As we near the end of the term, students and teachers are tired but working hard until the very end. As I write this post, the Year 12 students are immersed in their exams and many other students are working towards their final assessments before the holidays.

The announcement of next Thursday’s unexpected public holiday resulted in a sleepless night for me, as I realised there were actually eleven different issues I had to consider before I could come to the best decision possible for Carmel staff and students. Who would have thought that offering people a day off could be so contentious? Did the politicians who came up with the idea realise what a challenge it would be for those of us who have to implement their initiative? Having liaised with colleagues in other schools and read about the issues that the day has caused for various businesses, I suspect not. I hope my decision works for your family.

Yesterday was a very proud day for me, as I accompanied Year 5 teacher Sarah-Lee Ellert and four talented Carmel Primary School chess players to Guildford Grammar Preparatory School, to compete in a primary school chess competition. Mia, Yonatan, Marcus and Ezra from Year 5 embraced the opportunity with gusto, performed admirably and represented their school impeccably. When the final results came through and I learnt that we had not only won the third, second and first medals but were also the overall winning school, I have to say that I grinned for the rest of the evening. A huge mazal tov and thank you to these star students for their brilliant efforts.

I want to share with you an extract from my Founders’ assembly speech from last week. In schools, the people who come before us are very important. They set the scene for what follows and although times inevitably change, without their input and vision nothing would have been possible. Thank you to all of you who continue to contribute to our school – whether that be by volunteering in the canteen, carrying out your security duty at the school gate, or speaking with such passion and humour at our Founders’ assembly (thank you, Mr Moen).

We gather here today to pay our respects to the people who, all those years ago, were clever enough and forward-thinking enough to know that Perth needed a Jewish day school.

Your role this morning is to think about Carmel School – past, present and future. And I’d like you to really think about what our school means to you.

For many of you, you have known no other school. Our beloved Carmel may have been where you have spent your entire education – for some of you, from Kindy to Year 12. And I suspect it will have served you well. In my recent interviews with Year 12 students just before they leave us, I have been impressed with the way they can articulate what the School means to them. They have been able to tell me what worked well, what could be improved, and what they will remember about their time at Carmel.

These young women and men show many of the attributes we’ve been listing as part of our work to articulate the characteristics of a Carmel graduate, including the values, beliefs and skills we want our young people to take with them when they leave Carmel. I have felt very proud of them as I have the privilege of talking to them towards the end of their school career.

But none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the Founders of our school. The dictionary tells us that a founder is “someone who establishes an institution”. And you will hear this morning of the people who established our institution – our school – Carmel School.

You will also hear from some of the generations that have followed the founders – they are justifiably proud of the school that their ancestors created and I like to think that if some of those founders were here today, they would be impressed by what they see.

My recent trip to Israel opened my eyes to a part of the world and a culture which is still very new to me. But I have quickly grown to love both the School and what it stands for. And I feel privileged to stand here today as your Principal, listening to the stories of those who went before us and made their vision a reality.

As you leave the BT Hall later this morning, I ask you to take with you some inspiration from our Founders. They were visionary. They thought about the future and what the Perth Jewish community might need. Take a moment to consider what you can do that will leave a lasting legacy to the generations that follow you.

Shabbat shalom.

Dr Julie Harris