Principal’s Address to the Class of 2021 - Friday 29 October

Friday, 29 Oct 2021

Class of 2021, family and friends of Year 12, members of staff, young people of Bishop Druitt College - today is a day of great celebration, particularly for our valedictorians.

This class has survived the final two years of schooling under this cloud that has been COVID-19. It has been difficult. It has been challenging. There have been postponements and cancellations of rites of passage events. The opportunity to share today with your parents face to face is an unfortunate example of this.

This class, however, has been more than resilience. They have displayed more grit than you would expect from the average 17 or 18-year-old. They have adapted, been resolute, grown and even thrived over the last 2 years.

I am currently reading Gail Kelly’s Live Lead Learn. Kelly is on the professional speaking circuit now but she was until relatively recently the CEO of Australia’s second-largest bank, Westpac. In 2010, Kelly was named 8th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine. Kelly shared much wisdom in her book and I wish to impart my message, hopefully timely and useful, to you today under the themes of her publication.

A Lucky Start

We are blessed. We are lucky to have been born in this time period. There is for example no World War. The medical procedures and treatments are outstanding and accessible to all in the country. We have access to support services during what has been a terrible worldwide pandemic. We are lucky. We are lucky to be living on the Coffs Coast and attend Bishop Druitt College. We are lucky to be blessed with good genes and parents and carers who love us. There is much to be thankful for. We have had a lucky start.

Learning to Learn

Learning is a lifelong pursuit. When I was at high school in the 1980s we saw a glimpse of the future through science fiction films like Blade Runner (this film introduced cloning, artificial intelligence, mobile phones and the internet), in Terminator - drones, and in Total Recall - driverless cars, flatscreen TVs and handheld video communication devices - smartphones. 

My generation has seen this science fiction become reality. We have all learnt how to use these devices or derivations of them. Our homes and our workplaces have been altered immeasurably by these changes. Your generation will have changes and opportunities involving augmented and virtual reality, space travel and other incredible work and personal opportunities not limited by time or place. The key message here is to enjoy the change and learn. Never stop learning.

Choose to be Positive

Challenging situations and obstacles are a part of life. When you’re faced with one, focus on the good things no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they seem.

Practice Gratitude - simple things are the best, spring sunshine or cool breeze.

Build connections with friends and family - send the text, make the phone call, organise a catch up for a coffee

Practice positive self-talk - I’ll try this a different way to find success!

Get active - go for a walk, a run, a bike ride. Get outside. Studies have shown the positive effects of accessing green spaces.

Love What You Do 

You only live once

You owe it to yourself to be happy

You will spend much of your time at work

The connective logic for me is simple. You will enjoy your life more if your skillset and your passion align with your day job. 

Be Bold, Dig Deep and Back Yourself

If you work hard and apply yourself intelligently to the task, you will be rewarded with superior results. Be courageous. Take the opportunity. Confront your self-doubts and anxieties. 

In 1982, I had a primary school teacher, Mr Jim Anderson, where I attended a quite large concrete primary school with over 1000 students. Not at all similar to our beautiful campus. This Canadian gentleman loved 9am callisthenics on the parade ground involving 140 year 6 students followed by 9.30am silent reading before we got stuck into the day’s work. 

Mr Anderson noticed that I had some reading difficulties. What I realised later was that I was mildly dyslexic. He and I developed a plan. I would dig deep and back myself to learn to read fluently. I would endeavour to see this challenge as exciting and for the most part, I have - I backed myself working through school, university and a couple of different exciting and rewarding careers. My message here is to Be Bold, Dig Deep and Back Yourself.

Family - the Most Important Thing

I’ve recently started using a wellbeing app each day called Green X7. In the app, you rate how you believe you are going with 8 different domains. Friendship and relationships are two of the 8 domains. What I noticed is how important I perceived relationships. Family is the most important thing. Don’t let those important relationships slide. It doesn’t take much time just to touch base, listen to your family and let people know you care. 

Being in the Moment

I tend to do everything at pace and often several projects simultaneously but this type of process leads to mistakes and you can on occasion remove the joy out of the everyday routines. 

I have been endeavouring to enjoy the simplicity of activities.  Putting the clothes on the washing line - I see this as an opportunity to listen to music for a few minutes while standing in the sunshine. 

Visiting classes and talking with students about their day and what excites them in their world. 

These daily moments are, I believe, critical in finding each day purposeful in all that you do.

Making a Difference

That doesn’t mean you need to be a prime minister or a captain of industry or an internationally recognised author, film star or sportsperson. It does however mean that you make a difference in the lives of people around you. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying - “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Good luck year 12s - the future is what you choose it to be. Just know that we are proud of you. You are now World Prepared.

Nick Johnstone