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President Ian Bonnette addresses the 2018 Tartan to Torus dinner.

Graduation Address to the Class of 2018


The power of stories

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen 

It is a pleasure to be with you all here today.

I extend a warm welcome to the parents and carers, grandparents and siblings here today. In particular, I welcome the Class of 2018 — for this is your day.

This is the sixth graduation that I have attended, and the fourth that I have spoken at.

Each graduation has had its own spirit, much like how your year groups all march to different beats.

But common to all has been a moment of profound reflection.

Every single person in this room today has invested a great deal of time, effort and energy into raising fine young men with the strength of character to change the world. As a dad of three, I am particularly aware that such an investment does not come without other sacrifices. So, I would like to invite the Class of 2018 to stand and join me in a round of applause to thank their parents, carers and teachers for everything they have done for you during your Scots journey.

Last year, my address to the Class of 2017 was a call to adventure. To revaluate the world, embrace everyone in it and embark on an honourable adventure to a better tomorrow. 

This year, I want to talk to you about the power of stories and the responsibility that comes with authoring them.

Scots Old Boys have long written the history of our country, and prosaically defined our tomorrow.

Today, is the start of your future story.

Stories are powerful – not just in your personal life for their capacity to mentor and grow you as a person but also in our national life.

The power of language lies in its capacity to unify us around stories of common cause.

The power of words and their expression, derive their power from a capacity to unite people around a common cause.

Throughout this year, we have taken time to look back at 125 years of proud history. In the stories of the past, we find markers to guide us on the road to tomorrow. They give us the inspiration we need to live better lives. 

Finding role models to help you write your own story can be difficult.

Our national life can often be filled with the voices of those placed on the mantle of responsibility without deserving it. 

Our professional lives can monetise and incentivise the acquisition of short term mentors that do no more than advance narrow self-interest.

So today, I want to share with you the stories of three Old Boys that I personally look to for inspiration; incidentally, they are all authors.

Ian Bevan at Nuremberg
Testing time ... a young Ian Bevan, centre with glasses, being attentive at the Nuremberg trials.

In February 1938, a young man by the name of Ian Bevan walked into The Sun newspaper and demanded a job. 

An admirer of the Russian ballet, student of economics and a Scots Old Boy; Ian aspired to tell a story that spaned the world.

During his time at Scots, Ian was an avid debater and toped nearly all of his classes. 

But like many of his era, Ian found his plans scattered by the chaos of war.

In a stroke of luck, Ian was armed not with a bayonet but with a pen and a mandate for storytelling. From the sands of Palestine to the lowlands of Holland; Ian reported on the most brutal war in human history. By wars end, Ian had spent nine months embedded in the allied advance into Germany and he was the youngest correspondent present at the Nuremberg and Belsen trials. 

Throughout his life, Ian was an academic achiever and a man of steadfast character.

Called upon first by his family, then by his editors, and ultimately by his country; Ian responded to the challenges of the time by bringing his talents to bare for the good of the nation.

Sir Alan McNicoll
Vice Admiral Sir Alan McNicoll

At the same time, another Scots Old Boy, Vice Admiral Sir Alan McNicoll was planning the landings at Normandy.

Described by his teachers as ‘urbane and studious’, Sir Alan left Scots with an illustrious record of first places in English, history and seamanship.

Sir Alan served as an executive officer of the light cruiser HMAS Hobart and wrote prolifically on the occupation of Japan before being appointed an aide-de-camp to the Governor-General. 

Sir Alan rose to the ultimate position of Chief of Naval Staff where he wrote the visual story of the Royal Australian Navy, leading to the creation of the white ensign.

The last Australian hoisted out of Saigon, his journal vividly recalls the North Vietnamese assault and the thrill of being present for it. But perhaps most notably, Sir Alan was the first Australian Ambassador to Turkey.

During his time, Sir Alan built long lasting ties with the Turkish people; he was known throughout the cultural circles of Turkey for his long conversations over warm drawn Turkish coffee.

In his final story, Sir Alan translated the Odes of Horace; the ancient Latin lyric poems.

Professor Gordian Fulde AO and Ian Bonnette converse
Professor Fulde and Ian Bonnette

Earlier this year, the Prefect team joined Professor Gordian Fulde from the Class of 1964 and I for the Tartan to Torus dinner.

Professor Fulde has served the community as the Director of Emergency and Surgical Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital for decades. 

Early in his career, Professor Fulde founded the Australiasian College for Emergency Medicine and was later appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services as a clinician and advocate for public health awareness.

Professor Fulde came with a colourful and warm message.

Look after your friends, nurture your relationships and steward your community. To write the next chapter of Australian history, you must remain safe and well.

What these three men demonstrate are a passion for serving their nation.

While enjoying a successful professional life is undoubtedly good, and each of them enjoyed just that, writing your Australian story is what will make you great.

Mr Bevan, Sir Alan and Professor Fulde helped write a story that, as Scots Old Boy and Australian poet Roger McDonald once said, was sometimes cold, often long but truly loving and one that left Australia better for it.

Professor Peter van Onselen ('93)
Professor van Onselen at The Scots College

Late last year, we had the pleasure of welcoming Peter van Onselen from the Class of 1993 back to Scots. Professor van Onselen is a foundation chair of journalism and a prolific writer on the nature of Australian public life.

Professor van Onselen challenged us to look beyond the firehose of the present and toward the strength of tomorrow. 

We must think deeply and profoundly about the stories that we write to build our society and we must do so generously and with integrity.

Recently, our public life has been filled with those who made commercial and political decisions for all the wrong reasons.

At some point, whether you are called to account by the public or a sleepless night at home, you will need to answer the question of whether the man in the mirror is the man you sought to become.

At some point, whether you are called to account by the public or a sleepless night at home, you will need to answer the question of whether the man in the mirror is the man you sought to become. 

When you make those choices, always remember the men and women who have written the Australian story over the years. 

They are people of tremendous spirit, and it is incumbent upon you to write a story worthy of them.

At their finest, our graduates have found inspiration in what they do, honoured the honourable and worked diligently for the good of their families and our nation. 

Whether your story is one of serving justice in the depths of Europe or starting Australia’s modern relationship with one of the oldest civilisations in the world; there are Scots boys to assist you in your journey.

We will inspire you with their memory, connect you with their networks and deliver lasting lifelong advantage.

As you grow older; these things become more difficult than you might think. The pressures of family and work make looking after your mental wellbeing, and staying connected to each other, that much more difficult.

That is why the Old Boys’ Union exists — to help you write your story and leave an indelible mark on Australian history. We will bring you back together and keep you connected with one another.

Today you graduate with the strength of the past and the encouragement of tomorrow; I commend to you a life well lived.

One imbued with the confidence to define and write the next chapter of stories that will define our Australian history.

Thank you all, good luck and; 

Scots to the fore!



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