Conversation with the Commissioner on Pride Day
You could’ve heard a rainbow-coloured ribbon drop on Pride Day at Wenona as senior girls listened intently to an address yesterday by Disability and Discrimination Commissioner, Alastair McEwin.
Invited by Wenona’s Pride Alliance leaders Emily and Rebecca from Year 11, Commissioner McEwin told Wenona students his school motto, ‘From unity – strength’ did not suggest ‘unity’ is about people being the same but about recognising we are all the same yet accepting we are all different.
“Removing discrimination from our lives starts with a conversation and being open-minded about the way we see or do things,” said Commissioner McEwin. “Accepting diversity starts in conversations about how we can best respect, include and support people with different needs, and do it in a harmonious way.”
“For people with disability,” he said, “We need to respect the fact that they have different access needs.”
Mr McEwin, who hearing is impaired, pointed out to young students that these conversations “were simply not had 30 years ago”. Emily and Rebecca were drawn to themes of diversity and acceptance when they agreed to take the reins of Wenona’s one-year-old Pride Alliance group from founder Charlotte Head before she left in 2016. The LGBTI community and other minorities are close to both girls’ hearts. Their families’ social circles include many gay friends and Rebecca’s awareness was also sparked by her gay brother.
“We’re a new group compared to many well established initiatives at school so we’re still finding our way in the school community,” said Emily.
One way to excite the student body, add sparkle to Pride Day and draw plenty of attention to diversity was a booming lunchtime disco and dancing. Rainbow-striped accessories, loud sunnies and unusual disco bling adorned the Wenona uniform to encourage everyone to stand up proud and loud on Pride Day. Some faces momentarily wore a little rainbow-coloured icing from cakes sold on the day to raise funds for Beyond Blue to support people with mental health issues.
“Lots of girls haven’t much awareness of LGBTI people, and there’s little talk of it at many schools or in the curriculum – whereas we’ve both grown up with it,” said Rebecca.
There’s lively talk of diversity at fortnightly Pride Alliance meetings – especially on ways to spread awareness and acceptance.. The next meeting is at lunchtime, Room 4 on Tuesday, 8 August and every second Tuesday after that during term. If 2017 Pride Day is a guide, Wenona girls will be watching the Pride Alliance space for future events