Dear parents and guardians,
Today, I was made aware of the disrespectful behaviour of some of our students travelling on public transport yesterday. I understand that these students made derogatory comments about women which was highly offensive and caused extreme discomfort. This behaviour is unacceptable. I am deeply disappointed to have Wesley students behave in such a manner. Such behaviour does not reflect what we value and share in our Wesley community.
I have run the gamut of emotions as a result of this news, from fury to frustration, from disbelief to determination, from shame to sadness.
I am sad because this is indicative of behaviour I have witnessed too often from too many men. Casual misogyny and sexism are so often expressed in all male conversations. This episode is no exception. I am ashamed not just because this reflects poorly on a school I love, but also because there have been times in my life, particularly my youth, when I was a bystander of such conversations and thus helped perpetuate them.
However, I am also hopeful because young people, young women and young men, are not prepared to be bystanders any longer. I am hopeful because this may presage the change required in society. I am hopeful because the conversations that need to happen, not least within Wesley College, have begun. I am hopeful because I believe wholeheartedly in the power of education to transform lives and hearts.
In my email of last week, I indicated that the Associate Principal Morag Howard in consultation with Heads of Campus, Kim Bence, Sheriden Vella and Jacinta Janssens conducted an audit of our programs dealing with consent and respectful relationships. The curriculum includes sexual intimacy, pornography, acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and sexual risks and consequences, consent and the law, and gender-based violence. I also indicated last week that we would be examining how effective these programs are. We have begun a series of conversations with students regarding their effectiveness. It was clear last week, and it is even clearer now, that we have work to do.
As part of this work, Wesley College has recently partnered with Bravehearts, a leading child protection organisation. For our students this will provide additional education focusing on safety, consent and respectful relationships for young people as well as professional training for Wesley staff. I would like to add that I do not believe that the few involved in this incident represent the more than 3,300 students who attend Wesley College and who interact with their peers, teachers and wider community with respect and humility. The considerate young leaders that I challenged at the Prefect’s Dinner just weeks ago to bring the voice of the students to us are fine examples of our students – and they are the ones that your children look up to and model themselves after.
This episode is a painful moment, for those members of the public on the bus who had to endure it and for those of us who love this school. But from such pain must come learning and action.
With every good wish