100807 Churchie Speech

Anglican Church Grammar School, Brisbane ("Churchie")

Official Opening of the Sir John Pidgeon Sports Complex

7th August, 2010


Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC,

Archbishop of Brisbane and Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, His Grace The Most Reverend Dr Phillip Aspinall,

Sir John Pidgeon and other members of the Pidgeon Family,

School Council Chairman, Mr Barry Kelly and other Council Members,

Chairman of the Churchie Foundation, Mr Bill Chatterton and fellow Board Members,

Headmaster, Mr Jonathan Hensman,

Former Headmaster, Mr Bill Hayward,

President, Mr Brady Downs, Life Members and Members of the Old Boys Association,

Representatives of the architects, engineers, building and construction firms responsible for the design and construction of this new building,

School Teachers and Staff,

School Captain, Will Ralston and other students present today,

Parents and friends of Churchie and all other members of the extended Churchie family who have contributed to this project and who are here, on this perfect Queensland August afternoon, to support this ‘whole of School community opening',

As has become customary in our State, as an expression of commitment to the national goal of reconciliation, I acknowledge Queensland's indigenous peoples and in particular the Jagera and Turrbal peoples as the first caretakers, and now the traditional custodians of these lands and waters of the Brisbane region. 

I am very pleased to have the opportunity, for the first time as Governor, to visit this well-known school which has been part of Brisbane and Queensland's education landscape for almost one hundred years, and to participate today in the official opening of this new Sports Complex - such a wonderful addition to the school's already very impressive facilities and so aptly named after Sir John Pidgeon.

It is an honour for us all that Sir John is able to be here, on this day when the school community thanks and honours him.

Sir John is, of course, a Churchie old boy and, in his younger days was a keen sportsman, with a passion for lifesaving which - in his own words - led him to spend "a lot of time in a surfboat" and which resulted in his supporting the Queensland Surf Lifesaving Association over many years, along with a host of other community organisations and activities.  Sir John is also, most notably, one of the State's most prominent and respected figures in the construction industry, with the name ‘Pidgeon' virtually synonymous with building in Queensland.

His company's involvement with so many key construction projects has had a  defining impact on the State's built environment and this, with his leadership of the building industry - as Chairman of the Queensland Master Builders Association, of the Builders Registration Board and founding Chairman of the Building Services Authority - has earned him a host of honours, including his knighthood in 1989, his induction into the Queensland Business Leaders' Hall of Fame in 2009 and many more in between that twenty year span.

I think, Sir John, that being an old boy, a builder and a sportsman constituted an irresistible ‘trio' of achievements that must have made the naming of this new Churchie sports building complex a relatively easy task for the school, though I am equally sure, knowing the School's strong ethos of community service, that your considerable contributions to community organisations over the years would also have played a role.

You represent a fine model for today's students, as a person whose life and achievements have embodied the values set out in the Four Tenets which have guided the school since its establishment.

In this regard, I am especially conscious today, as we open this new sports building, of the school's commitment "to train characters as well as minds" and its emphasis on physical activity as well as studies.

The construction of this excellent facility continues a long tradition of incorporating sport and fitness into the school's overall approach to the education of boys and young men.  Churchie's founder, Canon William Morris (whose statue I admired as I walked onto the school grounds this afternoon) made this clear from the outset, in 1912 - at which time the school was in a private home in Toowong - when he said that a school without "plenty of manly exercise and open-air life" was not a school for Australian boys.  One of the forms of "manly exercise" in those days was an early morning dip in the nearby Brisbane River on Saturdays for boarders at the school who had already passed the "Viking" test.  The boys did have an alternative to swimming - some early morning study - but, to absolutely no-one's astonishment, the boys were prepared to fling themselves into the river even in winter rather than tackle their schoolbooks.

Almost a century later, the advent of mobile phones with more applications than there are days in the year, the internet, electronic games, Facebook and all the other distractions and paraphernalia of twenty-first century life, make it a much greater challenge to get a schoolboy out of his room and into the open air.  In the face of sombre predictions about the increasing incidence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes among sedentary young people, facilities of this kind - and the encouragement that they provide to acquire good exercise habits early in life - are more important than ever.  This flexible complex, with its sports hall, its strength and conditioning gymnasium, learning areas and other amenities is thus not only very welcome but also a very timely addition to Churchie's existing sports facilities.

Importantly, the complex - with its state-of-the-art water storage tank (where the old swimming pool used to be) and its proposed shade solar-cell structure to provide solar-powered lighting for the Sports Hall - demonstrates another important lesson for Churchie students - that of the need for sustainable approaches to building and of the way that the principle and practice of sustainability needs to be incorporated into everything we do, to help safeguard the future.

I congratulate the Headmaster and staff of Churchie, the Churchie Foundation, parents, old boys and everyone involved with the conception, construction and completion of this building.  I'm told it was built in 9 months and entirely self-funded - so it is  a considerable practical achievement as well as a testament to the strength and spirit of the Churchie community and the generosity of donors and benefactors like Sir John Pidgeon.  Looking beyond the building, however - beyond the fundraising and generosity that has enabled its construction and beyond the Churchie community - I see it as having an even larger significance; as an investment in another form of sustainability - the health and well-being of future generations of Australians, something to which we must all commit greater effort.  I compliment the School on this investment.  I thank you for the commitment it represents and the example it sets for others - and it is now with very great pleasure that I declare the Sir John Pidgeon Sports Complex officially open.