Brisbane Girls Grammar School Annual Speech Day 2014
Thank you Mrs Owen, and thank you all for your exceptionally warm welcome to this important annual ceremony in the life of one of our State’s great schools.
To the Turrbal and Jagera peoples, the original custodians of the lands around Brisbane, I at once extend respectful greetings.
I acknowledge Board Chair Ms Jameson and Trustees, with thanks for their voluntary leadership, and our Principal Ms Euler, School staff, students, families and friends.
I am privileged to join you today in two capacities: as Governor of the State, and as Official Visitor to the School. The former is well-known; the latter rather less so. Perhaps I should use the occasion to allay some possible concerns.
The title ‘Official Visitor’ may sound a little old-fashioned in the context of a modern, forward-looking school. But it is an important role with strong contemporary relevance.
Now I should at once reassure Ms Euler and Ms Jameson that this role has absolutely no comparability with that of the original ‘official visitors’ in nineteenth century Britain whose task it was to inspect standards at Oxford and Cambridge!
My visitorial responsibility has nothing to do with quality assurance. On the other hand, it has a lot to do with advocacy – encouraging and supporting the work of the school, and promoting the value and importance of education, particularly the education of young women. I can assure you there is no burden in my undertaking such a role for BGGS.
That is because of two strikingly evident features of what I am experiencing today: first, the high level of personal achievement which this fine school continues to foster and distil; and, second, your vibrant corporate spirit.
Each of those features is critical to the maintenance and progressiveness of our contemporary society. As has been said, good schools make good communities.
Although the rule of law is, in this country, so secure that we Australians take it for granted, the reality is we all live in an unpredictable world, where daily routines may be fractured by terror and punctuated by dismay.
In so many parts of the world, that unpredictability inordinately affects the education of girls and young women. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate are female, many of them trapped in a cycle of crippling poverty with few opportunities to escape.
Now conditions facing women and girls in Australia are very different from those in the developing world. However, even here, inequalities and discrimination still exist, some of it related to the scourge of violence which is increasingly the focus of vocal community denunciation.
I am very much aware that advocates are required on both sides of the gender divide. You can be assured I will continue the commitment of my predecessors – Governors Wensley and Bryce – to do all I can as Governor to seek to advance the status of women and girls in our State.
In this modern world, that we develop optimally as individual human beings, and that we work together to protect and advance our communities (and thence our lifestyles), are crucial stipulations.
Through its focus on high personal achievement, and a real commitment to service, this fine school recognises and fulfils those stipulations. And they are linked: always doing one’s best informs our capacity to support our fellow citizens.
In my own life, I have striven to make the most of the capacities I have had, and I have been blessed with many opportunities for public service. I have also, incidentally, been the beneficiary of a large measure of good fortune.
I sincerely hope, students, that in four to five decades’ time, you too may be reflecting on lives of personal achievement and public commitment.
But let us still revel in the present: supportive families and friends, inspiring teachers and school leaders, all superbly equipping you to rise to life’s wonderful challenges.
Students of Girls’ Grammar: look forward as best you can to the future, but don’t cease to enjoy, to the utmost, the present.
I warmly congratulate you all. I congratulate you as high achieving young citizens of this wonderful State. And I commend you for your corporate manifestation, as an historically significant school of the highest contemporary relevance and distinction. Thank you.