Mark Scott's Update

14 September 2016

Success is a journey

Occasional Address: graduation ceremony, School of Education, Western Sydney University, Parramatta campus; 13 September 2016.

Vice Chancellor,
Distinguished guests, 
Graduating students and families

Can I begin by acknowledging the Darug people and paying my respect to elders: past, present and future.

It is a great honour to be able to join with you on this special day. 

As I remember it from student days, in the midst of cycles of exams and assignments, graduation at times seemed such a long way away – but you made it.

It's a tribute to you – and those who have loved you, supported you and encouraged you along the way.

Congratulations to you all.

I feel a certain affinity with the graduates today – set to embark on interesting and I hope compelling careers in education. I feel I am doing the same.

I have been Secretary of the Department of Education for a little under a fortnight. And they said it wouldn't last!

As you heard, I did work in education at the beginning of my career, but ways led on to ways, and I took a long and interesting journey through the world of the media.

But I can tell you, it is great to be back in schools, working with teachers and principals – and thinking about how best to create an environment from where the next generation will flourish.

I know you will have been as well prepared as you can be here, at Western Sydney University, for life in our schools – but as you know, there is so much more learning to come when you take the map you have mastered here and head out into the territory.

What an important decision you have made to be educators. I wonder if you understand, really, just what an important role you will undertake in our society?

Thinking about this drew me back into education.

The education challenge and opportunity operate at so many levels.

We know as a nation – after the mining boom – our competitiveness and our economic strength and prosperity will depend on the drive, ingenuity and capability of our people. The ability to imagine and create - to design new futures - to seize new opportunities. And the foundation of these attributes will be taught in our schools.

In a complex, multicultural society – where we need to listen to each other and understand each other; value different contributions, work together, resolve problems, constructively find solutions – we start to find ways to do these things at school.

And as individuals – we explore our gifts, we master new skills, we discover new passions, we understand our potential – we become strong and independent. All these things help complete us and help us to contribute to our community around us – and they are all things we start to learn in our schools.

Your choice to be educators has significance to our country, to our community, and to the citizens of our future.

I joined the Department of Education – the nation's largest school system – because I could not think of another place that had the opportunity to have such an important role in the future of our country, and for the communities we want to build, and for the citizens who will live here in the future. The work of schools will affect Australia – and the lives of millions of Australians – for decades to come.

At a national level, at a local level – at an individual level – education is so important. And you have been trained to play your part.

There is something compelling about these kinds of challenges: you know it is demanding and complex – of consequence through the generations. Thinking about these challenges quickly leads you to Edmund Burke – the philosopher and statesman – whose sense of society was as a contract . . . society as a partnership . . . not only between those who are living . . . but between those who are living, those who went before and those who are yet to be born.

It is worth remembering that a child born this year will not leave our school system till the mid-2030s – when the 21st century will be a third over. With our improved understanding of medicine, science and the human body, some may still be working in 2100 – the new century. And they will be in your classroom. 

The work you do – your investment in their lives – is part of the contract with that future society. Just as you being here, in part, is a fulfilment of a contract made by the teachers who challenged and inspired you – and those that went before them.

One of the great things about a teaching career, I think, is the opportunity that it will constantly offer you, to master new skills and have compelling experiences.

There will be the challenge offered by moving to different schools in different parts of the state, the country or the world. Your degree from here will be valued everywhere.

There will be the opportunities to grow in leadership. Some of you one day will run schools or groups of schools – you may work at senior levels in school systems, design curriculum, or be back here training and developing the next generation of teachers.

You just don't know where the road might take you. 

I have found the best way to think about a career is understanding that success will be a journey, not a destination. You can't pick the next stop, you don't know what will open up for you in the future. 

But you are most likely to flourish if you are determined to make each stop count. Where you are today. With the challenges and opportunities before you right now. 

And that, of course, is the most wonderful thing about teaching: the challenge of each day, each class, every child. Just a moment that will soon be gone: to challenge, to encourage, to explain, to affirm, to inspire – to make a difference in the life of the young person.

Be awake to the moment, to the opportunity that each day brings. I like the words of Thoreau – Only that day dawns, to which we are awake. 

I am sure as you live in those moments and engage with those young people – rich, personal rewards will come your way. The things money can't buy. Happiness, fulfilment, laughter . . . and satisfaction about investing in the most important things.

Every success. Enjoy every moment and once again: Congratulations on your wonderful achievement today.

About the Secretary

Mark Scott, Secretary, Department of Education

Mark Scott is Secretary of the Department of Education. He has worked as a teacher, in public administration and as a journalist and media executive. He is committed to public education and learning environments where every child can flourish.




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