Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School

Utes, BridgeClimb and the Future of Australia:

Year 12 Graduation Address
November 10th 2017

Dear Year 12, the usual graduation speeches are intended to give wise words to a graduating class. But today I ‘m taking as my subject something that may surprise you. My subject is, the “ute”, the vehicle that a few of you drive. Not any particular ute, but the ute in general. We take utes for granted, they are an Australian icon, but you might like to hear the story of how the ute came to be.

For their first 30 to 40 years, there were either cars or trucks. You had the comfort of a car or you had the rough ride of a truck. In 1932 a farmer’s wife wrote to the General Manager of Ford Australia with a problem: Dear Sir, she wrote, we need a car to go to church on Sundays, and a truck to take our pigs to market on Monday. We can’t afford both. Can you help?

The job was given to a young designer named Lew Bandt who was just 22 years old. Within a few months he had developed a revolutionary design that put together the comfort of a car with the uses of a truck: he grafted the steel frame of a small truck onto the passenger cabin of a Model T Ford coupe. Comfort and utility (or multiple uses) came together and the new invention was named a Coupe utility: or the ute for short! They took off, Holden developed their own version and the rest as they say is history. Utes are now part of Australian culture.

Let’s look at what Lew Bandt did. He brought together two things that hadn’t been brought together before. If you lived at that time, you would have automatically said, there are two different kinds of vehicles, they just do different things. That’s the way life is.

Now of course we just take utes for granted today, and maybe we might think that any of us could have thought of this. We might just feel we are a bit superior to those simple people of the 1930’s and of course why didn’t they think of it earlier? But it doesn’t work that way, we only think this way because someone thought it first. Someone had to do it differently first, and afterwards everyone thinks its normal.

Let’s take another Aussie icon, or rather Sydney icon, our Harbour Bridge. You all know BridgeClimb which has people on the Bridge every day of the year now, but for the first 65 of its 85 years’ history the Bridge stood totally unclimbed by the public.

Then a man called Paul Cave was so struck by the possibilities of climbing the Bridge that he spent ten long years planning, negotiating, and eventually bringing his vision of BridgeClimb to reality. He brought two things together that no one had seen before: the Harbour Bridge, and climbing, and making it possible for as many people as possible. How many? There have been 3.5 million people climb the southern span of the bridge, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars into the NSW economy and employing countless people over the years. And all from seeing something that no one else had seen before.

Now these creative ideas, these creative thoughts, when they’re put into practice, are much more than just any old ideas: creative thoughts like the ute and the BridgeClimb have a huge flow on effect not just for the creator but also for whole communities. Think of the countless people who have driven utes over the years, even people sitting on this stage: think of the enormous value of the BridgeClimb for the Sydney economy. And creative ideas like these will play a huge part in Australia’s, and therefore your, futures.

Australia has been very lucky. Part of the very nice, first world standard of living we enjoy has been largely based on the fact that we have lots of valuable rocks that the rest of the world wants. Now it’s possible that either in your generation’s lifetime, or your children’s, all those precious things will have been dug out of Australia’s backyard, and there will be none left.

What will sustain our economy in the future? Creative ideas! New products like the ute, or new ways of doing things, like BridgeClimb, where different things are brought together that hadn’t been brought together before.

And there’s a wonderful thing about creative ideas. They’re like music. Ever wondered how it’s possible that singers and composers just keep coming up with new tunes? the great tunes and songs just keep coming. Creative ideas are just like this too: they never run out: they are truly sustainable, not like rocks and gas, and our future might just depend on a stream of creative ideas being put into practice.

Now an obvious question is, how do you get this magic factor x that enables people to see connections that other people don’t see? Some people are just born with this gift. But for most of us, you need training, you need education.

So how do we train and prepare people for a future where creative ideas will be a scarce resource, where our economy will depend on people who can come up with creative ideas and put them into practice?

If you wanted to design an education that prepared people for the challenges of the 21st century, what would you put in it?

How about Lew Brandt, designer of the ute: I bet he drew a lot, designers usually do. When you paint a picture, you have to see something, you have to visualize it. When you draw something, you are looking at it intently and seeing it from different angles, making connections. So design in general, and drawing in particular, would be one of these future skills.

What about Paul Cave of BridgeClimb: I don’t know him at all but I bet as a boy he climbed trees a lot, and spent a lot of time outdoors: Nature teaches us many things, and the web of life shows us the ultimate in creative interconnections. So spending significant time in Nature would be an important part of a future education.

Year 12, are you getting my drift? These are some of the fundamentals of the education you have had here over the past 13 years. Dr Rudolf Steiner’s vision of an education for the future has equipped you for 21st century living.

What they call the 4 C’s of the 21st century have been embedded in your upbringing: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking. The HSC taught you that last one, but your school taught you the one before: all that drawing, painting, making things, theatre, music, singing, musical instrument playing, Eurythmy, will give you a view of life that might just help you see the unique connection that no one else sees, that new idea that might just provide a life-saving innovation for a whole community.

Now there’s innovation, but there are some things that don’t change, and wisdom is knowing the difference. We hope that the stories and legends of the world that you heard on your journey here gave you a connection with that ancient stream of human wisdom that will sustain you into the future. The verses that we will hear in just a minute, may they echo down the years as nourishing words that will continue to connect you with the greater world and the life of the universe. And to go back to where it all started, the world of the child: may those memories of unity and innocence continue to provide refreshment and nourishment for your souls for the rest of your lives.

Year 12, on behalf of the school, the teachers and students, I wish you all happiness and a bright future. Now it’s your turn, and we look forward to what you will bring us, the Glenaeon Class of 2017. Go well!!