Catherine McAuley Alumnae Award for service. Acceptance speech.

Kim was awarded the Catherine McAuley Alumnae Award for 2020, this is part of her acceptance speech. We hope this serves as a reminder that often in the finding of one's purpose, one will naturally lose things too.

It’s an honour to be here today and accept the Catherine McAuley Alumnae award, what a privilege to have so many of my wonderful friends from the class of 1985 here too, we had so many laughs over our six years, on the way in I joked with Sister Maria (Lawton) that it was nice to be back and not be in trouble, she quickly quipped it was nice to not have to dob me in! Needless to say I was a little disruptive throughout my school days.

I was so fortunate as a 12 year old to receive a place at OLMC, I remember how incredible it felt on my first day as I had never seen such ‘important’ buildings. My parents were migrants from India and had to sell everything to start a new life in Australia, (my mum is in the audience and she’s probably still a bit nervous that she might be chased for some school fees!), while I felt an awe at being at OLMC, I was also acutely aware of the have’s and the have not’s, there always seemed to be girls who had much better homes, big family cars and trendy clothes for mufti days, so while I loved being at school, I also had an acute feeling of being a have not.

The answer to my feelings of inadequacy seemed to magically appear in Yr11, first was by studying Economics and the other was Miss Scott, my inspiring Economics teacher. Economics seemed to have all the answers to the have’s and have not’s, ways to redistribute income, ways to share resources, ways to even out inequality and I was taught by the most dedicated person, with the help of all my excellent teachers I realised a dream of going to Sydney University to study both economics and teaching!

At University I still had an awareness of the have’s and have not’s, (though there were now people with even bigger homes, cars and great clothes), I loved it and it opened more doors to opportunity. I got fabulous teaching jobs and the ‘formula’ for success seemed to be working, my husband and I moved to Singapore, we were hard working ex-pats, investing well, rising up the ladders, creating wealth, we also had four incredible babies, becoming a mother will remain the most important job I will ever do this life round.

I was fortunate to continue teaching after I had children, but this is when the cracks started to appear. I was gradually realising that Economics didn’t have the answers, it was so enmeshed in a mindset of scarcity, my value as a stay at home mum was not even considered in the measurement of GDP. The subject teaches that all resources are limited, but I knew that  ‘enterprise’ - although neglected in economics - is the most renewable, unlimited resource humans have to imagine different outcomes. The entrepreneurial  capacity of my students (which has nothing to do with money or business) was the most valuable resource in the classroom, yet economics didn’t have an interest in this. I was also teaching a curriculum that elevated systems of deep injustice, where the production of our goods and services was largely based on the destruction of natural resources, the exploitation of mother earth, my home and car and clothes were often the by-product of labour that had been enslaved or unfairly treated. I just felt that there had to be another way. Although my income was growing, my mental well-being needed something different.

I started to learn more about social enterprise and circular economics, it resonated deeply and I found myself immersed in a community in Jaipur, India, who were helping former street youths through vocational training programs. Together we were able to design innovative and dignified work for the community, utilising the creative spirit that was in abundance. We created joint engagements between the communities in Jaipur and the local schools I was involved in when living in Singapore. What motivated me most is that our solutions were not solved by money, but by creativity. I realised the cause of our/my problems not arising from poverty but a poverty consciousness, the belief in lack or scarcity or not enough. The only way I could address my own feelings of ‘not enough’ was to believe in myself, to look for what is already there, to connect to my spirit, and to follow what holds love.

When my family and I returned to Sydney in 2012, I met another school mum Kath Davis and together we quite quickly established a social enterprise called The Possibility Project, we deepened our relationship with communities in Jaipur and developed a slow clothing label called slumwear108, we use recycled materials and design with great reverence for the people and processes that go into the making.

I now believe that being able to create whatever you want with what you already have comes down to two freely available practises, prayer and meditation, prayer is asking your creative spirit for guidance, while meditation is being in stillness to hear the answer. When I was reflecting on what I was going to say today I looked through a box of school memories, not only did I find this picture of myself and Helen (coincidently we are sitting near the tennis court - which would be directly below us today! evidence that you never know where things might end up, but as long as love guides you, life always has a way of working out well) I also found this - (a pocket bible of The New Testament), my prayers for today were answered! I had forgotten this bible (sorry Sister Maria), but it was gifted to me by a beautiful friend Colleen Ward for my 18th birthday in Yr12, she had also underlined and written around the following passage: “Kim I hope that you read this passage a lot”.

1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but if I do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

I do believe love is the essence of the imaginative spirit, the voice deep within our hearts to imagine differently is powered by love, the most renewable resource to be agents of change is love, whatever we do with our lives, make sure love is at the core, bring compassion - which is the energy that allows us to embrace our fears with love - into the centre of our lives. My journey from scarcity into enoughness is one of love, I deeply know that prayer and meditation will take you there! It is such a joy to be sharing this message with you all today. Thankyou.

May 4th 2021.

For the past 10 years, the OLMC Parramatta Alumnae has awarded an ex-student who, in the years since she left the College, has made a difference, through her influence or service, to those whose lives she has touched.
Catherine McAuley wrote “ no act of charity can be more productive or good to society, or more conducive to the happiness of the poor and needy, than the careful instruction of women… since whatever be the station they are destined to fill, their example and advice will always possess influence”. OLMC Parramtta Alumnae Community.

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