Authentic Thoughts on Leadership Deeper Learning leadership Life View Principalship Ulladulla High School

Principal Speech 3/52 Naidoc Assembly

Over my 9 years being a Secondary School Principal I have written close to 250 speeches. Mostly, I am keen to build hope, pose questions and celebrate the moment. The 52 weeks continue 3/52.

I too would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land the Murramarang Peoples. And Also to pay my respects to the Elders past and present and any aboriginal people here today.

I thank all our special guests and our Aboriginal Community and Elders, returning students and teacher who have taken time to join us today. Your support of our school and students in the celebration of this significant event and  your recognition has more power than you know. I am grateful.

Because of her we can….. This theme resonates so deep in my understanding of where we are today.

It is hard to imagine our school without the strong connections we have with our local Aboriginal Elders and community people and all our Aunties. The significant contributions that they have played in our understanding of culture and tradition sits deep in our pysche.  The pathways that you have layed for all of us and particularly our Aboriginal students is significant and life changing. It is a ‘way of being’ for each and everyone of us.

Today, I believe we have one of the strongest and most effective AECG’s across NSW.

Denise Lofts Principal Ulladulla High School

 The way in which our AECG works alongside each one of our schools is authentic, collaborative and significant. The focus is always directed strongly at bringing excellence in education and powerful meaningful learning for our Aboriginal students to achieve the highest aspirations and attain educational excellence. This enlivened vision has been built through the strength of  the President Aunty Nellie, Secretary Aunty Lyn, Aunty Sharon and all the members of the AECG past and present. It is  through their determination and focus on education which has been the pivot of success for our Aboriginal students and  our community.

Along with our AECG it is our Aboriginal Homework Centre that operates every week with the focus on the connecting our students to Learning success, through providing unrelenting opportunities of support to our students so they can become whoever and whatever they choose to be. To Dream big and achieve their passions. 

Every time I see our students success beyond school, their incredible achievements, the happy lives they are living, I am so so very grateful for the passionate commitment given from our Aboriginal Elders, AECG, the Homework Centre, the many significant initiatives we as a school and a community have provided to our students to go onto to live lives ‘well lived’. And to see as a result of that  support to go into the world as proud Aboriginal Young People.

It hasn’t always been that way.

There was time that our elders were the most bravest of brave.

Aunty Nellie tells me of the time in the early 1980’s when she knew she had to do something for the Aboriginal students in our community.  She arranged to see every principal in our community. And asked them..

What are you going to do for our kids? Initially they were not receptive.   Aunty was brave and insisted and insisted..and explained in clear language.. We can do better..

Aunty Nellie Mooney

Aunty Nellie with Jan convinced them, by her sheer persistence that our kids needed a place to go and work on their school work, a place to feel supported, a place where they knew about their connections to country and their people and that was the beginning of the Aboriginal Homework Centre, alongside Aunty Nellie, Jan and Cheryl Hughes and many others, teachers like Laurie Curry, Carolyn Whan and many others supported our students.

..… here we are today….

How far we have come.

It was this incredible courage and vulnerability they needed then we can celebrate today. They had to abandon their fear and head off into the wilderness to face the uncertainty.  To find true belonging, to be courageous for a belief.

The courage they found to stand alone, to say what they believed in, despite the criticism and fear was incredible.  They braved the wilderness. They stood alone. Today we are thankful.

Their strength many years ago,  to brave that wilderness changed them and us, we are painfully aware of the choices moving forward. Their journey tells us. Once you have stood up for yourself and your beliefs, the bar is higher. And your wild heart will never be the same. 

Speaking up against ‘the status quo’ not being happy with comfort, rather braving that wilderness with you wild hearts. 40 years ago.

Your ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid – all in the same moment. It was your ability to show up and take on the system. Showing up in your vulnerability and incredible courage.. Being both fierce and kind.

Brene Brown

We, the students and the school are incredibly thankful.

Because of you… we can today.

Today we are  joined through an inextricable connection. We are here to celebrate together both the pain and the joy. This is deeply human when we cut through our differences and tap into our hardwired nature. These experiences tell us what is true and possible about the human spirit. 

Every time we come together as a community, we share our joys together. The connections of ‘holding hands’ with strangers in a moment of joy, undeniably brings us all closer together.

How and when will you be brave, stand up for what is true and go into the wilderness with courage, to stand alone for your belief like our Elders?

Because of her… we can.

Denise Lofts

Principal Ulladulla High School

Principal of a fantastic secondary public school where our young people enliven their dreams through a growth mindset to fulfil their potential. Focussed on leadership that makes a difference in my school.

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