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I caught up with a Year 11 student recently to congratulate him on a piece of work that was shared with me by his English teacher.

The class was studying the movie, Dunkirk, the famed World War II story, when 330,000 Allied forces were evacuated from the northern beaches of France. The cinematography and, in particular, Hans Zimmer’s auditory illusion caused by Shepard tones make for an engrossing and moving experience. Through his essay, the Year 11 student managed to articulate his analysis with skill, maturity and insight. Within his text was the line –

‘There are a number of times when cultural prejudice divides and discriminates, as opposed to strengthening the generosity of the human spirit’.

This is great writing not just relevant to his subject matter, as you would expect, but also relevant in a much wider educational context. It is worth re-reading the line in the context of National Reconciliation Week, which came to an end this week. We celebrated with a special breakfast, a dedicated Muster and a smoking ceremony.

I am aware that, at its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, but not just for the benefit of all Australians, but also on a wider human level.

I never fail to be inspired by the smoking ceremonies that Uncle John generously shares with us at Saints, primarily because at their root is a respect – respect of the land, waters and sea of country – and, for me, it is reminder that respect sits at the centre of our values.

National Reconciliation Week also reminds us that recognition and respect of the diversity and uniqueness of peoples, as well as of individuals, is essential. And this is a message to all of us. I asked the boys in Muster when was the last time they showed respect to, or celebrated with, someone in their own cohort who has a different background or belief, or who has different interests or priorities to their own? With respect as a guide, we made this our target not just for the seven days of National Reconciliation Week but also beyond this week too.

Thank you to Uncle John and to our excellent essay writer, Shreyas Khanna (Year 11), for their recent inspiration.

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School