A wise member of our School community reminded me late last year that ‘A river runs through a rock not because of its power, but its persistence.’ This quote came to mind when I was contacted by the media on our first day of term to comment as an educator on teaching the concepts of consent and sexual assault to our Grammarians.
Consent and sexual assault are serious issues and ones that need to be faced with sensitivity and frankness, especially in schools. It was with some surprise that I viewed a teaching resource, that treated the subject matter as a gimmick, something to be coyly hinted at through strange metaphors of milkshakes rather than the clear language of sex, consent, and assault.
Educating students around agency, awareness, and courage in this area is an everyday occurrence in a girls’ schools and it is our persistence over time in leading this conversation that I hope will break through.
As a principal of a girl’s school and advocate for women I am familiar with the need to speak boldly about matters that impact girls. Dealing with students who have been sexually assaulted is sadly familiar territory for anyone working with young women, as this group is particularly vulnerable to abuse of power. This experience is borne out by statistics released by the Australian Human Rights Commission which show that ‘1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15’. Empowering young people to speak about and deal with sexual violence is not an ideological debate, it is a matter of fact and should be treated as such.
Teenagers especially are quick to spot a fake and many of us are familiar with the wry smile of a kid who has seen it all before. Our Grammarians are asking for and deserve real conversations about the world they live in and the challenges they face. It is incumbent on us as trusted adults, to provide a clear and effective education on matters of sexual violence, rather than leaving this important education to be gleaned from a plethora of unreliable sources. With this in mind, at MGGS our Child Safety and Health education programs begin early with age-appropriate learning. Together, we can ensure our girls are provided the opportunity to engage in these critically important conversations.
Empowering young people to speak about and deal with sexual violence is not an ideological debate, it is a matter of fact and should be treated as such.
Term 2 has started with a burst of activity and it seems as though we have well and truly settled into its rhythm. As the Earth tilts further from the sun and autumn progresses, it is an important Term for learning, studying hard, and making the most of every opportunity here at MGGS. The gorgeous autumn weather has provided a brilliant setting for a series of important occasions in our first week, from our Commencement Assembly, ANZAC Day Assemblies, Middle Years Cross Country, and seeing our Year 7 students heading off on camp to Toolangi. It has been all systems go!
I would be remiss, however, not to highlight how we finished our first Term. The 53rd House Drama Festival held on the last day of Term 1 was spectacular with over 400 students participating. The performances were sensational with a multitude of creative costuming, choreography, and intelligent plays in response to the provocation of Board Games. The overall winning House was Taylor with their wonderful interpretation of Monopoly written by two year 12 students. The Year 9 choreographers, did a sterling job designing the creative dance alongside the fostering of House spirit by the Taylor House Captains, Siena Stockdale and Charlotte Drake.
At our Commencement Assembly on the first day of the Term, I reminded our Grammarians that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet and even though Australia is in an enviable position we must not be complacent. We will continue to be vigilant in the care of our community. Grammarians have been reminded of the importance of hand and respiratory hygiene and the need to wear masks when travelling to and from school on public transport. The crisis surrounding COVID-19 has enabled us to positively rethink a range of assumptions about education. It has shown us various new ways in which the world is globally interconnected and interdependent, even when the physical mobility of people is restricted. Although our Grammarians have not been able to travel internationally, we continue our strong links and partnerships with schools and universities globally. It is important that we feel connected to the world and that our Grammarians see themselves as citizens of the planet as well as Australia.
At our Barbara Tolson Centre, Morris Hall, and our Merton Hall Anzac Day assemblies, we commemorated those who served to protect our freedom and way of life. Our BTC Grammarians listened to the story of ‘Anzac Ted’ and presented a beautiful wreath to our senior Grammarians to lay at the Shrine on Sunday. Each young Grammarian had carefully collaborated to make this wreath; it was stunning! I was particularly impressed by the card that accompanied the wreath written by a 4-year-old Early Learning Centre student, At our Morris Hall Anzac Assembly, our Grammarians sang with such joy and remembered the fallen by studying the symbols of Anzac Day. Our Year 11 Merton Hall Grammarians, spoke of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and gave a beautiful Acknowledgement of Country. We explored our archives and reflected on some of the Old Grammarians who made a difference including Frances ‘Fairy’ Caldwell (Warren, 1910), Vera Deakin (White, 1909), Jessie Bage (1908), Elsie Smeal (Allen, 1907), Marjorie Syme (1905), and Margaret McMahon (Brown, 1905). Our archives are rich with information and it is always a treat to read past School notes that have added to who we are over 128 years.
Yours in learning.