What Makes Peter Kenny Tick

In ‘What Makes You Tick’ I get the chance to pick the brains of some inspirational people from all walks of life, in the hope that by sharing ideas we can continue to progress, push our limits, and inspire each other.

Peter Kenny left school when he was 15 to join the Royal Australian Air Force, where he spent a decade as an aircraft engineer. He then went on to study education majoring in both History and Music. He has completed a Diploma in Teaching, a Bachelor of Education and a Masters in Educational Leadership. He was fortunate to have been selected on the training lists of Sydney Swans in 1985, Sturt Football Club in 1986, and continues to play whenever possible to this day.

Peter was Director of Curriculum at Saint Ignatius College, Australia, Principal of Dresden International School, Germany, Founding Principal of Renaissance College, Hong Kong, Regional Manager for the International Baccalaureate (IB) in Asia Pacific, and was appointed ‘Head of Projects’ for the International Baccalaureate Organization (IB) in 2005 where he worked with organizations (UNESCO, USAID, AUSAID, UNICEF, World Vision) and schools globally in leading service programs in the wake of the December 26th 2004 Tsunami disaster.

He is a former member of the IB World Head’s Council, an AUSAID post conflict and crisis advisor, and a UNESCO consultant roster member. In September 2009 Peter founded Reach Education Organization (REO) that specializes in School Design, Education Access Projects, Teacher Training, Executive Leadership Services and International School Establishment.

In this role he has been working with Branksome Hall, (Canada) designing, coordinating and leading the establishment of Branksome Hall Asia on Jeju Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site in South Korea. The school won the 2012 National Architectural and Construction award and 2014 Asia pacific CEFPI First Prize for Educational Buildings. Other projects include the design and establishment of China’s first United World College, Changshu, the American School of Hong Kong, and the Wilderness International Kindergarten, Hong Kong.

In March 2016 Peter was deployed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs as Regional Education Specialist to UNICEF. He is leading an urgent project to provide access to education for Syrian Refugee Children in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and the cross border regions of Syria.

Peter’s work also extends to Education Access projects in South Africa, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and China.

Peter was kind enough to take the time out of his immensely busy schedule to answer some questions, and share his insights. Let’s find out what it is that makes this man tick.

Would you say you are more introverted, or extroverted?

Introverted socially (usually) but I attempt to be extroverted- or at least evoke confidence- professionally.

What is your passion?


What are you driven by?

Proving to myself that I can do something worthwhile.

How do you measure success?

Impact on other people.

Who had the most influence on you at a young age?

I began building pre-war BSA motorbikes when I was 12, and was fortunate enough to meet a lot of old bike fanatics as a kid that encouraged me, and promoted my love of finding out how things worked. Music was also a big interest of mine from age 6 when I started to play trumpet. So truly, Deep Purple, The Who and Led Zeppelin were a big influence.

What’s the best book you’ve read?

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. It tells the story of a young boy, who is a loner really. Some parallels exist with my own childhood, and it was the last book I read to my three daughters when they were 11, 12 and 13 years old. What a privilege it was to have daughters that wanted to listen to me read to them at that age. A great memory.

How do you prepare for the day ahead?

Very boring and nothing unusual. I get up at 6:30 AM, check emails and respond to a few, eat porridge and make a strong coffee. Shower, dressed and then spend 30 minutes back on the computer getting some last minutes emails and communications off before arriving at the office or the airport.

Describe your perfect Sunday.

Up early to cook breakfast for my family (only when I get home). Then having about 4 coffees, before going for a run and then fishing. Then packing a few sandwiches and on to my small farm with my daughters, and just walking and talking whilst spotting wildlife and watering trees. Playing the guitar and then going for an evening walk with my wife during sunset.

This is perfect, so I think it has occurred perhaps twice. My aim is make this a more regular occurrence.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Watching AFL. I could watch any game, any team, at any time.

What are your hobbies/interests?

Sport, maintaining my farm (nature block), music and art. I simply love playing team sports and most recently have attempted to play Gaelic football with the Seoul Gaels. A great bunch of young people that keep me young at heart. It is a game that incorporates every facet of all the great world sports. It’s a shame I didn’t play this in the off-season instead of cricket.

Music and art (drawing/ painting) are pursuits I could immerse myself in until I die. I have no skills, but it’s good for the soul.

I am happiest when…

I am surrounded by my family. Simple.

What is your approach to your daily life?

Be positive. Do positive things, or simply don’t leave the house.

What is your approach to work/training?

Do your best. When you train or work simply do your best. There is no point in taking on or doing anything unless you give it 100%. Life is too short to half do things. If you train, train as you play. When you work, work like you would want others to work.

What was the most significant learning experience you can recall having?

In 1988 my first daughter was born. From that day forward I have continued to learn and experience life more each day. Having three daughters and raising three wonderful people is truly my greatest achievement. I feel like I have made the world a better place having brought them into it.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement in sports?

Truly, it is the fact that I can still enjoy playing, and the amazing people I meet playing sport. You cannot hide in sport. You know, and your team mates know instantly, if you are giving your best. It is also the greatest stress relief possible. You simply cannot play and think about work. With sport, you live the moment.

What advice would you give to young people nowadays who may find themselves at a crossroads?

Crossroads are a great place to be. There are many throughout life. Some relate to career, some are social and some are forced on us through tragedy, external or self-inflicted.

My advice is that we always have choices. The tough paths are usually the right ones but they have the greatest reward. I would also say that nothing external to you, can truly impact you, be it other people, materials, money, job. The only person in charge of how you feel or perform, is you. So when you make a wrong choice it only feels terrible until you make a good choice. I like to see life as a credit card. It’s always better to be in the credit; if and when you are in debit, you best get to action, pay it off, and restore the balance.

People that get through the tough times in life are greater humans because of it. So be tough and get through the tough times one day, hour, minute at a time. Lastly, I would say to surround yourself with good people. If those around you are not impacting positively on you, leave them.

Check out Peter’s TED talk at TEDx Hong Kong, entitled ‘Conformity Opposing Creativity’.