Recipient of the Marie Bashir Peace Award

Posted on October 8, 2014

Year 12 student Alexandra (Ally) Neale has been selected to receive one of seven Marie Bashir Peace Awards from the National Council of Women of NSW.  Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO will present the Awards on 22nd September, 2014 at Parliament House, Sydney. 

Arden’s Principal, Mr Anderson commented:  “To be eligible for this award all candidates must have made a significant contribution to harmony or social justice, and must have displayed leadership in fostering harmonious relationships and peace. There were many applications received, with all entries of an extremely high calibre.  This is indeed a high honour and we congratulate Alexandra on her outstanding achievement!” 

Discussing how the award came about, Alexandra shared that Arden approached her in June, 2014 notifying her that they would like to nominate her for the award. She then had to write an outline about the things she has done to foster harmonious relationships and peace (see below).  Commenting on her reaction to her success, Alexandra shared:  “I feel extremely honoured to have been selected as one of the winners of the Marie Bashir Peace Award this year.  I am very thankful for the teachers and students at Arden who have been part of building such a strong culture of harmony and social justice on which I have been able to build.  I am confident that this award reflects not only my personal commitment to the values of justice and harmony, but the Arden community’s ongoing dedication to fighting global injustice and promoting leadership opportunities to all students.  I look forward to meeting the other recipients of the award this year as I am sure I will be encouraged by their likeminded approach to life and innovation in regards to fostering harmonious relationships in their own communities and in the future.” Alexandra is hoping to study in the field of international and global studies, or law, focussing on international relations, development and social issues and policies.  She shared “My plans are to work in either the non-government sector, promoting advocacy and social justice, or in public service with an aim to promote equality and justice in response to core economic, social and political issues of our time”.  She continued:  “As I prepare to leave school and consider the best way to approach my future studies I remain assured of one thing – I intend to use my life to continue to promote the values of harmony and hope, to encourage and promote leadership, to equip young people to speak out against inequality and to alleviate social injustice on a local and global scale.”

Alexandra initiated Arden’s Social Justice Group when she was in Year 10.  By the end of 2013, the extent of growth of the group led to a Prefect being appointed to a Social Justice portfolio in 2014, for the first time in Arden’s history.  Alexandra was the natural choice.  Commenting on the importance of Alexandra’s contribution, Mr Simon Przydacz, Head of Senior School, shared:  “Alexandra’s sustained leadership contribution to Social Justice at Arden has been instrumental in the development of our School culture, in line with the Vision of Arden.”  He continued:  “Alexandra was the key driver behind the School’s Choice of charity group to support; The Freedom Project.  Similarly, the momentum generated in this area led to the 2014 Prefect motto/slogan ‘Unite for Freedom’ being coined and extensively used for all Prefect event promotions and fundraising.  In her role Alexandra has organised multiple events and activities to raise not only money, but also education about the work The Freedom project do.”

In her own words…Outline by Alexandra Neale about the things she has done to foster harmonious relationships and peace. Harmony and social justice are two ideals which I strive to reflect in the way I live my life.  For many years, witnessing global injustice and inequality has motivated me to stand up against poverty in an attempt to use my life as a beacon for social justice and compassion.  It is my strong belief that change begins when likeminded young people with an interest in social justice and a heart for helping the disadvantaged develop and utilise skills in leadership in order to instil awareness and motivate empathy.  I believe that this generation of young people in Australia is one that will fight for the poor and needy, and it has been my endeavour for several years to foster harmonious relationships in my School and community as a means of establishing leadership with a global justice focus.

The process of proposing and establishing an Arden Social Justice Group began in 2012 and involved several meetings with School staff and executive members.  I was passionate about creating a group in which students could share their opinions, discuss global issues and work together to instigate change in our local community and on a global scale.  Established in mid-2013, this group now acts as a symbol for hope and justice in our School and community, and our weekly meetings have resulted in increased awareness of global issues, prompting students to continue to explore their ability to change the world.  The Social Justice Group began by organising and running World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine in 2013, a project we are preparing for again in late 2014.  In the meantime, I have led students from Years 7-12 in studies of poverty in Malawi, global gender inequality, child slavery and the Millennium Development Goals.  In order to raise funds for micro-finance organisation ‘Good Return’, the Social Justice Group organised and ran a cake stall, raising over $300 in order to support two Cambodian women in a move to support self-sufficiency and sustainable living.  As I finish my years of high school I am working to help hone and mature leadership skills in younger students so they are equipped to continue the work of the Social Justice Group. This has included encouraging them in writing and making announcements to whole school assemblies, giving them the ability to delegate tasks to other students and accompanying them to conferences such as World Vision’s ‘Global Leaders Convention’ for the past two years.  It is my vision that the Social Justice Group will continue, after I graduate, to promote justice and peace to all students.

My passion for fighting poverty was heightened in June/July 2013 when I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia as part of my School’s mission tour, entitled ‘The Extra Mile Project’.  Preparation for this trip was a team effort in which harmonious relationships were fostered in the process of running several fundraising events.  I was engaged in community involvement through working with local businesses to support several student-run events.  I was able to utilise leadership skills particularly in the proposal and organisation of a fundraising concert and auction that raised over $4,000 towards house building and school renovations in impoverished communities in Vietnam and Cambodia.

As a School Prefect for the past 12 months I have been involved in several other initiatives such as our annual ‘Girls’ Night In’ event.  In organisation of the Girls’ Night In I worked with local businesses to coordinate activities for our female students.  While this event targeted fundraising for the Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Initiative, I was also delighted to use the opportunity to work with younger students and encourage them to step into leadership positions.

As Social Justice Prefect, which is a new portfolio I established within our Prefect body this year as a means of encouraging charitable events and awareness focused initiatives within the School, I have been in continuous communication with founding directors of The Freedom Project, an anti-slavery organisation.  In a recent Prefect fundraiser, ‘Slave Day’, we were able to raise $3,600 in order to support the rehabilitation of child soldiers in the Philippines.

As I prepare to leave school and consider the best way to approach my future studies I remain assured of one thing – I intend to use my life to continue to promote the values of harmony and hope, to encourage and promote leadership, to equip young people to speak out against inequality and to alleviate social injustice on a local and global scale.