From the Principal
I remember thinking to myself a few weeks ago that we must eventually arrive at a time when COVID-19 is not the dominant story headlining each news bulletin. Little did I imagine that the catastrophe of a world pandemic would be replaced in the news by something like the events in the USA over the past week.
As an avid consumer of news, I feel like I’ve been watching an unravelling of civil behaviour in one of the world’s great democracies as protests descended into riots and criminal behaviour. The original murder of an unarmed man, George Floyd, while in police custody and begging for help, is excruciating to watch and, unsurprisingly, provoked outrage amongst all fair-minded people.
The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in the USA (and elsewhere) has for some time now been attempting to draw attention to the many injustices suffered by people of African American background in their community and most obviously evident in incidents like the one with George Floyd.
Tragically, it appears that change or improvements with respect to race relations in the USA have been slow in coming, or not coming at all, and the consequence of this is that legitimate protest and well-reasoned argument have been overtaken by extremists and criminals seeking to exploit a wretched circumstance.
I was struck by the fact that all this is unfolding as we celebrate Reconciliation Week here in Australia and, whilst I’d like to think that the events referred to above would never be replicated here, I do think that the change in this space in Australia has been similarly concerning in its lack of progress.
One only has to have even a cursory view of the ‘Bridging the Gap’ report to see that Indigenous Australians still suffer from inequality in many forms. Obvious examples of this include lower life expectancy and literacy rates and higher levels of unemployment and incarceration in prisons.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the famous ‘Walk for Reconciliation’ when around 250,000 people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to support the ideal of justice and equity for all Australians. I’d like to think that the desire for this reconciliation is still strongly present, but unless we match our words with our actions, we’re not going to achieve very much.
We are extraordinarily fortunate in Australia that we seem to be able to wrestle with this challenge in a way that doesn’t descend into riots and violence as in the USA, but we shouldn’t take this for granted and we must approach this need with greater urgency and endeavour lest we become complacent and accepting of the status quo.
I think we’re also very blessed to have leaders in our society from all backgrounds who recognise that working together peacefully will achieve much more than giving in to hatred and destruction.
Throughout this Reconciliation Week, various activities have been held at the College. I hope and pray that our young people of today will seek to embrace the challenges and opportunities of national reconciliation for the future benefit of all in our society.
Mr Peter Coffey