Newington College

Inspiring Inclusion this International Women’s Day

Inspiring Inclusion this International Women’s Day

Last Wednesday night, I sat in the Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre and sobbed. This wasn’t a single tear rolling down my face, or eyes glistening situation, this was sobbing, (or what my 13-year-old daughter who was sitting next to me called ‘ugly crying’). 

The lights had just gone down on RBG: Of Many, One, an extraordinary play directed by Priscilla Jackson. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933 – 2020) was the second woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court and a fierce advocate for gender equality. Playwright Suzie Miller was inspired by the way RBG ‘not only influenced the USA but women’s lives around the world’ and composed this one woman play as a tribute to her life. 

The play is a powerful exploration of the ways in which Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for women; for women to be included, to be paid equally to men, to have the final say over their own bodies and lives. As a woman, as a mother, and as an educator, this play struck so many chords. I sat in the theatre with the knowledge that these fights for gender equality occurred not that long ago, and they continue to be fought. I reflected on the progress made as well as the many steps which have been taken, backwards. As I sat and ‘ugly cried’ I could also clearly hear and see other audience members emotively responding, at the conclusion of this incredible play, with tears of frustration, of solidarity, and of hope. 

This year on International Women’s Day the theme Inspire Inclusion, ‘underscores the crucial role of inclusion in achieving gender equality. It calls for action to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected.’ At our Stanmore assembly this week, Ms Blom and Ms Starr spoke openly about the significant figures in their lives who valued and respected them, who inspired and encouraged them, who challenged the stereotypes and barriers that were in place, throughout their formative years. 

Specifically, Ms Starr spoke about the systemic barriers and inequalities she experienced within women’s sport, barriers that prevented women from sustaining their engagement at a competitive level as they were forced to hold down two jobs alongside a rigorous training regime; difficulties that men, competing at the same level, simply did not face. Again, this happened not all that long ago, and this inequality continues to this day. 

After the Assembly, students were invited to write a gratitude card for an important woman or girl in their lives. They, along with students from our Prep schools, have had ongoing opportunities this week in Mentor and House groups to reflect on the impact women have had on their lives and express their gratitude.

Earlier in the week, we hosted students from MLC for a Gender Equity Forum, the topic of which was Faith, Family and Culture – Being a Female Leader in a Diverse Community. We had two speakers at the event, Rev Charissa Suli, a Tongan-Australian Uniting Church minister and the President-elect of the Uniting Church, and our very own Ms Raja Yassine, a Lebanese-Australian Muslim woman who manages the Means Tested Scholarships at Newington. Both shared how their backgrounds have influenced the many roles they have had throughout their career.

And finally, this morning Newington staff gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day with a Staff Breakfast, where we were joined by two members of the College Council, Ms Justine Richardson (Chair of the Governance and Risk Committee) and Ms Rhys Kelly (Chair of the Endowment Committee).

At Newington, one of our core values is inclusion. In his blessing this week, Pastor La’Brooy, reminded us that, as Christians, we are called to model Jesus’ inclusivity and acceptance of all people. On International Women’s Day this year, it is my hope that each member of our community can reflect on the active role each of us can play in creating an inclusive environment; one in which barriers and stereotypes are challenged, and all people are valued and respected.

Amy Van Arkkels
Deputy, Teaching & Learning (K-12)