Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Electorate Schools

Alister Henskens SC MP presenting certificate to high school student

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai—Minister for Skills and Training, and Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology) (17:05): Education is critical to children's and young people's development, delivering a range of positive social, physical and intellectual outcomes. Importantly, education also provides a pathway for social mobility and employment. It teaches young people how to think so they can better support themselves and the broader community, and flourish into independent leaders and thinkers. The Ku-ring-gai electorate offers young people a variety of exceptional schools—public, Catholic and independent—which strive to nurture students into successful, independent young adults.

Each year in December I attend presentation award ceremonies at my local community schools, where I have the opportunity to present awards, deliver speeches and engage with students, parents and staff. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, parents were unable to attend the primary school ceremonies in person, but the events were live streamed due to the hard work of staff. I thank them for their efforts. In the first week I attended ceremonies at Knox Grammar School, Ravenswood School for Girls, Abbotsleigh and Wahroonga Adventist School. The brilliant Knox Symphony Orchestra performed Chicago and Puszta, and I was impressed with the high level of musicianship. Similarly, at Ravenswood, the senior vocal ensemble, symphony orchestra and wind ensemble performed Let Your Light Shine. Abbotsleigh students prepared a virtual musical video collaboration which reflected the innovative thinking and approach of the students and school. I was also present to see the first cohort of year 12 students graduate from Wahroonga Adventist School, which was a primary school for over 100 years. The students have made outstanding achievements across all fields from academic and music to sports. The atmosphere was great when that first year 12 cohort graduated.

In the following week, award days were held at St Leo's Catholic College, Turramurra Public School, Normanhurst Public School and West Pymble Public School. The musical performances at St Leo's Catholic College are always exceptional and this year they ranged from rock to pop. I was pleased to present the certificates to year 12 students. The impressive vocalists and guitarists had clearly honed their skills over many years at school, and I found it particularly enjoyable. Turramurra Public School gave me the privilege of presenting its public speaking award and delivering a speech, as did West Pymble Public School and Normanhurst Public School at its year 3 to year 6 ceremony. In the final week of presentations, I attended Pymble Public School, Wahroonga Public School and Beaumont Road Public School. All three schools had great achievements and outstanding musical performances, and I was honoured to present awards to the magnificent students. During the primary school presentations I saw the year 6 captains and prefects pass on the mantle to next year's school leaders, and it was inspiring to see so many talented young people committed to serving their community.

Unfortunately, several schools were unable to hold ceremonies, and because of clashes, I was unable to attend all 33 schools in the electorate. I was honoured to attend 14 assemblies, and I thank all schools for their invitations. I also attended a belated year 12 graduation ceremony in January for the class of 2021 at Pymble Ladies' College, where I presented the legal studies award once again.

It was a pleasure to meet the staff, principals and parents, who, quite amazingly, adapted to lockdown measures last year, making the transition from in-person to remote learning. Undeniably, there have been challenges for all of our schools, as there always are in life. But rising to the challenges is an important lesson in itself and we should be very proud of how they all adapted and overcame those challenges in 2021. I can confidently say that the students of Ku-ring-gai have demonstrated outstanding grit over the past two years, despite the myriad of challenges to their usual routine, from lockdowns and HSC exams. Their resilience and achievements should be celebrated, regardless of whether they received an award for them or not.

They are all exceptional young people who will flourish in whatever paths they choose. I extend my thanks and congratulations to all students, staff and parents for their resilience and achievements. I wish them good luck in their next adventures. I think we all hope that our schools will be back to their usual way of operating in 2022. It has been a great challenge. There has been a huge interruption to extracurricular activities, but I was quite amazed at how Ku-ring-gai schools have been able to continue their wide range of co-curricular offerings. I look forward to spending more time at our schools in Ku-ring-gai this year.