Headmasters Blog

'What we will be remembered for…'

NAIDOC Week is always a great occasion at Scotch College, with a number of programmes and activities available for the boys to gain a greater appreciation of Indigenous culture. This year's NAIDOC Week theme is 'Because of Her, We Can!' It focuses on the role of Indigenous women in Australian history and celebrates those women who have made an immense impact on the lives of many Australians.

Reflecting on this concept, it brings to mind a few Indigenous females who have been respected role models for young Australians: Cathy Freeman and Evonne Goolagong. These two are household names in Australia, one being the first Indigenous Australian to win an individual Olympic gold medal, and the other being a former world number Wimbledon Champion. However, it isn't just their success on the track and court that has defined them as role models to the community. Their work after the end of their athletic careers to help other Indigenous Australians achieve their potential through various initiatives, foundations and working towards reconciliation has solidified their legacy as not just great Indigenous women but great Australians. This has been proven with both women being awarded Australian of the Year.

Legendary basketballer Isiah Thomas famously stated "If all I'm remembered for is being a good basketball player, then I've done a bad job with the rest of my life". This understanding that being an athlete only lasts for a short period of your life is important because it encourages athletes to do more after they finish their sporting career and push forward as a mentor, role model and activist for issues they believe in. Cathy Freeman and Evonne Goolagong encompass this as they are so much more than athletes. They are amazing Indigenous women who are role models for all Australians.

Lowitja O'Donoghue's leadership in Aboriginal rights has been highly influential. She is a member of the stolen generation, she has also been an advocate of reconciliation. She received the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 and was declared an Australian National Living Treasure in 1998. She has been awarded numerous honours in recognition of her contribution to Aboriginal affairs including, in 1977, being the first Aboriginal woman to be awarded the AO. She has also received a CBE, an AC and honorary doctorates from universities around Australia.

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Pat O'Shane has been a lawyer, magistrate, public servant and a teacher. Considered a trailblazer for Australian Indigenous people she went on to become the first Aboriginal teacher in Queensland, the first to earn a law degree, the first barrister and the first Aboriginal magistrate in the NSW local court.

Reflecting on Pat O'Shane's amazing life, Nikki Henninham from the University of Melbourne, highlights that Pat O'Shane has been a trailblazer for Australian Indigenous people since becoming the only Indigenous person in her age group to graduate from her far north Queensland high school in Cairns in the late 1950s. She went on to become the first Aboriginal teacher in Queensland, the first to earn a law degree, the first barrister and the first Aboriginal magistrate in the NSW local court.

In 2013, O'Shane was awarded the Marcia Langton award for lifetime achievement in leadership at the Deadly awards, which recognise the work of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders in music, sport, entertainment and the community. A spokesperson for the awards summed up the impact of O'Shane's achievements. 'This is an Aboriginal woman who blazed a path for others to follow. Because many of her achievements have been firsts for her people, she is a genuine and inspiring role model for others.' (Jabour)

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I urge all of our boys, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous, to take the lives of these amazing Indigenous female role models and consider how they want to be remembered. Individual success and failure at school can seem like a big deal at the time but in the long run it will not define who you are, what you stand for and what you will do for the rest of your life. If our students are only remembered for their successes at Scotch then we have failed. This is why we focus on preparing boys for life because individual successes at school are momentary, we want to give our boys the not only the academic but the ethical, social and athletic skills to help them be successful, valued members of society for their entire life. So, this NAIDOC week I encourage everyone in the Scotch community to celebrate Indigenous culture and the lessons we can learn from the many great Indigenous women of Australia.

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Dr Alec O'Connell FACE, FAIM, FNAAUC

As Scotch College's 7th Headmaster, I focus on preparing boys for life through focusing on values and cultural alignment.

I am a passionate educator focussed on student and community engagement. My goal as a Headmaster is to graduate future thought leaders who are prepared for life after school.


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