Below, is a copy of the speech made to the assembled gathering of students, staff, parents and invited guests for the student investiture ceremony for 2009. The speech was made by a former student, now teacher at Hawkesdale P12 College, Jason Mirtschin who has returned to Australia from his 5 year posting in London.
“Firstly I would like to thank the principal, Mr Distel for allowing me to speak today at such an important occasion us here at Hawkesdale P-12. I still remember sitting here – similar to you, listening to other guest speakers come in and talk, but especially I remember the times when we had past pupils come in and share their experiences. It was these times that I listened the most. I liked thinking that they were just like me. That these people had been given the same opportunities as me. And I would sit and wonder what I would do when my turn came around.
So I thought long and hard about a theme for my talk today and have decided that it is that one word opportunity that I would like to focus on. After all, it is the main reason why we are gathered here today. To celebrate the opportunity that a small number of pupils have been given to act as ambassadors, to help create school spirit and proceed as role models for younger pupils.
I’ve remembered a lot about my youth since returning to Hawkesdale. A lot of people have asked if anything has changed and on the whole I would have to say “no”. People still come in talking about their summer staying in Port Fairy or Warrnambool, what they got up to at the folk festival, how their pre-season is going for football and netball and which person is having a party next weekend.
But a lot of important things to the district were changing at the time I was leaving here to go to university in Melbourne. The football club had merged with Macarthur, the Minimite shire offices had closed, the school had become a P-12 , the scouts were struggling for numbers and a few of the other small businesses were looking like closing. Which makes me think – how different would my life be today if I hadn’t grown up in a community such as this one. I’m not sure that I would be as confident as I am today without them or whether I would be prepared to take the risks that I do today. The majority of us here should be grateful that our parents work so hard to ensure that these opportunities are not lost from the community. For without them I would not have been captain of the football and cricket teams, vice captain of the school.
I took physics with Mr Wines, Chemistry with Mrs Webster, Maths methods with Mr Quinlin, Specialist maths with Mr Hillman and English with Mr Jarrod. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the end of year 12 but I was always encouraged to go to university. I wasn’t dux of my year at any point but my parents said that it was important that I got a qualification from university and that a number of doors would be opened if I did this. Any time I tell people that my average class size in year 12 was about 4 people I get some strange looks. But the individual attention you get means that the opportunity of success is increased dramatically.
So after I completed my schooling here I studied science at Melbourne University and was offered a place to stay on residence at St Hildas college. I highly recommend this experience if you get the chance to. Most of my best friends were made while living there. I graduated after 3 years and still didn’t quite know what to do next. I decided that at some point I would like to travel and thought about the possible careers that would allow me to do this.So I enrolled in a one year diploma of education and then taught in Melbourne for 3 years to get some experience.
I then decided it was time to experience life in another country and took 1 years leave without pay from my school in Melbourne. I tossed up whether to go somewhere different like China or Dubai but had heard a lot of great things from my friends about living in London. So I decided to go to the UK to experience a different lifestyle. And five years later I still feel that I could stay indefinetly in the UK or another country. Why? I could talk for days about the things I have been given the opportunity to do over the past 5 years alone but perhaps I will just mention a few things from the month leading up to when I left the UK at Christmas. The number of bands that tour London is incredible; I saw Kings of Leon and Coldplay in December, went away for the weekend with some mates from work to a country in eastern Europe called Poland to see the Christmas markets there, I went and watched the Lion King in the West End, I stayed in a village with the dramatic ruins of a castle built 600 years ago, I went ice-skating by the Thames in front of London Bridge and had some lovely meals at Spanish, Greek and Indian restaurants. All in one month!
If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be doing some of these things, I probably would not have believed them. I’ve seen and done a lot of amazing things in this time. I attended the last soccer world cup in Germany and watched Australia play Brazil, I took a train through Russia, Mongolia and ended up in China to see the Olympic games, I’ve taken a camel ride in the desert in Tunisia – Northern Africa, I’ve raced down a slope on a bobsled at 200km per hour in Estonia in Eastern Europe, I’ve visited medieval cities like Prague in the Czech republic and sat in the town square at night while it snows around me, I’ve seen ruins from ancient times in Italy and Greece, I’ve stood on battle fields and concentration camps from world wars where 1000s of people were being eliminated each day, but more importantly, I’ve made new friends with people all over the world.