On Wednesday, we held an important Assembly with Deputy Principal (Academic), Dr Bruce Addison, delivering a reflection on the significance of Remembrance Day. We heard the Ode, Leah Diamond (10E) played the Last Post on an historic bugle, and we all observed a minute of silence.
Our staff and students perhaps found themselves moved by what they heard, and tried find some personal meaning in all of this, some contemporary relevance. But above all, I hope they could understand what we must continue to respect and honour, and what we have to feel grateful for—the sacrifice of others that has granted freedom to us all. Here, now, in our undoubtedly imperfect society, we are nonetheless free, and have boundless opportunity to build a good life for ourselves, and for others.
David Malouf, one of Australia’s greatest poets, thinkers and writers (who also happens to have attended Brisbane Grammar School next door), in reflecting on the lives of others in other times and societies, has written:
‘Think of a medieval farmer as he struggled to keep body and soul together, at the mercy of famine, plague and the periodic arrival over the horizon of mercenaries in search of food or plunder; or women and children in the eighteenth century who spent fifteen hours a day hauling a truck loaded with coal out of a pit; or the African slaves who endured the Middle Passage to the Americas. Think of the millions, soldiers and civilians both, caught up in the wars and social upheavals of the last century, the invasions, evacuations, forced resettlements, the daily struggle to survive the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau or Belsen or Mauthausen.’
This account reminds us to be grateful that we have been, by pure chance, born in the here and now. I hope a Girls Grammar education will equip our students to make their way in the world, with good friends to support them, and that they will look back on the important lessons they have learned from the teachers who have educated and guided them.
Remembrance Day comes at a time when the year is coming to a close. It encourages us to pause, to remember and to reflect. We think back over the past two years and think about what our society has been through, what so many have endured. And we reflect on our own immediate sense of what we, personally, or our friends and families may have been through.
However, we have done much more than endure this pandemic and all it has brought upon us. Through it, we have gained resilience. We learned to adapt and to be flexible, and we have proven ourselves capable of things that just two years ago we could never have imagined. I hope that our staff and students proudly carry this knowledge about what we have proven ourselves to be capable of. For it is often the small, private victories that make us confident about our ability to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities of the future. Our students have every reason to feel strong, to feel hopeful.
The Rouse that we hear at the end of the minute of silence rallies us, reminds us that after darkness, after sacrifice, comes the dawn, a new day and fresh hope. We were all deeply moved to learn that the little girl Cleo, in Western Australia, was found and that her parents, after weeks of darkness and worry, had their greatest hope realised.
Within our School, at this time, we are in a period of transition. Our Year 12s are completing their exams and preparing to embark upon the world beyond us. Our Year 11s are contemplating their leadership of this beautiful school in the year ahead.
I hope that all at Girls Grammar look forward to the future, with hope and optimism and that on Remembrance Day next week we remember that despite the challenges our society still faces, and in particular sections of our community most profoundly, we are lucky to be a part of this free society, made possible by the sacrifice of others.
Ms Jacinda Euler