire, hot iron and the hammer.

  • 12th, 13th, 14th January - Doug attended the “Inward Bound Youth Camp” at Mt Perry in Central Queensland
  • 16th, 17th, 18th March - Youth camp at Mt Perry
  • 25th, 26th, 27th May - Youth camp at Mt Perry
  • 17th, 18th, 19th August - Review of the “Inward Bound Youth Camp programme by adults at Mt Perry. This resulted in future camps being cancelled.

The skills gained at these camps - understanding issues of young people and blacksmithing. This connection became well known through the school network and led to a request from the Youth Development Office, Cooloola Shire Council who was looking for an adult person to work with disadvantaged youth.

Tewantin Connection started with Doug Bettens and Dot Hall having an interview with the Deputy Principal Tewantin State School regarding the introduction of the W.A.T.C.H. programme as a “religious instruction alternative”.

  • 28th May - Interview with Deputy Principal
  • 12th June - Start of W.A.T.C.H. programme at Tewantin State School. Doug and Dot to provide classes every Tuesday at 11am – one hour.
  • 20th November - Completion of the W.A.T.C.H. programme at Tewantin State School

Gmpie Connection started with Doug Bettens meeting with Cooloola Youth Development Unit at Wood Works Museum and where a programme was agreed upon by all parties based on the Mt Perry experience. Blacksmithing is to be the main activity carried out at the Blacksmith shop.

  • 13th August - Meeting was held with Doug, Cooloola Youth Development Unit and the manager of Wood Works Museum to discuss operational details.
  • 31st August - Doug Bettens and John Sturmer attend training day organised by the Museum for Blacksmithing at the Wood Works Museum, Gympie.
  • 20th September - Start of the Blacksmith Project with two adults starting in the programme as “Work for the Dole” participants. Not happy with the arrangement.
  • 27th September - Visit by Gympie State High School behavioural management officer seeking a placement for some at risk male students in the Blacksmith programme. Arrangements made for two students to start the following week. W.A.T.C.H. and Trust values were set as the training boundaries for the students. Doug and John were very happy with the new arrangements.

Caloundra Connetion started when Doug Bettens was contacted about being involved with a workshop about values to be held by Caloundra TAFE. It was decided to trial W.A.T.C.H.

  • 16th November - Dot Sturmer, John Sturmer and Doug Bettens attended Caloundra TAFE College for 1 hour Values programme based on W.A.T.C.H. 20 students aged 15/16 Male and Female attended.
  • This activity confirmed that the W.A.T.C.H. programme was a suitable programme for students with behavioural issues and can be managed with knowledge of the subjects and good team effort.
  • The programme was easily projected by facilitators and this resulted in positive interaction with students. However it was identified that positive values must be demonstrated by the facilitator or the result can lead to a negative effect.
  • Caution needs to be exercised at all times.


Sathya Sai U-turn Training School – Gympie entered a new phase as it was realised that there was a genuine interest by fellow Sai participants both male and female to become part of the U-turn team and it may be possible to establish a girls school at a later date depending on interest at meeting.

  • Friday 9th August - Meeting at Gympie Town Hall of all past EHV teachers and other Sai participants interested in the U-turn Project. (8 attended meeting)
  • Friday 16th August - Meeting was called at “Artspace”, Town Hall, Gympie. A working bee was called to clean and build storage areas for the programme.
  • Friday 23rd August - Start at “Artspace” with three students and six adult male and female volunteers using the medium of arts and crafts.

Every Thursday the blacksmith programme continued at the Wood Works Museum with three male students and Friday with an additional three male students. The Friday programme gave opportunities for everyone involved to have hands on experience at working with young people and the W.A.T.C.H. + T programme. At the close of 2002 it was decided to start a girls programme in the new year.


  • 31st January - Meeting was called at “Artspace”, Gympie Town Hall and it was decided to separate the programme into two separate campuses one for Boys and the other for Girls. All male mentors are part of the boys programme and all and female mentors part of the girls programme.
    1. Doug Bettens in charge of boys programme
    2. Dot Sturmer in charge of girls programme
  • 12th February - Wood Works Museum - Blacksmith Shop - 4 Boys
  • 14th February - Wood Works Museum - Blacksmith Shop - 4 Boys
  • 14th February - “Artspace”, Gympie Town Hall - 6 Girls


  • 13th August - John Sturmer appointed as coordinator for Friday Boys. The programme has three separate coordinators


  • Ongoing - Number of girls increased to seven


  • 16th June - James Nash State High School joined the girls programme at “Art Space”.