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Below is Principal, Mrs Marise McConaghy address to the audience at Presentation Night.

Good evening distinguished guests, staff, students, families and special friends of Strathcona.

I would like to acknowledge Rev Daniel Bullock, Director of Mission and Ministries at the Baptist Union of Victoria, and also Dr Kate Rickersley, recipient of this year’s Strathcona Medal.

Thank you for giving up your time to be with us this evening and to be part of our program. We are very grateful.

On behalf of the parents, staff and students of Strathcona, I would like to thank members of the School Board, and the Board Subcommittees

  • Nominations and Governance
  • Finance and Risk
  • Property and
  • Development
  • …as well as the Old Strathconians and the Strathcona Family Association.
  • Also to be mentioned in this context are the many other groups and individuals within the School who give up personal time to make the School the vibrant and warm community that it is. Thank you. Your generosity community-mindedness is very much appreciated.

To our departing Schools Captains – Alisha , Natasha andRebecca – I give my heartfelt thanks. Nurturing in our students strong leadership, a place for student voice and empowerment are important to me and we shall be continuing to provide opportunities – small and large – for as many girls as we can to exercise their leadership muscles and strengthen a sense of self-agency. 2018 Captains, you have been a fine example of this.

Tonight is a celebration of our whole community for this school year, which is so rapidly drawing to a close. Naturally it focuses on our wonderful students, in particular our departing Year 12s. An evening such as this gives us an opportunity to applaud outstanding achievements across many areas, diverse talents and areas of engagement of all our students, staff and community. While tonight is about this – more importantly – it is also about joyfully showcasing the breadth and depth of all that is done, together, at Strathcona.

This symbolises our approach to the education of girls; definitely striving for the best in learning outcomes for all (there is nothing wrong with that) but also the importance of a balanced approach to school life, which includes areas such as arts, sport, community service, global engagement, socialising, having fun and just having a go. So much goes on in a school year and the momentum is such that there is a strong #Strathcona Unstoppable feeling.

To say that this is a very busy time of year to this audience, is very much to state the obvious.

Over the past few weeks, in different groupings, we have already gathered together to celebrate so much of what has occurred this year and specifically our girls. Parents, thank you so much for your support, sheer endurance and logistical capacity to manage competing obligations to be with us every step of the way throughout the year and now particularly as it all draws to a close. We have been together for…

  • Sports Celebration Evening,
  • A Volunteer Cocktail Party,
  • The Valedictory Dinner,
  • Year 6 Graduation,
  • Junior School Music Concert,
  • Early Learning Centre Christmas plays,
  • Christmas Church Service
  • …and more recently and most memorably, PAF – our Performing Arts Festival – where our girls astonished us all in what they could create and perform in a week. It was the first year that we included the whole House from Year 7 – Year 11, as part of our new approach to pastoral care, strengthening the House sisterhood, and providing leadership experience and role modelling. You did all that well and also displayed amazing talent in the performing arts. It really was quite outstanding. Tonight we have endeavoured to capture this as well as the many other highlights of this year, the School’s 94th.
  • Oh and a fair bit of teaching and learning has occurred too, of course. No wonder everyone is tired!

I am sure you have noticed that our marketing campaign this year. #Girls Unstoppable. We adopted this as we wanted to communicate to the girls – and to the community– a belief that girls are strong, they can be invincible, and that can do anything with a bit of grit, appropriate support, and determination.

This fits in nicely with Growth Mindset as well as the character trait in our School Motto ‘Bravely’. Whenever I say ‘girls can do anything’, I always hear the words of former Governor General and former Qld Governor Quentin Bryce in my head when she spoke to a group of Queensland girls about 13 years ago.

Yes, she said to them, you can, and you will if you want, but not necessarily all at the sametime and not all of you will want to.I think that is wise counsel for all of us. I am conscious not to gloss over things too much to our girls and young women – or to avoid the fact that there are challenges in workplaces, relationships, and in balancing timing and life choices.

Having watched past students navigate lives after school for a few decades now, I am very wary of the ‘have it all’, just ‘lean in’, ‘conquer the world’ and it will all be fine glibness. We want wise, discerning, considered, savvy feminists.

But nonetheless, together – girls, staff, parents, the whole community – we shall be as unstoppable as we can in achieving our aspirations.

We do not want our students – or staff for that matter – to be timid about doing challenging things or of letting fear of failure stop them. We want them to understand the notion of ‘Impostor Syndrome’, but to cut through it anyway.

I very strongly believe that our girls – and our staff – are capable of far more than they think they are. I love for them to be surprised at their own capabilities – as in PAF, Envision, CoLab, sport, Outdoor Education, hard Maths problems, leadership– or any number of things that have been accomplished – and to feel a sense of pride and empowerment.

Also, I can bear the times when things are not quite there yet; that is ok too – we are a learning community, after all, not a perfection community. We want to provide opportunities to explore every aspect of potential by stepping out of comfort zones, while also being safely held in our caring community.

The decision to take up the notion of ‘unstoppability’ perhaps was considered by some as a bit radical – subversive even – and a different, more dialled up, approach for Strathcona.

However, I wanted to signal to the wider community the bench strength, not only of our girls, but the School as whole. We might be a lovely mid-sized school with campuses tucked discreetly away in some of the most beautiful streets in Melbourne, but our students and staff punch well above their weight in so many areas – and our aspirations as a School are hardly timid – and nor are we overly conservative. We are considered and we are here. We are quite a force in our own unique Strathy way.

How’s this for a few examples?

