A Teacher’s Perspective: The Honourable Julie Bishop MP Visits St Catherine’s

The VCE Global Politics and Legal Studies students responded to the announcement of a meeting with The Honourable Julie Bishop MP with great excitement and interest.

The VCE Global Politics and Legal Studies students responded to the announcement of a meeting with The Honourable Julie Bishop MP with great excitement and interest. In the weeks leading to the meeting, students brainstormed questions to ask Ms Bishop and carefully prepared for facilitating conversation with Australia’s former Foreign Affairs Minister, including which questions to ask and how to develop and guide the discussion. The quality of the questions developed and the conversation with Ms Bishop that they elicited reflected the genuine interest in the subject matter and the value that students placed upon hearing Ms Bishop’s views in relation to the issues raised.

School Co-Captain, Georgina Cottrill (Year 12), was well prepared to act as discussion guide, however, after initial introductions, it was obvious that Georgina would be able to ease into her role, due to the manner in which Ms Bishop engaged with the students. Upon her arrival, Ms Bishop immediately demonstrated her diplomatic skills in putting a room at ease. Making it a priority to individually greet and learn the names of each of the girls in the room, an atmosphere of warmth and mutual interest was quickly established and the conversation moved along effortlessly.

The opportunity to meet with Ms Bishop was timely for the Global Politics students, in particular, as they had only recently examined the power and role of the United Nations, but also the issues of state sovereignty surrounding contested borders. A flashpoint for the latter issue in recent years has been relations between Ukraine and Russia. The students were very interested to hear about Ms Bishop’s role as Minister for Foreign Affairs in general, but in particular her role as Chair of the United Nations Security Council in 2014 when a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying many Australians, among hundreds of other passengers, was destroyed by a missile over Ukraine. Ms Bishop provided invaluable insights into the reality of global political conflicts in her elaboration on these matters.

Additionally, Ms Bishop responded with candour to a range of topics from relations with countries in our region and also issues which continue to attract controversy in Australia, including the rights of people in Australia’s offshore detention centres. She explained Australia’s national interests in a range of contexts, but also a willingness to give something of her own views (beyond the party-political policy statements), which further developed the students’ level of engagement in the discussions.

Throughout her discussions, whether it was talking about her decisions to pursue a career in the law or politics, Ms Bishop was keen to emphasise her interest and role in encouraging women and girls to take a central role in political and economic decision making in all communities, whether in the developing world or in high-office in Australia and internationally. It was a fitting central message that clearly resonated with all the people present in the room.

I have no doubt that this unique experience will not only enhance the learning of those students who participated, but it will potentially be one of the highlights of their VCE year at St Catherine’s School.

Mr Paul Gilby, VCE Global Politics Teacher

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