Elite Anglican school Kambala hits back after complaints about gay teachers

Kambala hits back over gay teachers

August 2016: Exclusive Sydney Anglican girls school Kambala issues a firmly worded response after some parents complained that the hiring of gay teachers was not "living up to our Christian values".

The school council at the exclusive Sydney Anglican girls' school Kambala has been applauded for publicly admonishing the views of two sets of parents who had complained that the employment of gay teachers was not "living up to our Christian values".

In a firmly worded letter sent out to parents on Wednesday, school council president and prominent businesswoman Sally Herman made it clear that Kambala would not discriminate, either positively or negatively, when hiring staff at the Rose Bay institution.

It is 2016. I think the response it not surprising.

Sally Herman

That policy extended to the sexual orientation of staff members.

Sally Herman said Kambala would not discriminate when hiring teachers.
Sally Herman said Kambala would not discriminate when hiring teachers. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Ms Herman – a Kambala Old Girl, who has worked in the financial services industry and also sits on the boards of Premier Investments, Suncorp and Breville – has been praised by some Kambala parents, community members and prominent marriage equality advocate Kerryn Phelps for her strong stance.

"It is 2016. I think the response is not surprising," Ms Herman told Fairfax Media on Friday, of the support she had received after writing the letter. 

"It was a message of support for our teachers and our girls, and to reinforce what people know Kambala stands for."

In her letter to parents, Ms Herman wrote: "There is little to be gained by me choosing words that cushion the message, so I will be straightforward.

"In recent days, two families have stridently expressed their displeasure at Kambala for, in their opinion, not living up to our Christian values by hiring and retaining teachers who are gay.

"At the core of their displeasure is a concern that their daughters may be exposed to messages or values that they do not personally agree with."

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She continued that all staff were selected on merit, empathy and their commitment to supporting the Christian ethos of the school.

"We are a school community whose composition reflects the diversity of the broader community that we serve," she wrote.

"Families and girls from many faiths, ethnicities, sexual orientations and political convictions proudly call Kambala, 'my school'. We exist together as a community that wants to be defined more by how we care for each other than how we might discriminate."

The letter includes a quote from 1 Corinthians 13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Ms Herman wrote: "At Kambala, love isn't an optional extra."

She also said each teacher committed to not proselytising students, whatever their views might be.

One parent wrote online that she was shocked to have received the letter from Ms Herman.

"A teacher should only be judged on their work performance. Anything else is irrelevant," the woman wrote. 

"How disappointing that parents would complain about a person's sexual orientation. They don't speak for me. Well done Sally Herman."

Another person said Ms Herman's message "should be the gold standard for all schools in Australia, but it's not".

"I hope your students are witnessing this stoush in order to see your leadership," one person said, while another commented: "I am looking forward to the day when we don't have to have the conversation about someone's sexual preference. It's no one else's business."

Dr Phelps, the former president of the Australian Medical Association, said she applauded Ms Herman's decisive response to the "small number of parents who were trying to purge the school of gay teachers".

"She provides an impressive example of the style of leadership needed by schools and workplaces everywhere ... making it clear that attempts to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, ethnicity, gender, faith, or political convictions are not a part of their ethos. Well done Kambala and Sally Herman. Great role modelling for the girls at your school," Dr Phelps said.

Kambala principal Debra Kelliher declined to comment further, saying the letter "says it all".