The granddaughter of Indian peace icon Mahatma Gandhi hopes a new institute in Sydney will help Australians re-think our approach to moral education.

Ela Gandhi told an audience at the University of New South Wales on Tuesday that existing education strategies were allowing a culture of violence to flourish.

An International Centre of Nonviolence to be opened in Sydney on Wednesday would examine education "as a way of transforming the community", she said.

Ms Gandhi, a former South African parliamentarian who has spent her career promoting civil rights, said she feared social justice teaching was losing traction.

"The basic issue that we face is that our present education system is geared towards providing skills and knowledge," she said.

"Certainly there is something that needs to be corrected in our system, which is giving rise to the growing culture of crime, corruption, entitlement, consumerism, violence, impatience (and) exploitation."

She said social media had a role to play in effecting political change, but compared platforms like Twitter to a tactic she employed during her activist days in South Africa.

Then, she said, she spread her message by climbing to the top of tall buildings and bombarding the streets below with hundreds of written notes.

"When you take social media, you can only transmit a message one way," she told the audience.

"Dialogue is very important."

She also had a word for athletes caught up in the recent Australian Crime Commission doping allegations.

Her grandfather was a keen cricketer, Ms Gandhi said, but would probably not approve of the intense competition that had become a feature of contemporary organised sport.

"You've seen that it destroys people," she said.

"It induces people into taking drugs, it's induced people into corruption ... That's not healthy competition."