Former Brisbane Lord Mayor Talks About St James College, Brisbane and GLOBAL Learning

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Many students from China choose to attend St James College, Brisbane for their secondary education. Former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Graham Quirk talked about why this college is the choice for so many global learners.

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I had the privilege to attend St James College in the late 1960’s. It was for my years eight to 10. And following that, I went to another school for final two years of schooling and undertook advanced education studies. But I started work, leaving grade 12 firstly in the bank with the what is now the Westpac Bank in Australia and from there went on to some government service in veterans affairs and an employment in industrial relations. But by the time I was 27 years of age, I had become an elected representative and served with the Brisbane City Council through to when I recently resigned as Lord Mayor in April of this year.

What St James College taught me was the importance of the individual and to accept that everybody in life has their own story regardless of their background, regardless of their position in life. And it was that sense of community service that ultimately drove me into the world of politics. And local government was the field where I believed I could most exercise that in a very immediate way, that day to day service that people want from their local government elected representatives.

Well, this has always been a school with a very strong multicultural component. When I was here in the late 1960’s there was a very heavy Italian population at the school, but that has changed dramatically over the years and it’s now very much the globe in one school. And today of course within our city of Brisbane, outside of English, Mandarin is the most spoken language within our city.

As a city, we’re a very multicultural city. Over 30% of our citizens here were born overseas and that is growing all the time. Just eight years ago when I first became Lord Mayor of this city, that figure was 26% so we are a city that does reflect an outward looking view. That means we’re a welcoming city, we’re a city that’s based on respect for one another and harmony within our community. And here at St James College, that’s very much a reflection of our broader city, many cultures coming together through education and learning and understanding of those various cultures.

St James and the city are very close in terms of a relationship. Firstly, this is a school based in the city centre, in the CBD location. And so in that sense, it is very much again a reflection on the global aspects of our city. I think here we do some very special things when it comes to international education. We are a leader in this nation when it comes to putting out the hand of friendship to our international students. And when I became mayor back in 2011 we had 50,000 international students in our city. Today we have 95,000 and largely that is a very significant proportion from China. About 25% of all of our international students come from China.

For parents firstly, they want to know that their children are coming to a safe place, and they certainly have a very safe environment here at St James College and the city of Brisbane as a whole. We take special pride in the fact that we have the hand of friendship out to our international students. Our city conducts special international student friendship ceremonies. We have special accommodation that has been created in this city over the last five years in particular, which ensures that there’s 24-hour management of those places. Now this is a matter of great comfort to parents that are sending their children to a new place, a place unfamiliar to them perhaps, and they want to know that their children are going to be in safe hands and they will be here at St James and in Brisbane.

Brisbane has many, many multicultural festivals, more than a hundred multi-cultural festivals a year. And again in our city, because of the nature of it and the amount to which Mandarin is spoken as a second language here, people will feel very, very comfortable in coming here. Even the cuisine, whether you’re from Sichuan province or one of the many provinces around China, you will have cuisine here to suit you as well. To be able to eat the food you’re familiar with is something that you will be able to experience in Brisbane.

In Brisbane, we call yourself Brisbane, Australia’s new world city. And the reason for that is we are an aspirational city where innovation is the key. Now many cities in China have this drive for innovation. It is something that is instilled in young people to be creative and innovative in what they do. And I believe that is a good fit here in Brisbane because whether we’re talking about advanced manufacturing, whether we’re talking about IT, the digital space generally, this city is one which is creative in many respects. Even the creative industries itself is something that is very important in our city.

When I look down at children in grade one for example, I often say to them, “You know, 90% of the jobs you will do have not yet been created.” Such is the pace of life. And as we enter this fourth industrial revolution, we are going to see even greater change the amount of disruption within jobs. And so today is about teaching young people to adapt to change. You cannot ignore change. You cannot pretend change isn’t going to happen. It is happening and happening at a dramatic rate. And so that is really the essence of education today, to not just hand feed information, but rather to have young people equipped for the world of change.

The great thing about St James is that it will teach people to adapt for the future, but it will also in doing so, teach people to respect one another, to be a part of the greater community and to understand that what people do as individuals is good for themselves to advance themselves, but also to advance the community too for example, in this city, some of the great innovations that have occurred has been the finding of a cure for cervical cancer and these types of things which have worldwide impacts on people and their day to day lives. These are the things that we want to instil and St James College instils in young people, succeed for yourself, but in doing that bring great good for humanity for the world.

I think the reality is that this school teaches about the fact that we are a people from many cultures that come together, learn together, achieve together, but blend together as human beings. And so those characteristics are important for people as they go through life. And so I think that the school provides that opportunity and it’s something to be highly valued.

The world is an ever increasingly smaller place. You know, it’s such a small planet now in terms of connectivity, and the new digital age is certainly increasing this and people’s mobility around the world is increasing that it’s improving our understanding of each other as people, and it’s allowing also for a great deal of international collaboration and partnerships.

