Principal's Address: Foundation Day Assembly 2011

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Principal's Address
Sydney Boys High School
128th Foundation Day Assembly
Held on 11 October 2011

Special guests, Old Boy Order of Australia Companions, Officers, Members or Medallists, former School Captains and Prefects, Jim Coleman and the Class of 1961 representatives, Prefect Internees, School Family representatives, parents, staff and students – welcome to our 128th Foundation Day Assembly. This occasion celebrates the foundation of public secondary schools in 1883 as institutions preparing students for tertiary study – a milestone nineteenth century recognition of the importance of public secondary education. Our Foundation Day address today will be delivered by video as our guest speaker was unable to attend in person.

Today we honour our contemporary leaders and try to help them to connect to their office through an understanding of its history. Fifty years ago, as today, School Prefects at High were important people – a number of them are here today. It is inspiring to see how many of them care enough to make their time available to return to High, eighty-six of them to last night’ s reunion and twenty-five backing up for today’s assembly. Thank you for your commitment to what High stands for – fellowship and the pursuit of excellence.

It was at this assembly in 1961 that former interim Prime Minister, Sir Earle Page unveiled the portrait plaque of Sir Grafton Elliot Smith – a brilliant scholar born in 1871 who had a distinguished international career in medicine. Prizes are awarded annually in his name as part of proceeds of our Prizes Trust. Together with Sir Earle’s portrait plaque (dedicated in 1958), these two symbols of Old Boy excellence and service flank every boy who leaves the Great Hall.

Back in 1961 the Chess Club had 121 members. The Cadet Unit had136 members. Fifty years on and the tradition continues, albeit without quite the numbers of participants. In debating, The Hume Barbour and Karl Cramp teams were knocked out in semi-finals by North Sydney. Our debating tradition remains very strong – a successful team at CHS or GPS level every year since 2000.

The first XV were quite competitive in 1961, winning against Scots 8-6 and losing to Newington by a point and Joeys by two points. Nonetheless, The Record complained about the decline in the number of teams playing Saturday rugby. “If this trend continues, we cannot hope to attain any measure of success in open grades”. The lack of a big pool of junior players staying on in the game in their senior years, is a perennial concern for High.

In cricket, High fielded six open teams. The first XI defeated Shore and Scots, with Kerry Owen scoring 40 and taking 7 wickets for 14 and being picked for combined GPS first grade.Barry Olbourne was captain of the first grade basketball team that were undefeated zone premiers, with Frank Yee, Ken Porter and Mick Dorsen being selected in CHS teams.In rowing Alan Callaway, in recognition of twenty-four seasons of coaching High without being unplaced, was appointed NSW rowing coach. At the Head of the River, High’s VIII was 4th and the 2nd. IV second. In athletics, Terry Lancaster (who is still inspiring our athletes today at GPS carnivals) set the CHS 16 years 220 yards record of 21.9. The Junior team did not perform so well. The Record admonished: “athletes who aim for success must realise the advantages of regular training and expert coaching.” We exhort our boys in similar fashion today.

This snapshot of fifty years ago reminds us of where we have been and encourages us to continue challenging ourselves with high expectations. Our heritage is enriched by our people, our culture by their stories, our future by their examples.

Apart from connecting our present to our past to inform our future, today’s assembly is to honour service. In the case of Order of Australia honours recipients, their names are added to our series of honour boards, concluding this year with the Companion of the Order Board. Professor Graeme Clark AC, of cochlear implant fame, was to unveil the board but has had to cancel due to a death in the family. 1961 Old Boys with Australian Honours are: Bruce Corlett AM, Glenn Gardner AM, Keith Jameson OAM and Colin Love AM.

At High we are building a stronger culture of community service and leadership training. Our Prefect Interns, who are awarded badges today, must earn the right to sign the Prefect’s Book and receive their permanent badge next year. They will have a day’s training on leadership skills and the rights and responsibilities of office. They will be called upon to represent the School in various capacities over the next four terms. I congratulate them all on their qualification for the ballot and subsequent election by the staff and their peers. I urge them to take their oaths seriously and to be outstanding representatives of the ethos of the school. I wish them well in their roles.