I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are privileged to be on the traditional lands of the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation and I would like to honour and pay my deepest respect to Elders, both past and present. Australia’s aboriginal people are amongst the oldest known civilisations in the world. They undertook the first great sea journeys of exploration and developed a culture of deep knowledge and connection with the land that has endured longer than almost any other in the world’s history. We are all held in the cradle of this knowledge and connection and I am deeply grateful for the opportunities this brings to us all.
Almost 6 years ago, you started your High School Journey – at the same time as I started my journey as Principal here at Cape Byron. I remember giving you a candle for your morning circle and commenting to you that I looked forward to being with you at your graduation. Well, here we are! Over the last 13 years of your schooling, you have learned a lot of things. You have developed skills and learned about the world and, most importantly, you have learned about yourselves. Now, as you stand on the threshold of a new beginning, I want to take a moment to reflect on some things that really matter.
We live in a time of great change, uncertainty and possibility. It is a time where change is happening so quickly that it is hard to even imagine what the world will look like in a few years. Political and social boundaries are moving and the change in our beautiful, fragile environment is palpable. The task of imagining the future is now yours and you are already in the complex process of shaping it.
Whilst I hope the skills we have taught you will be useful to you in this changing world, I believe that it isn’t what you know that truly matters now, it is who you are and who you are going to be in the world.
Around 100 years ago, Rudolf Steiner gave us a Michaelic verse,
“Imbue thyself with the power of imagination
Have courage for the truth
Sharpen thy feeling for the responsibility of soul”
Today I would like to focus on this concept of having courage.
We live in a time when we are bombarded daily with advertising messages which urge us, as consumers, to believe a particular view of the world or ourselves, a time when social media targets messages directly at us with information designed to make us vote or spend our money in a particular way. I ask that you have the courage to be aware, reflect deeply and search for a universal truth in the messages you receive each day.
We live in a time when there is an ever-increasing emphasis on self-absorption and the endless need for external approval and acceptance. We spend time trying to create and promote an image of our lives which others will ‘like’. The selfie-stick is actually a thing! I want you to have the courage to be authentically who you are and to make real connections with others based on this true sense of self.
We live in a time where it is easy to draw apart, to polarise and to find the differences between us and to reinforce these. I want to encourage you not to follow this path. I know that you have the courage to stop and listen to those whose views are different to your own. You do not need to agree, and certainly it is important to stand up for what you truly believe is right, but please take the time to at least try to understand the other view; see and understand our differences and then search for the things that draw us together. You are all developing a strong moral compass; use it to make good choices but also have the empathy, courage and insight to understand those who do not. The hope for the future is in finding our common humanity and forging a path we can walk together.
Our school vision is to enable each individual to realise their potential to be self aware, resourceful and resilient with the empathy, skills and initiative to make a positive contribution to the world. I want you to know that, right at this turning point in your lives, as you are about to finish your school education, you are exactly who you should be and you are exactly what our world needs. Have the courage to know and understand this.
I look at you and I am filled with so much hope for the future. You are creative, caring, empathetic, thoughtful, insightful, gentle, humorous, determined, imaginative, analytical, hopeful and courageous. You have what you need to step out into the world and fulfill your own life destinies. You will be the lovers, the carers, the decision makers, the inventors, the collaborators and the healers. You will be the artists, poets, musicians, strategists, scientists, engineers and farmers who will shape and change the new world.
So now, go out there and ask questions. Have courage to stand up for what you believe in. Make strong, ethical choices. Care for others, even if you don’t understand their lives or their choices. Actively care for this magnificent planet and speak up when others don’t. Find happiness in the small things. Draw pictures, make music, plant gardens, write poems – be a creator in the world. Accept that you are not perfect and sometimes you will get it wrong. Make mistakes – and then learn from them. Be prepared to wait and work for the things you want. Look for the music and the beauty around you (it is always there).
I want you to know that your teachers, your family and your school community, are so very proud of you. I am very proud of you. Almost 100 years ago, Rudolf Steiner said “Receive children in reverence, educate them in love, and let them go forth in freedom.” We received you with reverence, we have educated you with so much love, and now it is time for you to go forth in freedom.
Your education at Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School has finished, my wish for you all is that you can go on to fulfill the highest, truest expression of yourselves as the wonderful human beings you are. You have the courage for this task!