Go Girls Go: retailer supports school to shape future female leaders

Harvey Norman has returned to its south-western Sydney roots, sponsoring a leadership academy at Auburn Girls High. Pascal Adolphe reports.

Three students with two women posing for a photo. Three students with two women posing for a photo.
Image: Auburn Girls High School leaders with principal Anna Tsoutsa and Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page.

An education partnership funded by one of Australia’s largest retailers will support a new leadership academy for young women at Auburn Girls High School.

Harvey Norman, the retail chain founded in Auburn in 1982 that has since expanded internationally to eight countries, has donated $7.9 million to Western Sydney University to establish the leadership academy over the next 10 years.

The university will deliver learning, development, and mentorship opportunities for students at Auburn Girls High through the program, while engaging parents and community, and funding research to analyse its impact.

Speaking at the academy launch earlier this month, NSW Department of Education Secretary, Murat Dizdar, reflected on his family’s connection to the Auburn area as he thanked the “powerhouses of south-western Sydney”, Western Sydney University and Harvey Norman, for supporting the program.

“They are the living fabric and belief of south-western Sydney and to have people like that backing this community and say, ‘we want to get behind the school. We want to do it in a sustained way’, I think is such a powerful fillip,” Mr Dizdar said.

“My family first resided in Auburn when they came as migrants. I always feel like I am coming home.

“I’ve worked with people who don’t know this part of the state and it’s to their shame. That’s why I’m proud that these girls, our girls, are going to go far and wide. Imagine having the next premier come out of this school and lead all walks of life”.

Mr Dizdar said the academy would provide students with that “little nudge” that “can make so much of a difference to their career trajectory for not only that young girl but that entire family.

“What I know about education is that postcodes should never be an inhibitor. Background should never be a ceiling or an inhibitor to progress and it should never be a charity ticket or a pity ticket,” Mr Dizdar said.

“These are outstanding young girls at this school that I know who are driven. Their teachers see it.”

Harvey Norman CEO, Katie Page, said she was unashamedly proud of her company’s contribution to help more than 100 young women and girls achieve their career ambitions.

The company has supported the scholarship program with Western Sydney University since 2015, which has now expanded to schools.

“I’m proudly for women and girls, that’s my thing. Nothing against men, they get a lot,” Ms Page said.

“The (existing) scholarship recipients will become the mentors of those girls. So, 100 becomes 200 becomes 300 and 400.

“This is life changing for these young ones and I can’t think of anything better.”

Auburn Girls High Principal, Anna Tsoutsa, said the Harvey Norman Women’s Leadership Academy would enhance and complement the existing culture of the school.

“It will further support our students as empowered young women leading active and productive lives, who are leaders within the school and future leaders of our society,” Ms Tsoutsa said.

“(It includes) workshops for students, teacher professional development, engagement with families and the wider community, along with financial assistance for students’ education in the form of learning grants and scholarships.

“We look forward to seeing this program grow and develop. Most importantly, we look forward to seeing the young women of Auburn Girls High continue to learn, lead, succeed and thrive.”

School captain, Sarah Chaudhary, said she was excited about the opportunities the academy would offer.

“It provides equity for all the students who might be underprivileged and students who might not have the same resources as a lot of other people,” she said.

“I feel like it will really push everyone to achieve the best they can.”

Year 12 prefect, Adeena Khan, said the academy would make it easier for students to transition to tertiary education pathways.

“It will provide us with that information during year 12,” she said.

“I think that’s really important. Giving us awareness of what’s available to us.”

A seated man holding a microphone speaking in front of other seated people. A seated man holding a microphone speaking in front of other seated people.
Image: NSW Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar speaking at the launch of the new leadership academy at Auburn Girls High.
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