Australia Day Eve Provocations

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On Thursday 25 January, the day before Australia Day, as a member of the St Luke’s Leadership Team I gathered with over 500 system and school leaders from 80 primary and secondary schools for the #CEDP2018 Leadership Day. The day engages its participants by providing various keynote speakers who provoke our thinking around a central theme.

Bishop Vincent Long threw out the first challenge of the day when he asked if we were Empire Builders – those preoccupied with success, power and ambition, or Kingdom Builders – those who foster and nurture relationships with the powerless poor. In the current climate of testing mandates, leagues tables and data driven discussions to ensure accountability, it resonated with many when Bishop Vincent stated…

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Our Executive Director Mr Greg Whitby, who the very next day was named in the Australia Day Honours list with his appointment as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM), followed with his characteristic mix of encouragement, inspiration and challenge. Greg recalled some of his recent learnings as part of a course of study where he engaged with leaders from a cross-section of industries, backgrounds and nationalities. The message was loud and clear…


Greg encouraged us to “be bold enough to do the work” by becoming “curiouser and curiouser”, just like Alice in Wonderland. Later that evening when viewing the Australia Day Awards live on ABC Television, I heard Etienne Masle-Farquar talking about his father and 2018 Senior Australian of the Year, Dr Graham Farquhar when he said,

“He is driven by an insatiable curiosity. He really needs to know the reason why things work the way they do and how they work.” 

Dr Farquhar himself encouraged all of us when he said,

“We can be creative, we can struggle for honesty and we can deal with failures. We are all lucky because of our ability to embrace creativity and hence progress as a nation.”

Bishop Vincent, Greg Whitby AM and Dr Graham Farquhar are all great leaders.

“Great leaders prepare themselves not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday but for the realities of today and the unknown possibilities of tomorrow” – Anne Masterson.

In looking for inspiration for the year ahead as a school leader, maybe I should consider what @hamishcurry  tweeted,

I’d take that quote and replace ‘leaders’ for ‘education’.

I enjoyed listening to the provocations of significant local and national thought leaders on the eve of Australia Day. It was a privilege. Interestingly, not one of them is a politician and not one of them a bureaucrat. Among all of their inspiring words, there was no mention of marks, grades, league tables, testing or benchmarks as the key to their success. I only heard encouragement to engage with discovery, to take on challenges and be curious, all of which will lead to the transformed learning so necessary for a changing world.

Whilst pursuing a transformed learning agenda there will be the inevitable failures; however, when these arise we can remind ourselves of the four mantras of the 2018 Australian of the Year, Professor Michelle Simmons. They are:

Do what’s hard. Place high expectations on yourself. Take risks. Do something that matters.

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2018 Australian of the Year – Professor Michelle Simmons

Professor Simmons’ story is fascinating – a female quantum physicist in a male dominated world. To overcome the barriers she faced in her career she regularly reminded herself that, “It’s is important not to be defined by other people’s expectations of who you are and what you might be.” Professor Simmons especially encouraged young people to pursue what they love, to set their heights high and tackle the hardest challenges in life. One of the hardest challenges in pursuing a transformed learning agenda may be proving to our politicians and the media that…

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Have a great start to the 2018 school year.







5 thoughts on “Australia Day Eve Provocations

  1. Spot on Greg, three of the four Australia day honours recipients were great promoters of the intellectual pursuits that curiosity, inquiry, deep thinking and love of learning brings…and each STEM to boot. All the best for St Luke’s in 2018.

  2. Nice reflection Greg. Best wishes to you and all the members of St Luke’s community at this exciting point in your journey. Hope 2018 is a memorable year for you all

  3. A great piece of writing Greg. Best wishes as you work with the staff at St Luke’s to transform learning & teaching.
    Mark De Vries

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