Mark Twain said: ‘Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and blind can see’ and I think that the world could do with a bit more kindness just now.

In April, I attended the ECIS Leadership Conference in Brussels, along with our Managing Partner, Andreia Mitrea, and our Deputy Head, Marilena Nicolae, where hundreds of Principals, Directors and Board Members were gathered to share experiences, learn from one another and celebrate 50 years of ECIS- All member schools have to adhere to ECIS ethical practice, and Avenor College is proud to be a Full Member of ECIS.

During the conference, we had the pleasure of meeting John Hendry, Director of Student Welfare at Geelong Grammar School, Victoria, Australia.

As the biggest boarding school in the southern hemisphere, Geelong has an outstanding reputation, and is a place where the care and nurture of the individual is embedded in the educational process. John spoke about forgiveness, kindness and restorative justice. He believes that international schools can create world peace. He has very kindly provided us with several of his own blog entries, and I am sharing ‘The Way Forward’ with you here in its entirety.

Denise Trickett, May 2015


The Way Forward

Kindness, Forgiveness & Reparation 

The Golden Rule…. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..” and the Hippocratic Oath …”First do no harm..” underpin how we live in relationships at Geelong Grammar School

People live in relationships. When people live and work together disputes are inevitable and errors are made. Relationships are tested. The intimacy of a school community is such that effective dispute resolution is essential if people are to live in relationships where individuals and the community flourish. Disputes can be resolved if the disputing parties accept the need for and believe the reparation process will be transparent, fair and provide an opportunity to develop a shared understanding of the issues. The process can succeed if the parties feel they have been well treated, there is no residual resentment and there is a mechanism for restoring trust, honesty, integrity, compassion and hope. To do this, forgiveness must be exercised by all parties. The aim is to restore dignity to relationships.

Geelong Grammar School wishes to foster a community based on trust. When harmful behaviour or conflict occurs, we emphasise repairing the damage caused to relationships and finding mutually acceptable ways forward. This practical philosophy can transform the way community members think, feel and act towards each other.

Forgiveness underpins the School approach to dealing with mistakes. Many mistakes are made by young people through lack of careful attention to others or to rules. Often there is no intention to harm, and when harm is intended, the young involved may have little real understanding of the effects of their harmful actions. Actions impact on others and these must be understood for the safety of all.

Geelong Grammar School’s approach to relationships is based on moral precepts which value both the individual and the community. Our pastoral principles and behaviour management practice promote wholesome transformative relationships and eschew intimidation, fear or overt exercise of authority. The relationship reparation practices we use to resolve disputes encourage people to rethink, to learn, to appreciate, to understand, value and respect others. Our approach recognises and attends to difference, and is fundamentally educative. Parties grow through this approach to recognise mistakes, to understand that mistakes have to be addressed, and so better understand life. Parties recognise that relationships have been disturbed and need repair requiring a co-created positive approach.

The quality of a relationship has many determinants but fundamentally five present as being significant.  They determinants are 1. Trust, 2. Forgiveness, 3. Integrity, 4. Optimism (hope), and 5. Compassion.  The notion of a relational living world underpins how we live together.  Error is of course how we learn and error must be managed positively in a relational sense.  Resilience is about recognising an error and being able to repair in every sense the impact of the relationships resulting from the error.  This is complex for the error has to be recognised, accepted, fully understood in its impact and then the error maker must accept the pivotal role to begin to repair the relationships disturbed.  This of course begins with acceptance, then forgiveness of self for making the error and dislocating relationships and perhaps causing hurt and a sense of loss.  Those relational “partners’ who have felt that the relationship has been harmed also must accept and acknowledge the error, understand the error circumstance, forgive the error maker and then work “with” the error maker to co-jointly work to repair the relationship damaged. The co-creation of the repair process is essential for although the “heavy lifting” is substantially done by the error maker the damaged party share a responsibility to repair the relationship to the best that is possible.  The obligations exist and the process requires all the 5 determinants of a relationship to be addressed individually and in concert.  This process is determined by the relational “partners’ involved.  The object is to repair and to restore peace. The “heavy lifting” aspect of the relationship repairing process is the consequence associated with the mistake.

“The quality of a community (individual relationships, family, community, nation) is not to be judged on its successes but rather on the humane and constructive approach it employs to the management of mistake.” 

John Hendry

“Forgiveness gives us the capacity to make a new start… And forgiveness is the grace by which you enable the other person to get up, and get up with dignity, to begin anew… In the act of forgiveness we are declaring our faith in the future of a relationship and in the capacity of the wrongdoer to change.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

John Hendry September 2014