Principal's 140th Reflections

What and why we should celebrate

Principal’s Address – Claremont College 140th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Saturday 30th July, 2022 Tonight is all about celebration. So I would like to say a few words about what and why we are celebrating…
140 years is a very long time. Claremont College is one of the oldest Independent Schools in Sydney. There is a lot of history in this place. What I’d like to do is to take you on a journey into the past, then back to the future, and for me to share a few thoughts about what we are celebrating and why we should be celebrating.
I find it incredible that the Claremont College school community has lived and breathed, witnessed some of the most wonderful feats of human history. When you think of technology, the internet, humans on the moon, advances in medicine, scientific knowledge and understanding. We have seen women’s liberation, greater awareness of social justice issues, and the richness of life that multiculturalism has brought to Australia… yet we still have a way to go.
Our school experienced the Australian Federation in 1901, the first of the Modern Olympics in 1896, 90 years of lego, over 80 years of Disney movies, 63 years of Barbie, 48 years and counting of Abba, 35 years of Star Wars, Ninja Turtles, football cards, Furbies, Pokemon and now the most important thing in the lives of our kids Harry Potter collectables at COLES… it’s incredible! All of these things have been loved and enjoyed as part of our school’s history. We celebrate the expanse of time and the many things that have shaped our lives over 140 years.
I also acknowledge that our school community has also lived, breathed and experienced some of the darkest of days in Human modern history. There was the Boer War at the turn in the 1890’s, WW1 and the first ANZACS, the Great Depression, WW2 and subsequent wars. There was also the Spanish Flu which is estimated to have killed 15 000 Australians and up to 100 million people world-wide. Imagine living through these things without the information and updates and communication that we receive from the internet and modern technology. We can relate to the Spanish Flu because of COVID, what would it have been like to experience a pandemic 100 years ago? I find myself wondering what it would have been like, being part of a school community during the days of Gallipoli – not knowing what was happening, seeing families receive telegrams and news about the death of family members and loved ones. Imagine the discussions in the classrooms and corridors, in our school hall, at staff meetings and P&F meetings. Imagine the conversations of parents at the school gate as they waited to collect their children. No wonder we are 140 years strong.
And we have experienced things more recently too. I clearly remember the morning of the 12th of September 2001 (now known as 9/11) and its significant impact on our school that day and for some time after.
I believe without a doubt that these significant events and episodes in human history – have made this school community what it is today. It is resilient. There is a depth of care and nurture, and connection to this school which sometimes we can take for granted. What we have at Claremont is not found in all schools. This is why we celebrate.
As I reflect on these things and much more, I acknowledge the legacy, the sacrifices and lengths that others have gone to, to make this school what it is today. We especially celebrate the contribution and service of many remarkable people over 140 years. For example, the ‘story’ of Lady Rachel Agnes Storey, her husband David, who served as local State Member for 26 years and their daughter Ruby (Kindergarten 1888 and matriculated as Prize winner of Languages and Scripture and Dux of Claremont in 1900) speaks of a life of outstanding service to the community. And no surprises, in their honour and memory to this day we have Storey House as one of our sporting houses, at Claremont College. (You can read further details of this inspiring Claremont family, in our Newsletter).
Did you know that Claremont has nearly closed its doors at least 6 times, perhaps more over the past 140 years. Once in 1947 with less than 50 students in the school, it was the P&F that came to the rescue and actually bought the school. Thank you P&F!
Over the years when tragedy has impacted a Claremont family or families, there have been silver linings. Our school community and network responds immediately, and have shown so much support and care for the students and families in need. There have been many instances in the history of our school where families and individual lives have been impacted, yet our parent community rallied around helping them to get through challenging times in their lives, bringing practical support, comfort, hope, love and faith. This is what we celebrate.
So, what have I learnt? What does our community need for the future? The world is changing rapidly and our lives move at such a fast pace. We must slow ourselves down to do something that I believe is essential… and that is to listen. To do this we need to shut out a lot of the noise that constantly bombards us,  and prioritise what’s most important. Ultimately, we have much in common…  we share similar hopes, dreams and fears for the future,  for our kids, our families, and the people we love. We celebrate what is at the heart of what it means to be human: family and friendship … ‘doing’ life together.
Out of all the things COVID has taught us, for me it’s the importance of connection. Getting alongside one another, listening, authentically listening to the stories of each other… respecting our differences, and even more than this, celebrating these differences. We must see that diversity, not sameness, is going to be one of the most important keys to working together and solving problems to create the future for our kids that we all hope and pray for.  And as corny as you may think it sounds, the other key is LOVE. The love that Jesus modelled and taught us about… to love God, to love our neighbour and to love ourselves.
I am hopeful and optimistic for the future. It is a privilege for me to work with your children and to lead this school. It is important to me that your kids come to school every day knowing that they are safe, and knowing that they are loved and valued for who they are, and to have a happy childhood. And for the future, I want them to be confident individuals who have the skills, dispositions, self-awareness, faith and an awareness of the love that I have referred to. It is love that will equip them for their life and future, a life of success, contribution, happiness and service to others.
If anything, we need to equip them with the skills and attributes that are going to be necessary for them to get us out of this mess of a planet that we have all had part in creating: the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. As an educator of 35 years, I’m often embarrassed and ashamed by what we are handing to our students. But the future can be bright and this is why we must have a school filled with joy, hope and positivity for the days ahead. Our children deserve this.
On your table is a booklet that I am very excited about, it is our Strategic Intent, 2022 to 2026. You are the first people to see this. It has taken 18 months of consultation with many groups of stakeholders to bring this together. If you participated in one of the zoom meetings last year – thank you for your input and comments. In addition, ‘Our Future 2022-2026’ is available at the office, for those who would like a copy.
I encourage you to read this and to really think about the depth of where we are heading and what we are seeking to achieve. Our Mission is to ‘INSPIRE FOR LIFE’ and our vision is to have ‘IMPACT THAT MATTERS’. It was Nelson Mandela who said this most famous quote about education…
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This sums up why I love my job, what gives me purpose and why I love our school. Claremont College has changed the world in equipping generations of children for a life of academic success, impacting their careers and personal sphere of influence in life and beyond. This is why we celebrate!
This school has also changed the world by touching the lives of generations past. It has changed my life, my family and my (the Thomas’) world. Claremont has helped and changed the worlds of generations of parents and families. This school has impacted generations of teachers and staff too, many of whom have moved on to new schools with promotions and who now lead other schools. This school is also impacting educators around the world learning from us and our research and accessing our resources. This coming week I will be speaking at a University of Melbourne online lecture series where I have been invited to talk about how the design of our classrooms enhances teaching and student learning. Claremont College has impact. And, on the local front our school has had a significant presence and influence in the Randwick precinct for 140 years… it’s huge!
At the end of the day, Claremont College changes the world for children, your children, as they walk in the gate every morning, into their classrooms, into their learning and friendships, each and every day. What they learn and experience here, they take with them for life. And this is why together we need to be invested. This is why we are here tonight to celebrate.

Mr Doug Thomas