Retired Principal Terry Muldoon’s Address at SCAS Evening of Celebration

Part of the professional role of a retiring principal is to remove themselves from the school in such a way as to allow the new leader and his/her team to get on with a smooth transition.

As a result, I have recently spent some weeks in countries where a 200 year old building is still seen as a “new build” and events from 500 years ago are seen as relatively “recent history”.

Among the amazing public buildings, cathedrals and palazzos there are museums that host valuable antique documents, including early maps of the world.

Those maps from around the 16th century are usually divided into two parts – the known world with its names, boundaries and points of power, and the rest – the unknown regions, the wild lands, where there was none of what the Europeans considered “civilisation” – wavy lines and no names.

In this void you would often find these three words: Hic sunt dragones → Here be dragons!

This was recognition that the whole world was yet to be known and, in these wild regions there might still be powerful beasts that did not recognise or respect the rules of the “civilised“ world.

I have often found these maps provide a metaphor for education in NSW. For the first 200 years ofEuropean settlement there has been a belief that to achieve an excellent education students needed to attend a school in the “civilised” urban schools, rather than learn in the merely competent agrarian educational schools in the regions.

Not that the urban schools ignored students in the “less civilised” areas of the state. 

Like the rulers of the European states who sent out explorers to bring back the riches found in the unknown lands, these urban schools sent out emissaries, not with ships and guns but with handfuls of scholarships to bring back the best, smartest, most talented and strongest students to bolster their examination results, performances, sporting teams and even, occasionally, their students leadership ranks.

Thankfully, in the 21st century there has been a change in this reality. 

As a result of the vision, hard work and dedication of schools like St Columba, regional students no longer have to leave home to achieve an excellent education.

There are a group of regional schools, including and even led by St Columba, who now offer great educational leaders, talented teachers, great facilities, a supportive community and willing and aspirational students who challenge the myth that only city schools can offer a great education.

Every person in this room tonight should be aware that they are part of an educational revolution that has changed and enriched education in NSW.

Whether you are on stage being acclaimed, organising, handing out awards or in the audience acclaiming achievement you have and will continue to to play a very real role in changing the face of education in this state.

Today’s maps are much removed from those in the museums. 

The so-called “wild lands” now have clear lines, names and identified cultures. 

But what of the great dragons that lived in these places? 

Have they been proven to be mere myths?

Well, leaning once again on metaphor, I believe that the regions do have great and powerful beasts who are able to fly above expectations, challenge the myth that geography determines the quality of education in this state and challenge those who would see our places as havens of educational mediocrity.

Perhaps, in the case of St Columba Anglican School, the old mapmakers were correct, for in the 21st century I can truly say, “Here be a dragon”!

Long may it fly!

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