Hero photograph
Restorative Justice - Respect
Photo by Howard Zehr

Principal's Message

Christine O'Neill —

Tēnā koutou katoa parents, caregivers and whānau

Last week I wrote about the ethos underlying a restorative culture within a school. This week I want to elaborate a little further on our case for change here at Christchurch Girls’ High School / Te Kura o Hine Waiora.

Our vision for our students is that we

empower and inspire the development of 21st Century lifelong learners by providing a passionate learning environment with diverse opportunities, experiences and authentic relationships to enable learners to flourish, contribute to our world and become tomorrow’s inspired leaders today.”

This intention for the school takes us back to our foundation in 1877, as the second school for girls’ education in New Zealand. At the time, this was countercultural. We have an opportunity to think about our identity as a school now – whether we are here to perpetuate the status quo and a relatively privileged position or whether we are here to grow and graduate women leaders of the future, in politics, business, science, activism, the fourth estate, the arts, education, to name a few. We can ask ourselves whether we are here to grow and graduate women who will contribute to solving the problems society faces, and who will make a difference to our world, rather than perpetuate current issues and problems, or, worse, benefit from privilege at the expense of those less privileged.

If we are to do this, then our values drive us to educate our students in order to critically examine social policy and systems. While our students rarely make up the pipeline to prison, they may be lawmakers, leaders, educators, politicians, writers, CEOs of the future who have the ability to cement that pipeline for others, or to create a more equitable society in Aotearoa. At the very least, in leadership they will need the skills to navigate conflict and relationship break down and to manage difficult conversations. At a society level, when we look at social fragmentation driven by religion and race, leaders of the future need to be able to engage in positive, compassionate and mutually reciprocal dialogues with others of different beliefs and cultural identities.

Our social media and TV screens show us every day the outcomes of societies unable to bridge the divide of conflict. We have the most tragic local example of this. We remember the attack on our two mosques on Monday 15 March and think of our Muslim community who lost fifty-one lives that day to the radicalisation of hate and racism. These are big issues but those skills and attitudes are engendered in small everyday matters and we can influence the bigger conversation gradually by what we do every day at school level.

“Restorative Justice is a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future” UN Working Party on Restorative Justice.
The one word which is most important to restorative justice above all others is respect: respect for all, even those who are different from us, even those who seem to be our enemies” Howard Zehr

More next week on how our values are inextricably drivers of this approach.

Ngā mihi nui

Christine O’Neill