Stand up, Stand out, Stand for others
Chris Ivey / Wellbeing
During the recent break I was able to spend a few days in Canberra to visit our eldest daughter Megan.
23 July 2021
From Our Principal Chris Ivey: Stand up, Stand out, Stand for others
Taken from the address to students and invited guests at the 2021 Foundation Day service.
During the recent break I was able to spend a few days in Canberra to visit our eldest daughter Megan. I had a list of things to do and one was to visit old Parliament House. I hadn’t been there since I was a child, so was keen to walk around. One of the many displays in the museum at the Old Parliament house is a series of interviews that an author had undertaken with every living Australian Prime Minister. One of the interview questions was, “What did you respect most about the other Prime Ministers?”. It was an incredibly insightful story because during all the media portrayal of political contests and elections, we tend to be given the impression that all the politicians hate each other!- however, there was a genuine respect that each had for the other.
The three biggest insights I gained were from three different PMs. Firstly, Gough Whitlam and his Labor government which came to office in December 1972 with a huge reform agenda, at the heart of which was a fundamental policy shift in Aboriginal affairs, away from assimilation and toward self-determination. This was a massive shift for Australia and one that didn’t always resonate with the average Australian at the time. Gough Whitlam was thoroughly committed to this change of policy and after he was removed from office, the work was continued by subsequent governments, albeit slowly. Many other prime ministers commented on Whitlam’s progress in this area.
John Howard came to office in March 1996 and within five weeks, the Port Arthur tragedy in Tasmania claimed 35 lives at the hands of one man. Within four months of the massacre, John Howard had orchestrated a tightening of Australia’s state and territory gun laws, which are now some of the strictest in the world. As a nation we have benefitted enormously. But it came with its challenges. There was a photo where you can see John Howard is wearing a bullet proof vest as he addresses a pro-gun rally in Eastern Victoria. He stood up for what he believed was right, even though there was much resistance and today, we are still grateful for the tough stance on gun control in Australia. Each prime minister noted this about John Howard.
The third was Julia Gillard. First and foremost every other former PM noted that she was our first female PM and that was a huge milestone and a great achievement. For our country, for women, and for girls to aspire to, to be able to finally see that this is something that is achievable. However, for me, when you dig a little deeper into her story you realise that she unfortunately became PM during a pretty crazy time in politics. Her leadership was always going to struggle with a lot of arguing and infighting in her own party, and whilst Kevin Rudd was still around. He had been removed from the Prime Minister’s role by his party but still had lots of people who were wanting him back in the ‘top job’. One of her highly confronting moments was her speech against the sexism and misogynistic attitudes that existed: and sadly still exist in parliament. Some people call it a ‘boys club’. Julia Gillard stood up and called out the inappropriate behaviour of many. That was her legacy which other Prime ministers respected.
These are just three examples from our Prime Ministers of things they and their governments have done to make a significant difference. At the core of each of these decisions was a strong desire to stand up and do what is right. It wasn’t an easy pathway for them, with much courage in the face of resistance, they must have had many evenings when they went home and said, ‘is this all worth it?’. In 2021 we have been encouraging our students to do the same. Because often the smaller things are just as important as the big things, but they can also be just as hard to do. St Andrew’s is built on values such as putting in that extra effort to strive for your personal best, embedding Christ-like actions of kindness toward others, service to others and respectful relationships. But the key to these values is that they require us to act. They require us to do.
You see it doesn’t matter if you’re the Prime Minister or a Year 9 student, you can only act or do in the situation that you find yourself in, right in the moment. Being part of a community means that we stand up if we need to when we see that something isn’t right, we seek justice and we act in ways that reflect the best interests of others. It might mean that it is up to you to actually send that email instead of just thinking about it, to speak up even if you aren’t sure, or others might tell you that you shouldn’t. We’re living in really uncertain times when we are being asked to stand up against a whole bunch of things but we’re also being confused with mixed messages about what is right.
For me, what is right is to simply ask yourself, ‘how would you wish to be treated’ and then act in the same way. That’s what Gough Whitlam called out almost 50 years ago, when he stood up for the Aboriginals or First Nations peoples who weren’t being treated in the way that he saw was right, that’s why John Howard took such strong and decisive action with the gun laws to keep us all safer in the way he must have wanted for himself and his own family, and why Julia Gillard spoke up when she saw such behaviour against her just because of her gender, where she was aware that she represented all women everywhere who are treated unfairly because of their gender. Of course, we will never reach perfection in any of these areas, but nothing is ever going to change if we don’t stand up and speak out.
Foundation Day is a time when we celebrate and recognise who we are as a College. With Vision and Spirit as our motto or tag line, it means we have a vision of how things can be, how our world should be and then the spirit or the drive to make it happen. It’s so easy to simply sit around and let things happen but that’s never something this College has done or wanted for its students. We have heard from Sterling, a tremendous young man who graduated in 2011 and now continues to stand up for the environment, for protecting our reef. Thanks, Sterling for coming to speak with us.
As a Christian I hold the Bible to be like God’s textbook for us, a guidebook for how we should live our lives. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is from a Prophet called Micah. A prophet was someone who spoke God’s words to the people. He’s got the last book in the Old Testament which was way back roughly 2700 years ago. He has some great words of advice for God’s people who weren’t doing the right thing , that still make a lot of sense today; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
And now, we are the current custodians of our culture. We must continue to be not only inspired and encouraged by others who have stood up for what they believe, but we have to do it ourselves. We must continue to value and support what is right, to loving justice, practice kindness and walking humbly with each other. We need to encourage each other….don’t be a bystander, be an upstander.
Celebrating our Foundations
July 29, 2022
Stand up, Stand out, Stand for others
July 23, 2021
May 21, 2021