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Julie Bishop’s departure from parliament yesterday is worth attention. As always, she was composed, eloquent, dignified and professional. She made sure she acknowledged all the people who had made her extraordinary career in politics possible and maintained her loyalty to her party until the very end. One could not help note, however, that she was wearing a white dress, presumably in protest against the way women have been treated in our national parliament. White was the colour of choice for the members of the Suffragette Movement of the early 20th Century when women in the UK demanded the same voting rights as their male counterparts. (We should rightly be proud that South Australia was ahead of the curve in this regard.) Wearing white has been used by prominent women as a sign of protest ever since, and has returned to the public consciousness a couple of weeks ago when many US female politicians wore white at Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address.

Julie Bishop’s subtle protest about equality caused me to think about the notion of respect. Respect is one of our core values at the School. Indelibly linked to this value are the notions of inclusivity and diversity which in turn have implications for how we conduct ourselves in the St Peter’s community, and in particular in terms of how we respond to difference. The Strategic Plan makes it clear that we have a responsibility not only to include difference, but to celebrate it. Arguably, the opposite of inclusion and celebration is exclusion and derision, which can form the basis for bullying behaviours.

Bullying is something that schools need to be eternally vigilant about. Last year, we ran a bullying survey with our Senior School students to identify the frequency, nature and impact of bullying. The results of the survey were interesting. On the positive side of the ledger, even though bullying does occur at the School its impact on the wellbeing of the vast majority of our students seems to be minimal. What we did identify however, was that language is the main vehicle through which bullying occurs. In particular, homophobic language followed by misogynist and racist language are the most common forms of language used to tease another student.

On the back of the survey, an excellent report was produced by Dr Mike Oliver, in which several recommendations were made. These recommendations were fully endorsed by the Senior School Leadership Team and a committee, (that includes staff from both the Junior and Senior School as well as the School Captain and Vice-Captain), was formed to action them. Our focus this year is to run an education campaign for staff, students and parents about the use of language and in particular make a clear distinction between what is and isn’t acceptable. The School has registered to be a part of the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence and there will be a School wide education campaign in the weeks leading up including an address at School Muster. The Houses have already been raising awareness in House Musters through videos and discussions. One of the most important elements to eradicating bullying is instilling confidence in our students to speak up if they believe they are experiencing bullying. This is a message that we will keep repeating until every person in this School feels safe, happy, valued and loved for who they are.

Pro Deo et Patria.

Ben Hanisch
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School