On Thursday I was delighted to be invited to present a short speech to the Methodist Ladies College in Melbourne for International Women’s Day at a dinner function. MLC has long been a school that I admired for its leading educational initatives, particularly in relation to Information Technology. It was one of the first laptop schools in Australia, has taught the International Baccalaureate for many years and is extremely active in community work, charity, fund-raising and mentoring of many different groups in other parts of the world, as well as the less fortunate in rural areas of Australia.
The topic was “Making A Difference”. The first speaker – Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is a community activist who has made incredible progress against the odds in fighting for the rights of her native Philippine people. Amongst other positions she is a member of the International Advisory Council of the Third World Network, and chairperson for the UN permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The next speaker, Dawn Robertson who was until recently, CEO of Myer, spoke about her determination and progression through the ranks of various companies and what she has managed to achieve in attracting customers and turning businesses around. There is still a problem for women in achieving equality in pay and conditions for capable professional women. Her example was certainly inspiring and will almost certainly ensure that many other young women follow in her determined footsteps.
My own efforts seem much less significant in comparison. As there were so many talented young girls in the audience I spoke about my own background and the factors – including unhappy childhood experiences and depression – which could have derailed my own progress. I emphasized the importance of having good support networks, faith in yourself, and learning to love yourself before you can adequately give to others. Women make a difference in so many ways, but most importantly through the love, care and inspiration that they provide to their own children. Having six children of my own, 4 of whom have now married and are now successfully pursuing their careers after University education, I rate my other initiatives as secondary to the importance of assisting with their development.
The best part of the night for me was sitting next to Marcia Hines. In the panel discussions she talked about her own difficulties struggling with the cold in winter and her asthma affliction. The time alone at home from school during the long, cold, winter months, gave her determination at the early age of 4 to be a singer. A very sensitive and warm person, I managed to score an autograph for my son before the night ended!
Many struggling parents whose children are educated in public schools would probably resent schools such as MLC. Certainly the divide between rich and poor, public and private schools is widening daily. The very talented and impressive Principal – Rosa Storelli – shared with me briefly my concerns about the difficulty in working with public schools, sharing knowledge and mentoring.
Public schools cannot compete or adequately develop in the current environment of under-funding. I continue to be appalled at the amount of money that is poured into wealthy private schools, without the consequent support given to the vast majority of students who attend public schools. Although a private school Principal myself, our fees, legal struggles and problems with Council effectively deprived us of the opportunity to develop as most other private schools have. In fact, Noor Al Houda as it was, certainly had less facilities and support than any other city public school. However, teachers and administrators should be able to work as colleagues whether they are in a public or a private school. It is my intention to work for substantially increased funding for public schools, and far greater co-operation between public and private schools in knowledge, administration techniques and overall professional support.
Many thanks to MLC for a wonderful night and congratulations on the beautiful students that I saw there.