Birrong Boys High School Applauded For Taking A Stand
Some of the best memories of my life are from my school days and Birrong Boys High School formed a very integral part of it.
And those memories came flooding back last Friday morning when I visited my ‘alma mater’ with two very close friends and brothers, two-times world boxing champion, the much loved Billy Dib and also Danny Miqati, a well known, widely admired and much respected leader in the Sydney Muslim community.
It was a real privilege for me to be invited back to Birrong Boys to make a brief presentation to the students from years nine to eleven inclusive – of course, the year 12-ers have already completed their HSC exams.
Last Friday was White Ribbon Day – held at this time every year and also known as the International Day for the Eradication of Violence against Women.
It’s an annual day to raise awareness of family violence….the wearing of the white ribbon stands for never taking part in, condoning or staying silent about violence against women.
Some 100-150 teenage boys – headed by School Captain Abdullah Dabliz (no relation) and Vice-Captain Muse Clise, who shared the official welcoming duties and did a great job – listened on intently as Danny, Billy and I took to the stage to make our presentations on this very important subject.
There is nothing clever – or smart – or brave – about hitting a woman under any circumstances and the same goes when it comes to emotional abuse.
So it is a sad indictment of the world we live in that, according to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey, 2.2 million Australians have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a partner and 3.6 million Australians have experienced emotional abuse from a partner.
Even more tellingly, those figures increased markedly during Australia’s COVID-19 lockdown, when almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship experienced domestic violence.
We certainly hope that we conveyed our message successfully last Friday.
Danny Miqati has spent much of his working life both in the police force (for over 20 years) and more recently in the private sector dealing with the issue of domestic violence and assisting countless victims, while Billy Dib has few peers within our community not only as a much loved sporting hero but as a humble, decent and kind man who is a wonderful role model for young Muslim brothers.
Strolling around the corridors at Birrong Boys, it seemed more like two years rather than almost 20 years since I left high school to pursue my dreams.
Indeed, many of my former teachers are still employed there, teaching exactly the same subjects and this relatively low turnover of staff is a sign of a happy working environment and an effective school management team, currently headed by principal Mr Stevens and deputy principal Mr Derbas.
Indeed, Mr Stevens was a great host, devoting a lot of time during our visit to chat with us, which we greatly appreciated.
What a great asset he is to the school!
And the fact that the school sees fit each and every year to highlight White Ribbon Day as an occasion to educate its all-male students on the importance of being respectful to women at all times is another significant feather in its cap.
The morning went off without a hitch and much credit goes to Birrong Boys High School’s amazing Community Liaison Officer, Souhair Afiouny, the driving force behind the the success of the event as it was she who reached out through Danny Miqati to have myself and Billy Dib involved.
Souhair is full of energy and great ideas and was very welcoming and hospitable on the day as well – without a doubt one of the kindest sisters I have ever met.
Another very impressive role model and wonderful mentor for the boys is the new scripture teacher Danny Abbas, who is also the school’s Youth Liaison officer.
After the formalities of the morning concluded, it was great to spend an hour so meeting with the kids and what an impressive group they are, collectively.
I’ve never shied away from telling people that I’m a Birrong Boys High School ‘old boy’ and after what I saw last Friday I am prouder than ever.
Great management, great teachers and courteous, attentive and intelligent students from excellent families.
What better formula is there to ensure that this school continues to thrive and to produce a conveyor belt of success stories….and far, more importantly, future community leaders.