Meet the Principals making a difference within their community this International Women’s Day


​Principal Bec O’Connor, Principal, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Gayndah with some of her students.​​

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating the women leading our regional and rural schools across South East Queensland, and their unique journeys to school senior leadership.  

Bec O’Connor held two leadership roles at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Gayndah over two years before starting as Principal in 2020.  


Why did you seek the role of Principal at your Gayndah school?  


Rural schools have a strong sense of community. I like to think we are making a difference to not only the school community, but to the Gayndah community.  
I love being part of this school community and town.  
I, myself am a product of 12 years of Catholic education within Brisbane Catholic Education.  
I had the best years throughout primary and secondary school, and always had a strong sense of belonging.  
A part of me wanted to give back to a system that had given me so much as a child and teenager.  
There is a real sense of belonging in Gayndah. I wanted to lead this community because I was incredibly passionate to do it.  
 I never really sought out principalship, instead it found me and I am blessed to be where I am today, leading the St Joseph's, Gayndah community.  
I wanted to continue to interact with students in the classroom but also to ensure I make the right decisions to create a positive and high-quality learning environment for all students and staff.  
Being present and building relationships with the students and staff at St Joseph's is a crucial part of my role as a Principal and an aspect of the role that I thoroughly enjoy.  


Were there barriers for you, as a woman, into school leadership and if so, how did you overcome them? 

I think a big barrier for women in leadership is that we tend to overthink, and we can often be our biggest critics. Can we do the job? Maybe there is someone better?  
Sometimes that little voice gets the better of us and we don't see our own potential and often doubt ourselves.  
I am blessed to be surrounded by strong women...and men, both professionally and personally in my life who have always been my biggest supporters. You also have to have the self-belief and confidence to get the job done. Positive talk goes along way.  


How is leading a school in a regional/rural area so fulfilling? 

It has been some of the most rewarding work of my career. There is a real sense of belonging and hospitality.  
Like most teachers, I began my teaching career because I love children and I wanted to showcase them to the joys of learning.  
After three years of being a principal, I am happy to say that the little people are still the most rewarding part of my job. As much as I enjoy working with the professionals on our staff who are passionate about and committed to our students, it's the students themselves who are the highlight of my day and work.  


What would you say to someone considering the opportunity of relocating to come and work at your school and region? 


Do it! You won't regret it! This is now my seventh year out west and I love it! I have met some amazing people (both big and small) working in this region.  
Parents in rural and remote locations are passionate about their children’s education and value passionate teachers and leaders who care about their children’s success.  
Your commitment will be rewarded by being warmly welcomed into their community and introduced to the many positive aspects of rural living.  
As I said, the sense of belonging, welcome and hospitality is unlike anything I have experienced before. Our community tends to be closely knit with expectations for participation in traditional our Orange Festival or cheering on the local footy team in the Grand Final.  
The schools in town are the glue that holds our communities together (along with health care and basic services such as the IGA, petrol stations, and pubs). This develops a strong sense of giving back to the local community to ensure a legacy of caring and commitment to future generations. 
How can/does your school help create a more equitable, inclusive future? 


Equity means that everyone gets access to what they need. This at times can be challenging in a rural school. Sometimes this is about ensuring access to services for our students (for example Speech Pathologist or Occupational Therapists) but also ensuring our students in rural schools have access to the same opportunities and experiences as our metropolitan counterparts. 

We are always keeping this at the forefront of our curriculum planning. It is also about being culturally responsive to our teaching to ensure all students get access to what they need. 

Caption Dierdre Young, Principal, McAuley College Beaudesert..jpg

Deidre Young, Principal, McAuley College Beaudesert.​

 Deidre Young is the foundation Principal of McAuley College, starting at the school in 2016.  

Why did you seek the role of Principal of your school in Beaudesert?  
Having previously worked in a school that just celebrated its 150th year, I was drawn to the challenge of building a new school and community, shaping a culture and story that I played some part in creating. What an amazing privilege. 


Were there barriers for you, as a woman, into school leadership and if so, how did you overcome them? 
When I accepted the role of Principal at McAuley College, I was returning from maternity leave. I was lucky to have my daughter later in life, but I believe many would question my capacity to do both roles and do them well. I sometimes have doubts. But I believe that both roles have made me and given me qualities that have held me in good stead to achieve well in the other. Being a mum has given me perspective and helps to keep my feet firmly on the ground.  


Were you led to leadership, or mentored by a peer or BCE to seek your role? 


I think innately I have always had a tendency to lead. I have been the captain of many a sporting team in my younger years, and always keen to add a level of organisation or vision to something that will ensure a more successful outcome for all involved. It was a natural progression, and whilst I did fight it, not ever wanting to come out of the classroom, it was only natural that eventually the joy of teaching was more and more difficult to balance in a Senior Leadership role. I have always loved the privilege that comes from working in leadership, setting others up to build their capacity to be successful in their endeavours.  


How is leading a school in a regional/rural area so fulfilling? 


There is such a joy that comes from leading a school in a region setting. The capacity to connect with; and be an integral part of the community is the lived experience. There is incredible trust, openness and authenticity that is just a blessing. I have loved being a part of Beaudesert and the Scenic Rim. What a beautiful part of the world, and my family and I have been blessed to be welcomed. 


What role does your unique community play in the success of your school and the education of the children attending? 


My role is to build the capacity of my teachers so in their work they can build opportunity for our young people. Having just celebrated the graduation of our inaugural Year 12 students, I am immensely proud of the pathways we have provided for each and every student to achieve their best and be well set for the next phase of their journey.  


What do you see are the benefits of working in a rural/regional BCE school? 


Community, acceptance, pride! There is an amazing sense of achievement around the milestones, acknowledging the hard work and contribution of everyone to achieve the vision. There is a greater sense of everyone playing a part and incredible ownership of the journey.  


How can/does your school help create a more equitable, inclusive future? 


Through our work, we ensure equity for all. This is across all aspects of College life. We have role models in place for everyone to relate to and include Student Voice to ensure our students can contribute. We celebrate important days like International Women's Day, Harmony Day and so on, to highlight the call for us to reflect on our words and actions that have impact and realise change. We invest in building young people in the likeness of Jesus and Catherine McAuley, so they can embrace qualities that guide them in their work transforming and being Change Agents for the generations to come.  ​

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