EN: You have obviously had an extensive and super impressive career thus far, all stemming around human rights and social justice, but I’m curious how you got interested in those issues?
SM: I think it’s because my parents had a passion for justice and human rights, so growing up they encouraged me to learn about the world. We always watched the news together as a family and talked about things that were happening around the dinner table. They took me to protest marches and taught me that I have the power to create change. I also remember a pivotal moment when I was about 15. I was here in Brisbane in the Summer holidays and I read Sophie’s Choice, which is about one woman’s experience of the Holocaust. Reading that book changed my life, because it sent me down a path of wanting to understand what had happened in the Holocaust and how it could have happened. When I was at university, I studied law and politics and came to understand that big atrocities do not happen without a whole lot of smaller abuses. We can see that in the world at the moment—the way everybody is afraid and anxious about getting sick, having to stay home and wearing masks, and we take it out on other people, in particular attacking politicians and celebrities on social media. From learning about the Holocaust, my interest then grew to learning about other human rights issues, like the way our society treats women, First Nations people and asylum seekers. I think, if you are doing the right thing by all people on a day-to-day basis, then it becomes harder for those big atrocities to happen.
EN: What is it that drew you to Girls Grammar and what are you most looking forward to about being here?
SM: I wanted to work at an academically focused girls’ school, because it’s really important to me to support girls who are enthusiastic about learning. I spoke to former students and former staff, people who knew the School, but hadn’t gone to the School, and spent a lot of time looking at the website, watching videos and reading the BGGS News, and I thought I would fit in and could make a contribution. I went to a school that was not unlike Girls Grammar—academic with lots of sport and music and strong powerful women doing amazing things—and I got a lot out of it, so I wanted to give back and be part of that kind of community.
EN: We are all very happy to have you here.
AB: Do you have any specific plans for promoting or expanding co-curricular activities at the School?
SM: I’m really passionate about all the things that we do outside of the classroom. They are valuable learning experiences, and being involved in sport, music, service, club and activities, debating, going on school trips and to Marrapatta, are an integral part of our education. I’m a Humanities teacher and I don’t expect in 10 years’ time my students will remember the definition of the rule of law, but I know they’ll remember being in the play, at Music Camp, and the hike they did at Marrapatta. So, for me it’s seeing all those things as an inherent part of the school experience—which I know they already are at Girls Grammar. I’m always thinking about the ways that all of those experiences contribute to, and shape, who we are and are part of our lifelong learning journey.
But I’m going to flip that back on you Alice, because this year I would love for you and your peers to tell me what you think needs to be done to promote involvement and give everybody the opportunity to pursue their interests.
AB: What is the one place you wish to travel to when permitted or one thing on your bucket list you wish to achieve?
SM: I was meant to go to Scandinavia in 2020, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that. I love Italy and always take the opportunity to go there. I lived in Tanzania for a while and I miss it, so I’d love to go back to East Africa. I haven’t yet been to India so it’s on the short list too! So, the first trip would be to Europe, the second trip to Africa and the third to India!
SiMa: You have extensive experience in growing connections between schools and Indigenous communities, do you have any plans to do this at Girls Grammar?
SM: I have lots of ideas, and I do have connections with First Nations communities around the country, so I hope to be able to bring the understanding I have for the benefit of both the Girls Grammar community and Indigenous communities. I’m excited to go along to the Uralla Club and learn more about it. On a personal level, I’m keen to be involved with First Nations communities here in Brisbane. On my first day in Brisbane, I went to the Museum of Brisbane which has an amazing display about the Indigenous history of the area. I’m very happy to support staff and students to learn more about First Nations cultures and issues affecting Indigenous peoples, in whatever way I can.
SiMa: I have seen you have done a lot including working with the UN and all these cool things. What would you say has been the most rewarding experience you have had thus far, and why?
SM: Up until last year I would have said it was working at the Rwandan Genocide Tribunal, but now the answer would be opening the school in north-east Arnhem, which happened in April last year. It was an amazing experience to see djarmakuli (children) coming to a school that they feel belongs to them, speaking their own language at school, and being taught in a culturally appropriate way. They brought so much excitement and enthusiasm to the classroom every day. It’s a wonderful experience to be in a community that is very connected to culture and language, that hasn’t been dispossessed, and to be a small part of making a big difference in the lives of those children. Also, being barefoot in the classroom is pretty cool! The best part of being a teacher is when you see children who have seen school as not quite for them, not only enjoying school, but learning so much, so quickly—amazing!
Ms Mynott interviews Emma-Rose, Simran and Alice
SM: Simran what are you most excited about in Service this year?
SiMa: I can’t wait to have more people involved in Service. We are hoping to get a lot more into Service this year, so Isabel Shorrock-Browne (12R) and I have been working hard on how we are going to get that spirit up. Building community connections will be very big this year for Service.
SM: Alice, you already told me that you are excited for Head of the River and the QG competitions, but what else are you looking forward to?
AB: I just love Sport and I participate in a lot of sporting activities. Whatever allows girls to run around and have fun with their friends is really what I like to see. If we are having fun and we get support and other girls see that we are having fun, then it just becomes this cycle. It’s a lot of fun seeing the younger girls trying.
SM: Em, what are you looking most forward to in the Arts space?
EN: I haven’t attended a Gala Concert before, partly because I am not musically inclined, but also because I feel that unless you are directly involved, girls are hesitant to put themselves out there and be a part of it, even just as a supporter. I am most looking forward to working with Ella Hore (12R) and girls in all grades to make sure they are really getting behind their fellow Grammar Sisters and supporting them in all their Arts endeavours. Ella and I are excited to encourage girls to find beauty in what goes on around them at school and what others are doing and creating.
SM: It’s interesting that I have heard similar things from all of you. Let’s make it our mission this year to have everybody find an event or activity where they can say ‘I’m not participating, but this is for me’.