Schools have an important role in the Black Lives Matter movement

By Greg Whitby, 24 June 2020
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.

 

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

It is during the times of crisis that we can see most clearly what leaders do. Really good leaders stand up under pressure; great leaders stand out.

As teacher John Keating from Dead Poets Society would say, they ‘seize the day’ and use adversity as a teaching moment. We have seen so many great examples of this during COVID-19.

The protests that followed the death of George Floyd have brought into sharp focus the actions of leaders. His death triggered an outpouring of grief and despair from around the world, including from communities who have been victims of systemised racism and cruelty. The Black Lives Matter movement is a call to reshape society and reassess how we treat each other.

Recently, it was widely reported that school attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be much lower than they are for other children. We also learned that the 2018 target for the share of indigenous children at or above national minimum standards in reading and numeracy was not met. Not good enough.

During Reconciliation Week, I made a public commitment, on behalf of our 80 school communities in western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. This was a response to the disadvantage that has been experienced by so many First Australians, the result of dispossession, powerlessness and the absence of opportunity.

One in nine indigenous Australians calls Sydney home, and schools have an important role as agents of change and renewal. For me, there are important teaching moments out of the COVID-19 crisis and Black Lives Matter. Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • The starting point for everything should be equity
  • The words we use matter. They have power — to create and destroy
  • We become much stronger by embracing difference in ourselves and in others.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

 

Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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