The idea of social justice is not new when we are talking about education. What is new and increasingly urgent in the light of an unstable world and regressive government policies and changes to the law in this country is the need to reframe the discourse from social justice to human rights.
My talk is about human rights in education, what that means for students and schools, and what that means for all of us. My focus will particularly be the human rights of young refugees and asylum seekers. At my school in western Sydney, one in every six students is an asylum seeker, either in community detention or on a bridging visa. Under current government policies, few of these young people have a future.
What can ordinary Australians do about this situation, which flies in the face of the values we believe are intrinsic to our national identity and the aspirations we hold for our own children? How can schools contribute to social cohesion and help prevent the radicalisation of young people with nowhere to go?
Dorothy Hoddinott is one of Australia’s most widely recognised school educators. She is the principal of Holroyd High School in Western Sydney, where six out of every ten students are refugees, and one in every six students is an asylum seeker. Dorothy has a deep, life-long commitment to social justice and is a strong public advocate for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and those of children, particularly disadvantaged children. In recognition of her work, she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2008, and, in 2014, she was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal. She is a Fellow of Senate of the University of Sydney, and is currently Pro-Chancellor of the University.
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