August 9, 2019

Our Global Community

During CamberWELL Week, our girls enjoyed a range of activities across both Ormiston and Senior School. One of the events that I attended was the International Concert at lunchtime on Wednesday.

I enjoyed the variety of vocal and dance performances from different cultures and was pleasantly surprised by the range of students who were familiar with many of the pieces.

The Global Citizenship pillar of our Strategic Plan acknowledges the interconnectedness of our world and the need for our girls to develop intercultural competency skills. Whilst these types of performances only provide a glimpse into other cultures, sharing them in such a connected community provides a very valuable experience to understand and share both our differences and our similarities.

Recently, I have been thinking quite a lot about the richness of diverse communities. On my mother’s side of the family, I am in the first generation born in Australia.  At home we speak English, however on a recent family holiday, we were very fortunate for the first time to spend time with my mother in her native homeland, Estonia.

Our family trip to Estonia gave me a much greater insight into, and appreciation of, my mother. I was amazed at the fluency of her first language, familiarity with customs and love of the food. We visited the church where her parents were married, stayed in the hotel that used to be the Telegraph Station where her father worked, and as we roamed the beautiful old medieval city of Tallinn heard many stories of her childhood. Whilst it was my first visit to Estonia, interestingly I too, experienced a sense of familiarity.

I was appreciative of the opportunity to travel in a country where English is not the most common language spoken. A quick Google search told me that there are 109 languages spoken in Estonia with the majority being Estonian and Russian. I certainly heard people speaking in many different languages and noted the influence of many different cultures throughout the city.  It was a fascinating snapshot of diversity in a European location.

By comparison, the 2016 Census data (Population and Housing) from the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights that we are a nation of people from over 190 different countries and over 300 identifiable languages spoken at home. Nearly half (49%) of all Australians were born overseas or had at least one parent who was born overseas. The four most commonly reported countries of birth for those born overseas were England (14.7%), New Zealand (8.4%), China (8.3%) and India (7.4%) and 21% of Australians spoke a language other than English at home.

Keen to understand our Camberwell Girls Grammar School community, I looked at our current student and family information. It was interesting to see that 71% of our students were born in Australia, and 29% were born in 25 countries outside of Australia.  In addition, when we look at the birthplaces of our students and both parents, we have members of our families born in 59 countries outside of Australia.  In 2016 we looked at similar data that also included staff and found that our community originated from 46 countries.  It seems that we have significantly expanded our global reach in the last three years!

For us as a school, we have welcomed students born in other countries for many years. Our school history book, In Deeds Not Years, highlights the arrival of Evelyn Douglas from South Africa, Bridget Allan from England and Ong Yew Har from China in 1961. By 1962 our Principal, Miss Hall reported that one of the interesting features of the school was the inclusion of girls from England, Thailand, Hong Kong, Hungary, Malaysia, South Africa, Switzerland, Japan and Papua. We were already valuing our global connections!

One of the recognised strengths of CGGS is the feeling of community and connectedness. During events such as our International Concert we enjoy the unique talents of students, and at the same time experience and appreciate our similarities as well as our differences.

Our diversity at CGGS strongly reflects the world in which our students will live and work and through our inclusive community we provide opportunities for richer and more relevant learning.


With best wishes

Debbie Dunwoody