And so what we’re going to see today is young people visiting this city, which will not just be a little period of their life. It will be a lifelong relationship with this city. And I see that happening also with St James College. The work that they do here, the interactions that students have here will set up a long-term relationship. And as people leave this school, as they leave this city, we want them to leave with something of us in their heart, no matter where they may travel around the world.

I think it’s the fact that in the city we are a city now where people believe in ourselves, and I think that that’s an important message for anybody, an international student coming to a new land or for a population as a whole. You have to have a self-belief, not arrogance, but a self-belief and confidence to go forward, to do positive things, to make good changes that will benefit everybody in our society.

I think the one thing about China is that each city has its own terrific diversified businesses and industries. And so it is here in Brisbane. We have a range of industry sectors. Now the great thing about St James College is that it’s not only recognised as a vocational college by the government of Australia and recognised at a high level, but it’s a school that provides academic but also technical opportunities, and that means that it provides a great pathway to other educational and job opportunities. That’s the key to St James College.

I think diversification in education is extremely important today, and that is that if a young person has a range of skills, and the academic and technical fields are vocational opportunities towards employment then create a terrific outcome for that student. So it is all about not putting all of your eggs in one basket. It’s about making sure that you have a range of skills and that’s what St James will offer.

It’s a school also based in the CBD, right in the centre of the city, and that means of course that you are open then to the other benefits that the large city centre provides.

When you’ve come from a city where the population is 17 or even 20 million people, or in the case of Chongqing, 35 million people, and come to another place, you don’t want it to seem like a rural village. And so the beauty of St James is that it is right in the centre of the city where the central business district and the retail outlets are operating. And so you are much more likely to feel like you are back home in one of the big cities of China, although naturally we don’t have that same level of population.

As a parent, you’re seeking a quality outcome for your son or daughter. St James College has been recognised by the Australian government as a key educational institution in terms of what it provides, the diversity of what it provides, but also the high quality of what it provides at this school. And that recognition is something that I believe all parents will take notice of knowing that their son or daughter is coming to a quality place.

Brisbane is a lifestyle city. We are a city where we have a wonderful climate but also a great outdoor lifestyle. It’s a free and easy city in that people can feel safe to move around this city. At the heart of it is the friendliness of its people. They are the driving factors that makes Brisbane a great city.

The 2032 Olympics is in every respect a game changer for our city. And Brisbane and Southeast Queensland is bidding for those Olympics because we believe that we will provide that friendly atmosphere, a well organised opportunity for the Olympic games, and this city is well-placed. We’ve hosted a G20 just a few years ago and that was a safe G20. There was not one bit of violence in this city during that period, and the same will apply if we get the 2032 Olympic games.

It’s about thinking outside of the square. It’s about sort of often looking at the psychological aspects of what motivates people. But importantly, we want to create an atmosphere here where the sports people for the Olympic games will be front and centre. It is about developing international understanding, and the Olympics here in Brisbane would very much reflect our approach as a city to reach out globally to say that we believe we have a part to play in the globe and we want to be a good global citizen.

As the City of Lights, what we have tried to do is to utilise those lights to again highlight community causes. So it may well be a not for profit organisation that is trying to achieve good outcomes for the people of our city less well-off and so we can do that by highlighting in particular colours on our big infrastructure things like the Story Bridge, like our house of government here, city hall and other infrastructure that we have around the city. It can highlight through colour the important work that these organisations are undertaking.

Lights have really highlighted our city at night. It’s brought it alive where previously it was a little bit dead at night. And so it’s amazing what lights and colour and movement can do to create that atmosphere of activity in the city.

Ni hao to all my friends in Chongqing. Chongqing has been a sister city with Brisbane now for many years and it’s been my privilege to be in Chongqing now some eight times. And as a former student of St James College, it’s my great privilege as former Lord Mayor of Brisbane to be able to say to all of the parents of Chongqing that Brisbane and St James College would be a great place to send your children.

It will be great because it is a place of great learning. It is a place of many cultures where the city of Brisbane sees Mandarin as its second language, outside of course of English. St James College is right here in the centre of the central business district. So, it is a safe place. It is a friendly place. And it is a place where respect for one another is a key value that drives our city.

I look forward to the sons and daughters of Chongqing coming to Brisbane to St James College where they will receive a terrific education and a pathway to other opportunities within our city and nation.

Ni hao. To all of our friends in China, I say, welcome. We welcome you to St James College, a school where I have been a former student. And as a former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, I’ve had the privilege to visit many cities in China to experience your wonderful hospitality. Today, I say to you that Brisbane offers terrific hospitality for your sons and daughters, for the students of China who want to broaden their education and also develop a greater international understanding of cultures.

Right here at St James College, there is the opportunity for a school that’s in the centre of the central business district to great learning, academic and technical, but also to be blending in with a group of students of many cultures around the globe. It is education in all its forms that St James College offers. Xie xie.