On being brave
The following is an edited transcript of the Founders’ Day address Audrey delivered to the community at Elsternwick Campus this year about ‘being brave’:
I loved my time at Wesley Elsternwick. I loved going to school and spending every day somewhere where people were celebrated for the out-there things they did and were interested in. I was really encouraged to take on new opportunities, so I got to be in the musicals, in bands, to learn new instruments, and to try all these cool things that I never thought I would have the chance to be interested in and be good at. I also got to go to Yiramalay, and I went on an exchange to France – experiences which took me so far beyond my comfort zone, and required me to be very brave, but which I’ll never forget.
After I graduated from Wesley I wanted to have a change of pace, and so I chose Canberra. Being in Canberra has allowed me to try lots of new exciting things, in a similar way to Wesley: like working as a legal assistant. I also started volunteering in an organisation of young students, striving for gender equality, and focused on empowering students to start conversations about consent and how we can create cultural change regarding attitudes of gender-based violence.
When it comes to being brave, I feel like my experiences through high school, through moving out of home, and through university have really changed the ways I think about being brave and about my own braveness. I like to think of being brave as a community endeavour; being brave often affects the ways we interact with others and the braveness of others can inspire groups and large networks – so being brave really is a force.
I’ll start my ‘brave’ journey at Elsternwick. There were a lot of people at Elsternwick that helped me to be brave. And that was very lucky because as a teenager a lot of us need help to be brave. Which is totally normal, and fine, and healthy! Part of being brave is that we can’t feel brave all the time. And when we don’t feel brave, we turn to those around us to support, guide and inspire us. And Wesley, specifically Wesley Elsternwick, is such a tight-knit group of students and teachers, and this provides a really unique opportunity for the fostering of courage. Having graduated Wesley and moved into university, I still have a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunities I had on campus to go outside my comfort zone and be brave.
The second person I turn to when I think of being brave is Clementine Ford, an Australian writer and activist, and self-proclaimed ‘unapologetic feminist’. I am in awe of her courage and fearlessness in speaking her mind and going against the grain. As a young woman, I think of myself as unapologetic because I refuse to put up with people who don’t respect women and who don’t respect me, and I will no longer apologise for speaking up when I witness behaviour that is sexist towards women.
I want to live in a community where women feel brave enough to speak out about their experiences with injustice, and where they feel empowered and heard. And I want young men to be brave and be active bystanders: people who call out inappropriate behaviour when they witness it. This is something that really takes courage in high school and beyond.
The final person that inspires me to be brave has been doing so since day one. That person is me. I love this quote: ‘I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself’. I think it is so important to be inspired by yourself and by what you have, and can achieve. It’s a process, of course, and it wouldn’t be possible without all the other people I’ve mentioned already. But my life changed when I started really acknowledging that I, myself, am capable of greatness.
I have a genuine belief that if I set a goal, I can achieve it. Like when I started rowing in Year 8: I was the worst in the year level. I eventually set a goal to improve, I worked insanely hard, and I made it into the First crew in Year 11. Making the decision to commit to something which seems at first impossible is so brave. Especially in high school – there are so many opportunities to try new things which can seem at first out of reach. The opportunities you have now to learn, listen and try; these are truly invaluable things you can do. Because you never know: taking that first step might lead you on a journey that ultimately changes your life. I can think of many first steps that have changed mine.
And one of the most important parts of being brave is having the courage to try.