Published on March 3, 2023

“Be restless; be curious”. These were the words of advice from Tricia Martin, one of our Alumni, who spoke at HVGS’ annual International Women’s Day Breakfast. It was in response to a question from Audrey MacPherson, one of our School Captain’s. Audrey asked, “What is one word of advice you would give to our female students. Tricia’s response was to encourage young women not to settle for what might be expected of them but to maintain a spirit of restlessness and curiosity – a desire to keep learning, to keep stepping out of their comfort zone – so they can ensure they live a life of purpose. Tricia embodies this as the founder of Nudge On, an organization that works with and beside people from diverse communities to help them navigate the complexities of work, job fulfillment and readiness, and the financial literacy needed in the Australian economy.

In response to another question regarding what equity looks like, Tricia also shared the importance of older women championing younger women. Tricia spoke to a wonderful analogy: mentoring might be showing a young person the way into an organization. On the other hand, championing is about walking with that person through the door of that organization, pushing the button on the elevator, getting into the elevator with that young person, and then walking through the door of the office with them. Championing then involves stepping back and letting that young person take charge of the next stage of the journey. Walking with and beside those people in our communities who need “lifting up” is a key part of allyship, which I wrote about in my last blogpost.

This morning at the International Women’s Day Breakfast we also had the privilege of hearing from Blaise McCann, another HVGS alum. Blaise has created a space for “plus-size” women’s voices in fashion by creating a platform in which the diversity of women’s bodies are valued, recognized and championed. Blaise did this by creating the organization Hear Us Roar. Blaise channeled her frustration and anger at the marginalization of “plus-size” women in the Australian fashion industry to create positive social change and build a network of support. Now Blaise is working with “big business” to help them own their responsibility to find innovative solutions to global problems such as climate change. Working with major energy producers in Australia, Blaise inspired us with her story of courageously speaking up to big business and working alongside them to transform their industries.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Embrace Equity. Tricia and Blaise embody a deep commitment to not only embracing equity but leveraging one’s talents to live equity. Both spoke about equity as a verb; it is a journey we are on and something we need to constantly “do” in our lives. It important to take a moment to explore the difference between these key terms: diversity, equity, equality, justice and inclusion. The graphic below is one you may have seen before (you can access the source for the image here):

Conversations have shifted in the space of inclusion from equality to considerations of equity and justice. Equality is the belief that everyone benefits from the same interventions. If we think in terms of our students, this is the idea that all students benefit from the same approach to discipline. Student codes of conduct and discipline have traditionally been built on this premise, as have approaches to late assessment. They work on the assumption that all students should be able to do the same thing at the same time, and if you cannot then there is a natural consequence. However, if you are a learner with auditory processing and fine motor skill challenges, then you will not be able to sit still and listen to everything in class or complete an in-class essay in the same timeframe as everyone else.

In this case we need to reframe our thinking to talk about equity. This is the idea of providing the interventions that the child needs right now so we can remove the barrier to their learning. In the case of the learner with auditory processing and fine motor skill challenges, this would mean modifying the amount of “teacher/student talk time” as a whole class and providing additional time to complete exams and tests. For a younger student struggling to regulate their behavior, it means modifying our expectations for that student because he/she just can’t regulate their behavior at key points of the day just yet. It also means asking those curious questions about why the student may not be able to do this just yet.

“Equity is really understanding our learners (and staff) and providing the right intervention at the right time to create a more level playing field for each of them.”

As an Australian community our ultimate goal is justice for all and that means removing systemic barriers to success. This is function of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) Closing the Gap targets – to try and address the systemic issues that lead to ongoing disadvantage for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth across Australia. It is also the purpose of the NCCD – to enable families to access funding so their children can get the support they need and break a cycle of inequity experienced by those with disabilities in Australia.

Here at HVGS we know we have a diverse community, and this is something we are getting better at celebrating (see the Holi video). However, being diverse does not necessitate inclusion. Inclusion is, like equity, a verb. Being inclusive means having the systems and structures in place to support the diversity of our community. This is an ongoing focus and commitment for HVGS. Like Tricia and Blaise, I believe equity is a verb and a key step on the journey towards justice on a local and global scale. It means for us going beyond acknowledging diversity to truly being inclusive on purpose. As an International Baccalaureate World School, and a school that is values-driven, this is central to who we are now and seek to be in the future. Our values and status as an IB World School helps us stay true to this journey and provides us with the global partners who can challenge us to be all we can be in this space.

I agree with Tricia, we need to stay restless and curious, all of us not just our students. For me, this means staying open to different ideas, people, thoughts and ways of being in the world so we can really work towards a more equitable and just future for our children.

Rebecca Butterworth

Rebecca Butterworth

Rebecca is the Principal of Hunter Valley Grammar School. She has a Masters of Education, International Education from Monash University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the Queensland University of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts, History and English from the University of Tasmania.