We formally welcome our Principal, Ns Natalie Charles to Mentone Girls' Grammar on 28 February.
Read her full speech below:
Your Worship the Archbishop, distinguished guests, parents, staff, dear friends and of course students. Thank you for making the effort to be here this afternoon and for taking the time to celebrate this moment in the life of our School. A special thank you also to my brother Julian and father Romeo who flew in from Perth to be here with us, today.
Today’s ceremony, replete as it is with ritual, is a stunning reminder of the many strands that make up the rich tapestry that is Mentone Girls Grammar School where the threads of history, community and identity find glorious expression within the walls of this Cathedral.
To this end, the Commissioning of a new Principal, offers a telling insight NOT into the person who’s been offered the position (for that will only ever be revealed with time); but rather into the very heart and soul of the School
they’ve been invited to serve. And so it follows, as the glorious sea of red cloth before me attests, that you girls are the reason we are all here, and it is only by association, that this moment, ever so fleetingly, belongs to me…
It’s impossible to quantify exactly what it is that makes this School so special but there’s no doubt it’s comprised in part by an ethos which has been distilled from the people, events and moments that have helped shape the school's history for over 120 years, concerned as it is, with the fundamental human values and relationships that permeate its fabric.
My experience to date has been one of great delight and joy – of girls who have warmly, wonderfully welcomed me into their classrooms and onto their picnic rugs; of staff who have asked me how I am and stopped to look me in the eye and hear the answer, and of parents who have entrusted us, collectively with the greatest gift of all, that being the education of their daughters during their most formative years.
But the fact is, we don’t live in a continuous present and it’s at this point that we should pause to peruse the faces of the man and women whose photographs adorn the inside front cover of the booklet, for they deserve our attention and respect. As path finders, pioneers, innovators and educators all, they steered the School through the giddy, uncertain and glorious times in which they lived.
A salient reminder in a legacy sense that we sit by fires we did not build and drink from wells we did not dig.
And whilst there’s no doubt we’ve got our own mixed up world to contend with in 2020, perhaps we would do well to spend less time scanning an uncertain horizon that shifts and glimmers in the sun like mercury and take heed of what we know to be true: that the future (which only ever comes one day at a time) will find us.
And we will be ready.
Headmistress, Mary Pearson knew this in 1924, when she created the School’s motto Vero Nihil Verius “nothing truer than truth” which, for all its enigmatic simplicity, could well have been written by Earnest Hemingway who had just published the aptly named, In Our Time, that very same year.
I love our motto because it reminds us that there is a clear purpose to our formation and to our work. It flies in the face of the current post-modern perspective that that truth is somehow subjective and nebulous in nature and challenges us to acknowledge that what is true today, is true tomorrow. Which is reassuring isn’t it, for it presumes that it’s entirely possible to discover the truth if we’re prepared to move beyond constructs, facades and feelings to nut out the essence of things. We continue to teach Shakespeare for instance, because his works embody the universal truth of what it means to be human.
Love, jealousy, ambition, loyalty are laid bare on the page in works of art that are at once historically specific and humanly contemporary which makes them live for us in 2020 as they no doubt did for Mary Pearson in 1924, as they did for the playwright in 1601
The School Hymn is similarly resolute with its reference to our founders having laid “true foundations” in the hopeful exhortation that we may “build as true as they;” but if our understanding of what a young person is or needs, is distorted or blurred, then it stands to reason that our education system will be similarly indistinct and infirm of purpose. Because we won’t know what it is we’re helping to build, form or nurture…
Nurturing that “being” then, becomes vitally important for when we deny its significance, we risk becoming a little lost. And when you’re young and at the mercy of “status” updates and “profiles” and objectified “likes”, and
“instagrammable” moments, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important or essential. Our sacred duty therefore, as parents and teachers, mentors and coaches must be to acknowledge that inner being so that it becomes capable of encountering and transcending the oftentimes perplexing parameters of life in our time…
For (as John reminds us): You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.
This Service, those Symbols but ultimately these Girls remind us how blessed we all are to inhabit a community where history, legacy, clarity of purpose, joy, delight and love are the hallmarks of all that we do at Mentone Girls Grammar School and I will spend the rest of my time here, continuing to relish the slow but beautiful reveal… Thank you.