From the Principal

Fiona Godfrey, Principal

Fiona Godfrey, Principal

The well-known author John Marsden is a person I have long admired. Not only has he penned the bestselling young adult Tomorrow series, whose first book Tomorrow When the War Began has been reprinted 26 times and has now been made into a feature film, he has also devoted much of his life to working in schools. In a world that feverishly chases celebrity and success, John Marsden is a reluctant star who believes his talents are better served in the school environment where he can make a real difference to young people.

Having worked at Geelong Grammar School for nearly a decade, John Marsden began writing for children, and his first book, So Much to Tell You, was published in 1987. Since then, he has written or edited over 40 books and has sold over 5 million books throughout the world. Despite this success, Australia?s bestselling author for teens has, in recent years, taken up the role of Principal at Candlebark School in central Victoria. His motivation for taking on a job that he describes in a Weekly Times article as ?exhilarating and stressful ? the best job in the world and the worst? was to impart to his own students an ?awareness of the world around them and make young people think about complex situations in a complex way.?

So what motivates someone who has been incredibly successful outside teaching to return to the school environment? The reasons people work in schools, and sometimes even return to work in schools, are many and varied; one thing is for certain, it is not for the remuneration! From my experience, people work in schools because they are passionate about the difference they can make to young people, know they have a great deal of knowledge to impart and, in general, just love working with children and adolescents.

Dirrum Dirrum book launch eventHis Excellency, Abel Guterres

Left: Dirrum Dirrum team members Jaimee Forster and Sam Browning
Right: Conference speaker, His Excellency, Abel Guterres, Ambassador for Timor-Leste

I was reminded of these qualities last weekend as I attended a number of the sessions at the Dirrum Dirrum conference. Although the conference is now a student led and organized event, the Dirrum Dirrum Centre and previous conferences have evolved over the last few years through the work of a number of staff, but in particular, Father Richard Browning. Father Richard?s passion and enthusiasm for showing young people they can make a difference in their world and rectify injustices, inequality and destructive ecological practices, is inspiring to witness. He works tirelessly throughout the year to assist the students in bringing the conference together, and each year the conference seems to grow in stature and popularity.

This year, the Dirrum Dirrum conference began on Friday with the Year 8s being involved in a ??belcobeyondborders?? paper boat launching event on Lake Ginninderra. This was followed by the Earth and Fire session that night, which featured a large fire, storytelling, live music and plenty of dancing. Saturday and Sunday saw three Earth and Sky sessions, each of which featured an impressive array of speakers and opportunities to socialize with other delegates and the speakers themselves. The conference finished on Monday with an Earth and Timber student leadership workshop for students in Years 10?12, led by Mr George Huitker, Director of Service Learning.

Each of the speakers in the sessions I attended over the weekend were as interesting as they were different. But even though their stories were divergent, they did follow a common theme. Each of the speakers spoke about being passionate about their cause and being willing to do something to bring about change. Both of these qualities are at the core of the Dirrum Dirrum philosophy which seeks humble leadership, the development of a climate of inspiration and the circle of responsibility. These values are not unique to Dirrum Dirrum, but something we value as a College. It is therefore fortunate that each year we are able to be reminded of these values through the Dirrum Dirrum annual conference.

There is no doubt that events such as those we witnessed last weekend result from a team effort and I am grateful that we had so many dedicated, talented and committed students and staff to bring the conference to fruition. As Principal, I felt enormously proud that Radford College was able to successfully stage the Dirrum Dirrum conference, attracting delegates from all over Canberra, and opening people?s eyes along the way to the vast and complex dilemmas facing the twenty-first century. I am sure John Marsden would have had similar sentiments about his own students and staff at various times. In that same Weekly Times article mentioned previously, John said, ?Education has always been my primary passion and writing was always a hobby more than a full-time job." Bravo, John Marsden and the Dirrum Dirrum team!

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