2023 Head Girl Charlotte Waley reflects

At our 2023 Speech Night at the State Theatre on 4 December, Head Girl Charlotte Waley reflected on her IGS education..

When I was three years old, I took my first step into the IGS preschool, completely unaware that it would become my second home for the next 15 years.

Throughout my younger years, my head was always buried in a book, consumed by larger-than-life dreams and curiosities, I overthought every decision I made and didn’t believe in myself. The one thing I did believe in however, was this School, its values and its people, I fell in love with it from a very young age. I don’t have enough time to share all the beauties of IGS with you tonight, but the memories of the blooming lilac jacaranda trees that effervescently decorate the campus, the iconic pink wall of Kelly Street, the sound of “good morning” in different languages from my teachers as I walked down the hallways and the beaming smiles on every student reaching from ear to ear all come to mind.

If I could talk to my younger self, I would encourage her to speak up, and share every single idea, no matter how big or small. I would prove that she was in a safe environment, accepted for her differences, and surrounded by like-minded people, who eventually, will help her figure out exactly who she is. Our differences are intrinsic to the culture of IGS — they are valued, and they are celebrated. Growing up, I looked up to each Head Girl, mesmerised by their leadership and grace, as the voice for those who were as timid and insecure as I was, never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate that I would soon become that voice.

The years flew by quicker than I expected, despite how many times I heard “you’ll be graduated in a blink of an eye” from my parents, and I still revel in the memories of my firsts. Not the typical first words, first steps or first close friendships, but my first international day in kindergarten, the eagerly anticipated first excursion to the zoo which I participated in as both a five-year-old and a seventeen-year-old, my first harmony day, my first sports carnival, my first language camp, and then in high school, my first SAGE program, and my first ArtsFest.

These unique IGS firsts truly are the pinnacle of what our school has to offer-self discovery, encouragement and a new world of learning that you simply cannot find anywhere else. My first International days were no exception, helping me discover the immeasurable beauty of empowerment through embracing diversity, and guiding me towards my passion for languages. I gained such a profound sense of identity alongside my studies of Italian, which taught me more than just a different vocabulary, but about societies, cultures and life itself. This year, in planning international day, my goal was to recreate the magic I felt throughout my younger years, especially for those of you who had never experienced an IGS international day before. I hope that the event inspired you to apply yourself to your language studies, and I hope the day was filled with smiles, laughter and learning.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned at IGS is courage. Courage to be unapologetically myself. Courage to speak up about what I believe in. Courage to keep trying despite how many times I make mistakes. To all the younger students in the audience, although it may not seem like it right now,  I want you to know that you are strong, you are resilient, and you are valued, for who you are. I know this because I was sitting in the same seat as you, years ago, beaming after accepting my first speech night award in year four in such a beautifully intimidating theatre, hoping to one day be speaking on this stage.

In year six, as the elections for primary language leader came along, I stopped myself from applying. A loud, overbearing voice in my head told me I wasn’t good enough, and that I would never be voted in. If you told me back then that I would be standing on this stage right now, giving this speech, I would’ve laughed in your face. As long as you harness the courage that we all have within ourselves, you have the power to succeed. Even if you do make a mistake, like I did and initially let go of your goal.

Now that I have reached the time where I have to face my IGS lasts, I couldn’t go on without thanking my role models. My mentor, and longstanding Italian teacher – Prof Casu, who always inspired me with her fervent passion for teaching and genuine warmth and compassion. The incredible Ms Duma, whose work ethic, kindness, and thoughtful nature are unparalleled. My tutor since year 7, Mr Douse, for sharing positivity with us every morning. As well as Mr Dennehy and Mr Mandrini, who were always there to give Sämi and I advice, and guide us through difficult times.

I would like to thank every teacher who has taught me during my time here, because I have learned so much from all of you, and you have all shaped the person who I have become today. To my cohort, thank you for everything. You have taught me the value of friendship, and I am eternally grateful that we were all placed at the same school, at the same time, and grew up together. I wish you success and happiness in all of your future endeavours.

Mrs Colnan — without you, none of this would have been possible. I can’t adequately articulate my gratitude for the opportunities you have given us, and for choosing me to stand on this stage before you as Head Girl. My first thoughts when writing this speech were how do I thank the school that has given me everything? And, how do I say goodbye to all I have ever known? It took a lot of thinking, but I eventually realised, that even though I won’t be at IGS every day, surrounded by the environment and people that I know and love, everything I have learned will always be within me, guiding me through all my future hardships and successes.

On my seventeenth birthday, the 5th of December 2022, I was given the most incredible birthday gift of all at speech night, and during this year’s trip around the sun, I have learned more about myself than I ever thought possible. My adult years begin tomorrow, and I will walk out of this enigmatic, magnificent theatre knowing that IGS has equipped me with all that I could ever need.

In my final word of advice, I encourage you all to bring your imaginations to life, in whatever language you choose, to contemplate the meaning of things that inspire you, to ask questions, to express your utmost desires without the fear of being judged, because your IGS family will support you every step of the way. Remember that your dreams are always within reach, and the courage you need to make them come true lies within you. I wish you all the luck in the world, and I thank you, my teachers and fellow students, for supporting me and encouraging me to make my own dream come true, as this year’s Head Girl.