Home' Independence : Independence Vol 31 No 2 Nov 2006 Contents Being a Sikh here is no different from being
anything else. Occasionally students are curious and
might ask why Sikhs wear the turban, but I've never
not felt at home and included. If anything, I would
want people to be more curious about my culture.
Pavneer's senior jersey says it all. Emblazoned on
the back are the words Fully Sikh!
Shouvik Sinha is one of the school Captains. An
intelligent and athletic young man, he looks like
a Bengali intellectual. A practising Hindu, Shouvik
has attended schools in Papua New Guinea and
Melbourne before coming to Cairns in 1999.
I've loved it here -- but then, I've always lived in
multicultural communities. Since I came in Year 5,
I've felt nothing but welcome here -- and respected.
Religion is never an issue: I'm happy to join in
Christian worship -- although it's certainly easier
to be a Hindu in the south where there is a
larger Indian community. I love going home to
Kolkata -- I feel "at home" as soon as I get there.
I suppose I've got two homes -- that's how I was
I am determined to receive
respect. It's what everyone
Shouvik became an Australian citizen in late
August. When subjected to the classic test
for loyalty, he didn't hesitate for a moment.
If Australia is playing India in cricket, I can't lose,
Fiona has a different experience of life at TAS.
Her mixed race family comes from Papua New
Guinea and she has found some tensions in a school
in one of Australia's most racially diverse cities.
I guess I'm black -- and here in Cairns, that
means you're an Islander or an Aborigine.
I'm not however, and I've encountered incidents
of racism from white people and black who expect
me to be part of their culture. Sometimes at
school it makes me very angry -- and sometimes,
you know, the teachers can't even see what is
happening in front of them.
An articulate and passionate person, Fiona is
determined to succeed in the school and in
the city. Yes, there is a level of struggle. I am
determined to receive respect. It's what
John Paul College (JPC) in Logan City on
the southern outskirts of Brisbane is one
of Australia's largest schools. JPC has a
lively International Student presence with
students from Japan, China, Korea and
SE Asia. It serves the culturally diverse
community of Logan, as well as drawing
many students from the Australian Chinese
community in Sunnybank/McGregor area.
For this reason, says the Principal, Mr Steve
Paul, the school sometimes appears more
international than it actually is.
"The biggest challenges for us", says Steve, "are
not our Chinese students who have been happy
to fit in and wear the uniform with pride. We have
had to be most flexible with Moslem students
where there are different cultural norms in play.
As it is, we cater for Moslem and Sikh students in
many ways. We didn't set out to do this; instead
it just happened as we tried to apply our ethos of
tolerance and respect to each situation as it came
up." Today, JPC has about ninety Moslem students.
In the Logan community, JPC is famous for being
ferociously committed to its uniform so the
acceptance of a different standard for exceptional
students is a big step forward. Five Sikh boys wear
the turban -- in JPC uniform colours. [The school
also waives the requirement for these students
to be clean shaven.] The same number of girls in
the school wear the hajib -- even when playing a
vigorous game of hockey.
"Of course we have issues when it comes to
modest clothing for swimming," says Steve. "We
don't make the uniform swimming costume a
requirement for girls, but then again, there are
some other girls who because of their body image
are excused on the same grounds." Girls playing
sport are allowed to wear track suit pants and
long sleeves. "You'd be surprised how well they
can play, too, dressed like this."
Another place where arrangements are made for
Moslems is at the school canteen where halal food
is on offer. All school camps provide halal food
for everyone; it's a way of ensuring that no one
is offended by what is on offer at meal times. At
Ramadan, observant Moslems are encouraged to
follow their faith through the day.
JPC is comfortable and confident about its ethos.
All JPC students attend worship and follow
the school's ecumenical and inclusive religious
approach. Steve admits that the commitment to
inclusivity has drawn critical comment -- even
within the Council. But it works so obviously well
that there is very broad support for an ethos of
acceptance and commitment to multiculturalism
not as a grudging concession but as a positive
good for everyone.
Making It Up as You Go Along
Most schools find a model for inclusivity
in the general broad, humanistic spirit to
which they are committed. Secular grammar
schools may find this easier to integrate
than schools with a Christian foundation,
but most schools can find within their
charism a genuine spirit of inclusivity.
Anglican schools in Queensland, for example,
have a commitment to respect, tolerance and
inclusivity written into their Ethos Statement.
Anglican schools in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney
have traditionally attracted significant numbers
of Jewish families who feel comfortable with the
broad, traditional tolerance of Anglican schools.
[These traditions are not, however, without their
inherent tensions.] Catholic schools have managed
to balance their deep cultural commitment to
providing opportunities for Catholic children with
their willingness to be culturally inclusive.
One international organisation with a clear mandate
to inclusivity is Round Square. There are ten Round
Square schools in Australia and almost as many
schools with Associate Membership. They subscribe
to a common ethos based on the principles
enunciated by the great German educator, Kurt
Hahn, as the schools he founded: Salem in Germany
and Gordonstoun in Scotland. The ethos is broadly
secular but Christian schools find themselves very
comfortable in the commitment to Internationalism,
Democracy, the Environment, Adventure and Service.
Round Square began as an international
organisation in the 1980s; since that time it has
spread to Canada, the United States, South Africa,
Australia and New Zealand. In the 1990s, Round
Square broke out of its old Commonwealth,
Anglophone roots with schools in India, the Gulf
States, Thailand and Japan becoming full members.
Annual conferences and projects expose the
students of the Round Square schools to other
cultures in a direct, sympathetic and inclusive way.
Kurt Hahn was an active opponent of racism and
chauvinism; his commitment to Internationalism
based in personal relationships still characterises the
way Round Square schools work.
As an organisation, Round Square faces the
challenge of being too successful. Recent
conferences have faced the tension of maintaining
the old, clubby atmosphere of a few likeminded
schools compared with an inclusive, welcoming
acceptance of whole new school areas who are
keen to join. This is inclusivity in action.
Round Square: A Model for Inclusivity
social issues DIGEST
Links Archive Independence Vol 31 No 1 May 2006 Independence Vol 32 No 1 May 2007 Navigation Previous Page Next Page