House debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Statements by Members

Higgins Electorate: St Catherine's School

1:53 pm

Michelle Ananda-Rajah (Higgins, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To echo the words of Paul, the head of humanities: if you provide a great education you end up with independent thinkers. That was abundantly evident during my time with the students of years 10 and 11 at St Catherine's School, Toorak. Questions flowed thick and fast about my unorthodox journey into politics, how to navigate a male dominated job and whether the culture of parliament is changing. I was proud to say: yes, the injection of women in the class of '22 had given parliament a collegiate field. On the topic of gender equality, the spotlight turned to the structural barriers that hold women back, from mansplaining to microaggressions and the motherhood penalty. The girls were clued in, as are we.

On eco-anxiety, I advised them to reject the industry of despair. The discomfort we feel means that we care, but it also should be channelled into action. We discussed humanity overcoming almost insurmountable odds, from closing the hole in the ozone layer to eradicating smallpox or rebuilding after World War II. Finally they asked: 'Some governments make changes that others undo. How do we ensure that they are long-lasting?' We need to penalise short-termism and reward generational investment. A robust education such as these girls are acquiring is a great example of playing the long game. We need more long-termism across the board. Principal Carroll said, 'We don't educate the girls to be bystanders,' and, with their probing questions, their authentic, fearless selves shone through. There were certainly no bystanders in the room at St Cat's, and we are all the richer for it.