Engaging ethically with the world

Mr Paul Martineau, Antipodeans Abroad Co-ordinator

‘Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.’ (Miriam Beard)

At Brisbane Girls Grammar School our aim is to foster the development of well informed, critically thinking and civically engaged citizens able to judiciously and ethically engage with the world. These ideas implicitly and, at times, explicitly inform what happens in the classroom. We understand our work in an intellectual and thus intangible sense will, at some point in the future, translate into action. While encouraging our students to think beyond the white picket fence, it is important that we provide them with the opportunities to actually turn these ideals into reality and immerse themselves in experiences in unfamiliar and often challenging environments.

The Antipodeans Abroad programme (referred to as ‘Antips’ by the students) is one such opportunity.  Antips commenced at Girls Grammar in 2004, and in 2015 approximately 110 girls from Years 10 —12 will travel to Cambodia and Nepal. The programme involves the girls travelling to a developing country where they undertake a community service project, a physical trek, as well as cultural and sightseeing experiences.  The expeditions also provide ample opportunity for students to develop independence, teamwork and more than a little resilience. Our goal is to transcend the rhetorical so that this experience is indeed life-changing.

Creating opportunities for Grammar girls to give back to the community through service is a valued part of our co-curricular programme. Antips allows them to take service even further and can be seen as a step up from their Year 10 community service programme. It also enables them to contribute in a variety of ways.

Initially, the girls fundraise throughout the year to pay for the materials needed for their projects in-country. The girls also give physically while in-country. The locals are always amazed when they see a group of thirteen — fifteen girls arrive for their project and the admiration only deepens when they see how hard they work and what they can actually accomplish in the four or five short days we are there.

The programme brings together the academic, student care and co-curricular areas of the school as well as the character dispositions we strive to instil in our students. The research done during the year prior to departure allows them to develop a greater understanding of the history, geography and culture of their destination.  The strong connections with the communities we stay in while on expedition allow them to gain greatly from their travels.  In a report for the International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC), Greg Richards and Julie Wilson highlight the benefits gained from Antipodean-style trips.  Eighty per cent of respondents recorded that they came away with a greater appreciation of and interest in finding out about other cultures.  In addition, seventy-one per cent reported a greater self-awareness due to their travels, with seventy per cent also reporting an increase in self-confidence.  Perhaps of even greater significance for our girls is the finding that ‘females gain more from their trip as they scored significantly higher than males on every single benefit they were asked about’. (Richards and Wilson, 2003).

Upon their return, students often reflect how incredibly lucky and grateful they feel for the opportunities that they actually have and feel a greater responsibility to make the most of them.  At the same time they understand more fully how having these things is not a necessity for their happiness. What we hope is that, through the Antips programme, we will have planted a seed of community service that will continue to grow throughout the lives of our students.  Where this could lead is best demonstrated by a chance encounter we had last year on our Antipodeans trip to Borneo.  On our flight to Singapore, we met Bethany Holt, a past Girls Grammar student (2009) who participated in the Antipodeans trip to Tanzania in 2008.  Beth took some time out to come over and talk to the staff that she knew and also to talk to the girls about the importance of what they were about to do.  She explained that she is currently studying Medicine at The University of Queensland and was on her way to London.  However, on the way she was taking a side trip to East Timor where she was going to be volunteering in a health clinic for three weeks during her holidays.  She explained to the girls how her experience with Antipodeans in Tanzania had made her realise the importance of service and how important it was for her to give back in a meaningful way that could ultimately have a profound impact on the community and people she was working with.  It is this attitude towards continued service after they have left Girls Grammar that we hope the Antips trip can foster.


Beard, M. (n.d.). goodreads.com. Retrieved from goodreads.com website: http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5623775.Miriam_Beard

Richards, G. and Wilson, J. (2003). Today’s Youth Travellers: Tomorrow’s Global Nomads. New Horizons in Independent Youth and Student Travel. A Report for the International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC) and the Association of Tourism and Leisure Education (ATLAS). Retrieved from http://www.atlas-euro.org/pages/pdf/FINAL_Full_Report.pdf