Published on June 16, 2023
Today, we joyously celebrated our second Uniquely You Day, a wonderful celebration of what is unique in each of us and where we embrace all identities and recognise the differences that set us apart and make us extraordinary.
During today’s Uniquely You Day whole-school assembly, I took a moment to observe our incredible audience of students and staff. What I witnessed was a blend of distinct individuals and identities in a connected community where everyone belongs.
I was recently asked what inclusion and belonging mean to me. To me, inclusion and belonging means creating an environment where every student and adult feels a sense of safety, care, and empowerment to express their authentic selves while standing alongside, supporting, and uplifting those who may not feel the same sense of safety.
It means having the courage to speak out and tell people that their unkind words and unkind actions are not acceptable.
It means understanding the profound impact our words and actions can have on others, pausing to reflect, and asking ourselves, “how might that person feel if I said that word or acted in this way right now”.
It means saying sorry when we get things wrong and meaning it.
Above all, it means being kind.
Recently our Junior School students participated in a public speaking exercise about what belonging and inclusion means to them. The video below eloquently shares their perspectives.
A crucial aspect of fostering inclusion and belonging is acknowledging and valuing the diverse identities present within our School community.
Our School Captains and Vice Captains were asked to share their thoughts on this at today’s assembly, and their thoughts underpin why the work we are doing is incredibly valuable.
Vice Captain Finn Slattery-Obrien, highlighted the remarkable work of Indigenous painter Daniel Boyd through Boyd’s exploration of identity through the “cultural lens”. Specifically about how his appropriation of art from Australia’s colonial era challenges the loss of identity for indigenous peoples. Rather than react against colonial attitudes, Boyd’s art encapsulates various viewpoints and perspectives to start conversations.
As Finn aptly states, “Identity is an important part of this. Identity is more than just who we are, it is what we value and the method in which we live our lives. Like Boyd’s art, identity can be a powerful symbol of what we believe in.”
HVGS is committed to ensuring that student and staff identities are not only acknowledged in the School, but also celebrated and cherished.
Vice Captain Lucie Merrick shared a marvellous analogy that beautifully encapsulates this sentiment.
“When your identity is valued, it’s like being a priceless work of art hanging in the Louvre. People take the time to appreciate you for who you are. They acknowledge your talents, your strengths, and your contributions to the world.”
This ongoing endeavour is so important because each and every one of us possesses a distinct essence, and we have a responsibility to embrace the difference, diversity and uniqueness in each of us to create a safe and harmonious environment for all. I couldn’t express this any better than School Captains Lachlan Lidbury and Audrey McPherson have:
“When we embrace diversity, something magical happens. We start to see the world from different angles. We gain new perspectives and open our minds to new ideas. We become more empathetic and understanding. And that’s when the real magic happens – we start building connections, forming friendships, and creating a community that’s strong and united.”
To continue this conversation, I would invite you to come along to a dialogue about inclusion and belonging on Tuesday, 20 June at 6pm in the Lecture Theatre.