Arts Rutherglen have been celebrating IWD since 2006. This year we celebrated IWD with our guest speakers being the Coman siblings.
Amelia, Elizabeth, Lara and Melissa spoke together about their lives since they had finished school in Rutherglen. They included William (number 5 sibling) who had written a long letter about his accomplishments.
They amazed and enthralled us with the depth of their experiences. They spoke about 2023 International Women’s Day theme #Embrace Equity and asked each other what it meant to them.
They were great speakers and we know they are already working to make this world a better place.
Introduction and Welcome to Country by William Coman
Welcome to this morning’s discussion with these incredible women. Sadly, I cannot be with you all in person today – so I am once again relying on my sisters to help me out by sharing a brief update with you all.
I have fond memories of growing up in Rutherglen, where I spent my summers at the swimming pool and my winters on and around the hockey field. My education at St. Mary’s and Rutherglen High School created some lifelong friendships, helped me to pursue my interests and inspired me to go out and see the world.
After school, I took a gap year in Poland to immerse myself in a world that I’d never seen before. It sparked a love for travel and a desire to continue pushing my boundaries. When I returned to Australia, I followed in the footsteps of my older sisters by moving to Canberra to study. There, I earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Education to become a French and History teacher. To better support myself financially while I studied, my sister Lara directed me to a part-time role as a Learning Support Assistant at a specialist school. Ultimately this role would lead me to where I am today, as the Head of Schoolwide Student Support Services at the American International School of Zagreb in Croatia.
International education is often touted as being at the forefront of education, though when it comes to equitable access for students with disabilities – it’s actually lagging behind.
Families are often turned away from schools due to a lack of resources – both within the school itself as well as the hosting country. English-speaking therapists are not always accessible, and virtual options aren’t always reliable. English-speaking support groups for students and families are also hard to come by in small expat cities like Zagreb. Additionally, the transient nature of the school’s population means that even when the is meaningful momentum – it can be abruptly interrupted when a key stakeholder leaves.
These challenges, amongst others, mean that many students with disabilities are growing up without the education that they deserve. That siblings are being separated from attending the same school. That parents are having to choose between their career progression and quality education. It also means that future generations of children are growing up unaware of the joy, humour, and spirit that these families add to school communities.
Today, I am happy to share that our school is in the early stages of developing one of the first programs within our region that will meet the needs of these children and their families. As a small school, it isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that we believe aligns with our stance on equity and will greatly benefit our whole community.