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Address on the occasion of the opening of the Ravenswood Centenary Centre and book launch of the history of the school, Sydney, 23 March 2001

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ADDRESS BY SIR WILLIAM DEANE

GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

ON THE OCCASION OF THE OPENING OF THE

RAVENSWOOD CENTENARY CENTRE AND BOOK LAUNCH OF THE HISTORY OF THE SCHOOL

SYDNEY

FRIDAY, 23 MARCH 2001

 

At the outset, I acknowledge the traditional custodians upon whose ancestral lands we are gathered.

 

Today is a doubly significant occasion in the life of a great school.

 

First, there is the official opening of this extremely impressive and state-of-the-art Centenary Centre.

 

Second, in this Ravenswood's Centenary year, we are launching the School's history.   Mrs.  Marjorie Bins' "Ravenswood - Educating girls 1901-2001 " admirably traces the story of Ravenswood from its beginnings as a very small privately owned school with eight pupils to its Centenary as one of our country's leading girls' school with a thousand students.

 

It was on 28 January 1901 that is less than four weeks after Federation, that Miss Mabel Fiddler faced that first Ravenswood class.   It consisted of five boys and three girls.   Their ages ranged from 13 down to 6.   The schoolhouse was a weatherboard room erected on this site.   By the middle of the year, Miss Fiddler had decided that her students should be exclusively girls and all the boys had somehow been disposed of.   Ravenswood and Australia were both on their way.   The result has been that the history of Ravenswood has been intertwined with the history of our nation from their beginnings and through all their respective lives - through times of peace and conflict, prosperity and depression, stability and change.

 

Ravenswood consists of much more than the school lands and buildings, important though they be.   It is a living entity comprising all those people who are or have been part of the School community:  the Headmistresses, the members of the School Council, the Chaplains, the teachers and other staff, the students, the participating parents.   All who have been or are part of the School and who are contributing or have contributed to making it what it is.   It is for that reason that Mrs Binns' account of Ravenswood's first century is rightly presented essentially in terms of the people who have been and are the School.

 

The Ravenswood's philosophy, as it enters its second century, is one that looks to the fulfilment of each student's complete potential:  spiritual, intellectual, physical and social.   The School's outstanding record of academic achievement demonstrates its successful pursuit of academic excellence.   At the same time, as the School's philosophy and this new Centenary Centre make plain, Ravenswood has succeeded in keeping a proper sense of proportion by paying due regard to the legitimate claims of other things.

 

Those other things include everything that is important to preparing young people not only for exams but also for leading a full, happy and fulfilling life.   They include cultural, intellectual and other pursuits such as music, theatre, debating, growing political awareness, social skills and concerns, sport, and, hopefully, the sheer enjoyment of youth.   Equally important, in a School such as this, they include the mission of outreach to the disadvantaged, which lies at the heart of the Universal Christian Church.   In that regard, it is gratifying to learn how much the girls of Ravenswood have done, over the School's life but particularly in recent years, to help those in need.   And that leads me to the central point, which I desire to make to the students of Ravenswood this afternoon.   In three words, that point is "look beyond yourself".

 

In the context of examination pressures, competition in sporting, cultural and other activities, and the praiseworthy desire to excel, it is easy - and understandable - for an Australian school student to become over-absorbed in self - in personal academic results and problems, in personal success or failure in other endeavours such as sport or cultural activities, in personal appearance, in personal popularity.   Obviously all these things are important and any Australian student should be conscious of them.  Ultimately, however, you will never fully succeed in the search for happiness and fulfilment if you fail to reach out to others or to help others where you can.

 

Each year, indeed each class, in a school such as Ravenswood is a community of its own moving through the larger school community.   Each member of that class or year is a unique member of the School with her own qualities and abilities.   She is also a vulnerable human being who will leave school with a potential for happiness and fulfilment, and a level of the self-worth and self-esteem which are commonly essential to the ability of young adults to cope, in some extreme cases to survive, in the demanding circumstances which confront them today.   Each of those qualities and characteristics, particularly the level of self-worth and self-esteem, will, to a significant extent, have been moulded or influenced by the treatment enjoyed or suffered at the hands of the other members of her class.   In that context, the message that I would wish to leave with each of you, the present students of Ravenswood, is how important it is that you respect and accept your fellow classmates and do what you can to encourage and support their self-esteem and sense of self-worth.   And that means all of them … not just your friends.   If, you unfailingly do that, you will, in the years to come, look back on your days here with the knowledge that you contributed towards helping Ravenswood to honour its traditions and to live up to the philosophy, which has sustained the School throughout its first century.

 

I sincerely congratulate all those people who have been identified by Mrs Smith as directly or indirectly involved in the planning, building, equipping and financing of the Centenary Centre.   It is a truly magnificent addition to the School facilities.

 

I also congratulate Mrs Marjorie Binns and all who have supported her in the preparation and publishing of Ravenswood - Educating girls 1901-2001.   As I have said, the book is an absolutely outstanding centenary tribute.

 

Finally, I extend Helen's and my very warm wishes to all who constitute the present School community and to all those who in the years ahead will come to teach, to learn or simply to enjoy themselves in this Centre or who are or will become a part of the continuing history of Ravenswood.

 

And now, with great pleasure, I officially launch Ravenswood - Educating girls 1901-2001 and declare the new Centenary Centre to be officially open.