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Lowie's heartfelt words inspire residents

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on March 07, 2024

Sir Graham Lowe is the master of reinvention - and Ryman residents were thrilled to hear his secrets.

Most people know his name from his impressive career coaching rugby league. He coached in Australia and England and is the only non-Australian to coach a State of Origin team.

But since those heady days he has worn a few different hats, including hosting a tv cooking show, speaking on the celebrity circuit, becoming a doting dad for the second time to twin boys, writing three books, surviving numerous serious health conditions and most recently, educator.


Indeed, when he was knighted in 2019 it was in recognition for his services to education, and Graham is the first to see the irony in this.

“I couldn’t wait to get out of school,” he says, telling Ryman Healthcare he left Ōtāhuhu College at 14.

“My main memories of school are getting the cane. I had to laugh when I was invited back to my school as one of their most successful pupils.

“I felt sorry for the principal because he pulled me aside to say they hadn’t found any record of academic achievements but quite a few of corporal punishment!”

With this track record, it would be understandable if Graham shied away from all things educational, but he says his coaching was a form of teaching.

“When I was coaching I thought back to my school days and thought, what made me go? It was like teaching, you’re finding the buttons to push, and every kid is different. But everyone is different.”

As a popular speaker on the circuit, Graham explains to his audiences how he designed the 12 principles of his learning system, and the residents were keen to hear some of them.

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Sir Graham had residents laughing during his presentation at William Sanders Village but it was the rewarding work he is doing in prisons that prompted the most emotional reaction, from both him and his audience.

IMG_9846 (1) (Large)“We talk in the language of sport. What makes a winning team, for instance. People often think it’s the team with the most points on the scoreboard.

“But we consider a winning team is one that prepares, has persistence, good teamwork, shows commitment and humility. And they’re far harder to achieve than points.”

As a coach, Graham would see young kids recruited by the club who would ultimately fail, but not because they lacked playing ability.

“Many of them wouldn’t understand how important it was to get to places on time because they’d never had that structure or discipline in their life.”

His idea sparked a pilot 20-week programme in Northland and the success blew everyone away.

“We had 100% attendance and 100% graduation. We did three of them and it was the same result every time.”

After that, the idea got picked up by the government and used in prisons and the same success followed, with more than 1000 men now graduated with NCEA Level 2 literacy and numeracy foundation studies since the end of 2017.

“I go along to the induction to explain the principles and I tell them they’re hearing the same stuff I said in the dressing rooms in Manly or Wigan.

“And if they graduate 17 weeks later, they can all be part of my team, Team Lowie," says Graham, who became emotional when describing the pride he feels for these young men.

“It’s a big thing, a lot of these men have never received anything like this.”

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William Sanders residents Vic Murray and Pat McKay line up to thank Sir Graham for his heartfelt and inspiring words (above) and Sales Advisors Scott Bremner and Dell Smythe pose for a photo with their new hero.

IMG_9870 (1) (Large)The success of the programme, which won the Australasian Corrections Educator of the Year award, has inspired Graham to keep going even though he will be turning 78 in October. And there’s another reason too.

“I’ve kept working because I wanted my boys to see this is what you have to do, to set a good example.”

Now in their third year at university, Jack and Sam are inspiring their dad right back and are the reason, he says, for his continual and quite remarkable health recoveries.

“These guys have totally changed me, even my health.

“I think most of the time I don’t know what they’re talking about, but just having them and their friends around all the time I think it helps you and keeps your mind open.”

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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