Today is Remembrance Day and at Assembly last week, History Teacher Mr Christian Moffatt delivered a reflection on the significance of Remembrance Day, we heard the Ode, Isabella Peters (12E) played The Last Post exquisitely, for her last time, and we observed a minute of silence.
We, staff and students alike, will have perhaps found ourselves moved by what we heard, as we tried to connect, and find some personal meaning in all of this—some contemporary relevance. But above all, I hope we understand why it is important to respect and honour Remembrance Day 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 a free society. We have boundless opportunity to build a good life for ourselves and for others. For as David Malouf—one of Australia’s greatest poets, thinkers, and writers (and Old Boy of BGS)—has said, reflecting on the lives of others in other societies looking back through earlier times …
‘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.’
Malouf’s account reminds us to be grateful that we have been, by pure chance, born in the here and now. A Girls Grammar education will, we hope, equip our students to make their way in the world. Their friends will support them, and they will look back on the important lessons they have learned from the teachers who educated, supported, 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 few years and think about what our society has been through, and endured—fires, floods, and COVID. And many will reflect on their own immediate sense of what they, personally, may have been through. But we have gained resilience. We learned to adapt and be flexible and we have proven ourselves capable of things that just three years ago we could never have imagined. Our students have been agile, remained optimistic and we are proud, I hope, for we carry this knowledge about what we have proven ourselves to be capable of with us, within us. 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. The Rouse that we hear at the end of the minute of silence is symbolic. It rallies us and reminds us that after darkness, after sacrifice, comes the dawn, a new day, and fresh hope.
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 wonderful School in the year ahead, installed in their seats at Assembly for the first time. And, next year’s Year 7 students are finishing uniform fittings, perhaps excitedly trying on their hats or blazers for a second or third time at home, as they prepare to become a Grammar girl in just a few short months. I hope that we all look forward to the future with hope, for despite the challenges our society still faces, and for particular sections of our community most profoundly, we are fortunate to be a part of ours.
Ms Jacinda Euler Welsh