“We inhabit a universe characterised by diversity.” Desmond Tutu
Diversity is a fundamental property and indeed an essential ingredient of the universe. We rely on the diversity of materials to enable the development of materials with different properties and the ability to behave in different ways under specified conditions. Despite now leading this wonderful College, I have never lost my passion for chemistry and indeed my amazement in the way in which chemists, engineers and others manipulate the diversity in materials for new and wonderful purposes.
We do not have an endless list of elements available to us, but the way these are bonded, configured and mixed produces an endless range of materials with properties that enable us to create great diversity. Take the humble piece of coal – simply a lump of carbon but, arranged differently, the same atoms can form the most beautiful diamond. We appreciate diversity – try giving the ‘love of your life’ a coal ring and see the response you get!
Imagine if all homes were exactly the same, every restaurant served the same type of food, imagine you could only buy one make of car and they were all white, or that all of our clothes were only made in one colour. How would we express our individuality? Although we may not give conscious thought to this issue, we all express our personality and our individuality in what we do, how we engage with others and in all that we do in our life.
If we appreciate the opportunity to express our individuality, should we not expect and welcome others to do the same? The past few years have seen growing social tensions in our country and it is important we are clear on the social capital that we wish to build as a nation. I welcome diversity in all of its wonderful variety, but do not agree with the removal or the diminishment of the many traditions that have played a historical role in the lives of Australians for generations.
Diversity is a wonderful attribute of our country, and it should open our hearts and minds to new and wonderful celebrations and opportunities, but it should never prevent individuals from celebrating their own, time-honoured traditions.
There are times when I am disappointed by the harsh words spoken by individuals, the open discrimination that is sometimes evident in our society and the lack of kindness demonstrated by some in our broader society. At times like these, I do find comfort in words of wisdom from the great minds of our time. Desmond Tutu is one such inspirational person and he reminds us that “we inhabit a universe characterised by diversity”. This is something we should celebrate and promote.
Another one of my favourite writers is Nelson Mandela who stated that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Interestingly, in a discussion about diversity and discrimination, it is in fact our young people who find our generation lacking in vision, fearing diversity and the ones who create the discrimination in the world. Education is a powerful catalyst for the development of critical thought, the sharing of ideas, philosophy, and free thought, leading to the formation of a moral compass through the open examination of concepts and ideologies. If our young people are correct, it is my hope that, as a result of their education and their concept of society, they will start to reduce such conflict in the future.
Our students display tremendous courage in the examination and discussion of difficult societal issues and the conviction in standing up for their beliefs. They celebrate diversity and learn the life story of people from all corners of the world. It is this approach and the enquiring nature of our pedagogy, Teaching for Understanding that promotes their ability to question, consider, examine and then draw conclusions from their understanding of the world.
I am very proud of our students and their willingness to assist others in need and to never let diversity be a tool of fear. Their engagement with those less fortunate than themselves and their genuine generosity is indeed inspiring – many adults in our world should indeed learn from these young people.