Last Thursday night we farewelled our Year 6 and Year 7 students of 2014. Following is my message to them...
'This Graduation Ceremony is a special one as we farewell not one but two year levels at the same time. This is the first time in Queensland’s state education history that a whole year level has moved to a different educational setting. There have been a few trials in the last couple of years but this week every state school farewells their Year 6 students as well as their Year 7s.
Over the past few years at Graduation I have talked a lot about our school – how it’s grown, our teachers and other staff members, you as students and the fantastic opportunities students have had throughout the year. This year as we near the end of our fifth year and probably can’t call ourselves a new school any more I want to talk about something else.
This evening I’m going to talk about this man. Do any of you know who he is? That’s right. It’s Adam Goodes. Now I know those among you who know me well are probably saying "Good Grief, surely she isn’t going to talk about football" – it's legendary on staff how little I know about this topic. But yes, I do want to talk about football – or more specifically a footballer - Adam Goodes.
|Image courtesy of the Australian Human Rights Commission|
As well as being a class A footballer Adam is also Australian of the Year for 2014. His acceptance speech on 26 January this year was lauded by many as ground breaking. For me, a person who doesn’t usually listen to much footballers have to say, it had me standing to attention.
Adam’s message has so much relevance for you as you sit here tonight contemplating the next 5-6 years at high school.
In his speech he talked about what an honour it was to receive an award for doing stuff that he loved and believed in. He didn’t receive Australian of the Year for playing football – it was for his work against racism in our country and his leadership of the Racism Stops With Me campaign. In talking about his work he said he chose that life is all about actions and interactions. He choose to believe that our choices and how we interact with each other creates our relationships and this in turn creates the environment we live in. Our environment shapes our communities, which then shapes the country we all live in. He then went on to say that he has faced racism in his lifetime and, although it is difficult, it has helped shape the man that he is today. And he said that he believes racism is a community issue, which we all need to address and that’s why racism stops with him.
He further said there are always two ways we can look at a situation: we can choose to get angry or not, we can choose to help others or not, or we can choose to be offended or not. We can keep pretending it’s not our issue or we can educate ourselves and others about racism and minority populations.
What Adam was talking about was not just taking responsibility for your own actions but also taking a stand - speaking to your friends when they take out their anger on their loved ones, minority groups or they make racist remarks. It means treating people the way you want to be treated, whether that’s your manners, the way you talk to people, whether they are your loved ones or the person serving you dinner.
It’s about how you choose to give back and make a difference to those around you, your community, your country – this goes outside just yourself. In a country as special as Australia racism holds no place in our society (although sadly it is rampant) – this is why, as a nation that is connected in many ways, we must make racism a thing of the past and be proud of our heritage.
Adam’s message applies not only to racism but to all areas of your lives, our lives. It applies to whether you choose to make the best of your high school years or fritter them away. It applies to how you manage peer pressure. It applies to how you respond when you are harassed by someone – or worse, the subject of a bully. It applies to your stance on violence and it applies to the value you place on your own and others' learning.
Adam Goodes said the ultimate reward for him is when all Australians see each other as equals and treat each other as equals. For him, everything is about people and the choices we make – he believes it’s the people and interactions between us that make Australia so special
And it’s just those things that make our school so special – the people and the interactions between us. Teaching you about relationships and choices has been at the core of everything we do at Peregian Springs SS. And the ultimate reward for your teachers, teacher aides, Ms Cathcart, Mr Foxover, Ms Marszalek and I is when we see you happy, managing yourself well, even in trying situations, and achieving to your very best.
You have had the benefit of marvelous teachers this year, in fact every year. Publically, I’d like to thank you, Chris, Justin, Bec, Pete and Chris for the work you have done with our Year 6s and 7s. Your ability to teach with innovation, passion, courage and care is an inspiration to all of us; it's remarkable, you might say – again you have challenged your students to learn, set high expectations for each of them, you have tried new strategies, kept them on the straight and narrow, cared about each and every one of them, and worked to instil a love of learning they will take with them to high school and beyond. Every child in front of me this evening is a better person for your dedication and commitment.
And this is actually true of all the teachers you have worked with this year – Mrs Hobson, Mrs Guest, Mr Rickert, Mr Huxley, Ms Johnson, Mr Hutchins, Ms Timbs, Ms Steer, Mrs Dean, and Mrs Crow. You have learned an enormous amount from being at this school for your final primary year – not just about English, Maths, Science and History but also about the more important attributes of how to be a better person in this world, in this country, in this community. Graduation from Year 6 and 7 marks the end of an important chapter in your young lives. We hope that your time here has begun to prepare you for the complex future ahead – a future in which you will realise that the buck for making something of yourself, for contributing towards a better community stops with yourselves.
To the Year 7s – you’ve been with us since Year 3. I remember some of you on that first day in 2010 – such little cuties in your little uniforms, faces shining with expectation; still shining today. And now all grown up - to a point - but what I love is that you still get involved, still love to dance - in front of the whole school - still love a sticker from me when you’ve done something amazing – or have accompanied someone to my office who has done something amazing. We are going to miss you very much; and more than that we are going to miss having Year 7 in our school. We will miss the maturity you bring, the level of conversation we can have with you, your developing sense of humour and the ability to appreciate irony, a skill that tends not to develop until early adolescence. We will miss your leadership and sense of responsibility and we will miss watching you test being a teenager throughout the Year 7 year. No matter where you go to high school we will be watching your achievements and hope that you remember your primary years fondly.
To the Year 6s – you’ve been with us since Year 2. You were also very cute with an impatience to learn that impressed all of us. I’ve loved watching that impatience blossom into determination to do the best you can. This has been really evident in your classes this year and your teachers have had to work hard to keep up with you. You are the first and only year level not to have experienced being in the most senior year level of your school for Year 7. For this you will have to wait until you are in Year 12. But this hasn’t stopped you at all. In every area you’ve been out leading the school, grabbing every opportunity and making the most of being senior students regardless of the year level. We will miss your individual personalities and sense of fun.'