Changing the Story - together

Engadine High School

It is far from okay with us - as a school community - that 1 in 3 women in our country are likely to become victims of some form of violence in their lifetime. Domestic violence in our society, and violence against women and girls, continues to present itself as a widespread and complex problem that needs a determined and long-term solution.

In light of this, we are a proud and determined White Ribbon school. White Ribbon is Australia's national campaign for ending violence against women. In 2017, we have worked hard as a school to make meaningful contributions in this area, and to allow our student voices and actions to drive change. 

In Term 3 of this year, our newly elected Captains and Vice Captains represented EHS at the White Ribbon 'Out Loud' Schools Conference event. Organised by Mr Heron and Mr Leonard, this event brought together student leaders and teachers from all over the Shire, from 6 other high schools, in order to engage in meaningful dialogues about how to create change regarding violence against women in our society. It was inspiring to see our own school leaders step up and lead others in the conference's discussions and activities.

Earlier this term, our Year 12 Leadership Team built on last year's primary school White Ribbon workshops by welcoming Year 6 students from Yarrawarrah Public School to a half-day of workshop programs at EHS. The Leadership Team led the running of workshops themed around gender stereotypes and violent language with the Year 6 students, whose insights and interactions provided us all with much faith in our future generations to be the bringers of whatever change will still be needed to end violence against women in this country. We are so proud of our Leadership Team for their contributions and commitment to ensuring the day's success. They did us more than proud.

This year also marked the beginning of our 'White Ribbon Out Loud - Singing for Change' initiative. Miss Hathaway and her vocal ensemble welcomed a small group of community members, from both the Sutherland Shire Choir Association and Engadine Rotary, to join in devising a rendition of the well-known 'You're the Voice' song to feature at our White Ribbon assemblies. It was a pleasure to work alongside members from our local community, to literally raise our voices for change. We look forward to expanding this initiative in the future to involve even more voices.

We again took part in this year’s White Ribbon walk where staff and students ensured every step taken counted towards the campaign that will make a change to society. In the words of White Ribbon Ambassador Dale Palmer “We apologise for the world we have created for our young people, but we are more than confident that these young people will change it for the better.” The messages from Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce as well as our much admired Engadine HS parent and paramedic Mrs Kelly Ferguson, rang loud and clear throughout Dunningham Park. We need to stand up and speak out about violence in our community, supporting and protecting each other to make a positive difference. We could not have been more proud of our students and staff who participated in the walk, representing our school and broader community as they marched along with the 5,000 other participants.

Our school's White Ribbon assemblies this term, once again driven by student voices, reminded us of the ways in which we can all be powerful as bringers of change regarding this issue. The assembly's focus on casual sexism and gender inequality, and how these problems sow the seeds of violence, empowered us as a school community to bring about change in our daily lives. We have always prided ourselves on developing our own, community-specific vision for ending violence against women - one that is relevant and responsive to our students and their lives. It was therefore important to us in 2017 that we balanced male and female voices speaking out about this issue, for it will take nothing less than a combined effort to end violence in all its forms - family violence, violence against women, and the more ingrained violence of sexism in our everyday worlds. We thank in particular Ms Wilson and Ms Sumertha for their contributions to our assemblies. Their words moved and empowered us all.

Our school grounds are now also permanently adorned with a visual reminder of our commitment to end violence against women - our newly installed White Ribbon mural between A Block and the Library. We are determined to not just see and walk past its message everyday though - we endeavour to embody its message in the actions we take, and the words we use. As a school, we will continue to change the story of domestic violence as it currently stands in our society. We want a new story. Help us tell it.