  • 13 of our teachers are VCAA markers
  • Two- that I know of – have written text books
  • Two of our teachers have been received national awards
  • Our academic programs have drawn at least 15 groups of visitors from other schools, in some cases, from interstate and overseas
  • Three of our teachers have recently presented at international conferences and six at State and National level
  • Our Business Manager was one of a very few Australian Business Managers to attend the new Hewlett Packard Education Enterprise Centre in Singapore, thusaccessingsome of the most cutting-edge technologies in the IT industry, additionally he is a national board member of the Australian Schools Bursars’ Association and State Vice-President and PD convenor for ASBA (Victoria). He also sits on the board of ASCA Better Buying Power for Schools
  • I am on the board of Alliance of Girls Schools Australasia and act as national Vice President and have recently been made Victorian Representative for Harvard Women Australia
  • A number of our teachers have work which has been published in various academic journals
  • Legally Blondereceived a number of 2018 Lyrebird Youth Awards including Best Ensemble, Best Choreographer, Best Comedic Performance, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress
  • Our Leader of Curriculum and Innovation in the Junior School has 7k Twitter followers from all over the world and she is regularly invited by Google to launch various products

The staff at Strathcona would have to be described as high performing. Over the four years since I have been here, every area, both teaching and non-teaching, has been reviewed and changes made where necessary. Often the reviews conducted have been external so that there is a strong sense of high-level scrutiny and accountability.

Staff have implemented new systems and taken feedback graciously, setting themselves individual goals and a professional learning path.

I am excited at the ideas they put forward and their sense of ownership of the school and their own development. They are fine role models for the students showing them that learning, collaboration, being brave and responsive to change are vital in today’s environment.

On Q & A a few of months ago, the audience was asked if they believed a great teacher can change a life. 99% said yes. Our teachers do things small and large every day to assist students to achieve their best and grow well. Go, #StrathyStaff, thank you, you are very Unstoppable!

And what about our students’ unstoppability? Well …

How’s this for a few examples?

  • One of our younger girls was invited to a morning tea by the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer to receive an award to leadership, academic excellence, resilience and kindness.
  • Two of our Year 12 students were awarded the 2017 Kooyong Leadership Prizes for General Excellence, leadership, and contribution to community
  • A year student has been welcomed into the class of 2019 Kwong Lee Dow Young Scholars’ Program at the University of Melbourne
  • One of our Year 11 was been invited to perform at one of the Top Class Concerts held at the Melbourne Recital Centre
  • A Year 11 student was selected to participate in the National Schools’ Constitutional Convention in Canberra
  • The Year 9 Future Problem Solving team were awarded second place in the International Future Problem Solving Competition held in the US
  • Two of our students won the prestigious Hawthorn Voice of a Generation Competition on the topic
  • One of our Year 12 students has been awarded a Melbourne Principal’s Scholarship to the University of Melbourne
  • 88 students participated in the ICAS Mathematics Competition and 7 were awarded High Distinction, 23 Distinctions, 36 Credits and 6 Merits.
  • A Year 11 student has been selected to participate in the Australian Chemistry Olympiad School at the ANU
  • A Year 12 has received a Gold Medal in the 2018 Australian Art Award

And I have hardly scratched the surface, but you’ve got the gist.

While this is a list of some starry, unstoppables, the days of School life are full of very important moments, where each and every student pushes through on things that are challenging, building character, self-understanding, strength and learning. It might be to be in a class where you did not know anyone. Or it might be being brave enough to speak to someone you haven’t spoken to before – or asking a teacher a question – or answering a question in class. Or staying with a difficult concept until a logic emerges. Or speaking in public – or speaking up for something that you believe in or defending someone. All these small decisions and actions are so very precious and important – and ultimately make you unstoppable, each of you in your unique way.

I spend many hours interviewing intake students. Presently I have been doing some for little girls who are coming into Year 7 in 2021. I always ask the question ‘Why Strathcona’? Responses are fairly consistent. Prospective families value the balance the school has between the academic, pastoral and co-curricular. Almost always, there is always something else they comment upon. They say that they came to an Open Day and ‘just liked the feel of it’, ‘it just felt right’ or ‘I liked the girls who took the tour’.

In the last few weeks, seven different parents have said ‘our babysitter is a Strathcona girl and I just really like her’, that’s why I chose the School.

A while ago I had a mother say that her Year 12 son had a Strathy girlfriend and, after looking into the school, she decided that she wanted this for her daughter. Two weeks ago, a father who is a physio said that he treats students in Kew from many schools. He said he just liked the Strathcona girls best. He said they were courteous, pleasant to their parents, and curious about the science of their injuries and intelligent in questioning.

Another mother said she intentionally sought Work Experience students from various schools and she chose Strathcona because she liked the character of the girls best.

So, girls, you are Unstoppable in your own dignified, understated, lovely way. You are not perfect, of course. But you are something pretty special.

I think this comes from an alignment of values and aspirations of your parents – and of the enduring culture of Strathcona – established long before I stepped into the gates of Scott Street. Thank you for being you.

Year 12, it is time to say goodbye to you as Strathcona students. Tonight really will be the last time you wear that blue checked dress and remove the white ribbon from your pony tail. However, you are the Strathy sisterhood of 2018, forever.

Now it is time for me to stop, no doubt you are grateful to hear.

And it is also nearly time for the unstoppable-ness to stop and we need – all of use – to rest, reflect and relax.

Year 12…

When you come to the edge of all the light you know,

And are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown,

Faith is knowing one of two things will happen;

There will be something solid to stand on,

Or you will be taught how to fly.

At Strathcona we have provided you with something solid to stand on.

Now it is time for you to test your wings…

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.