THE show was almost stolen by the student concert band’s edgy rendition of Adele’s hit Rolling in the Deep, but at Chinchilla State High School’s annual leadership induction ceremony, it was the girls who truly shone.

For the first time in its 58-year history, CSHS has appointed an all-female team of school captains, straying away from the traditional composition of two boys and two girls. 

Naturally, there’s been “backlash” since the leadership group was announced late last year.

Accusations have been made that the girls’ election was a ‘woke’ statement by a school overcompensating for gender inequality, trying to appeal to the PC brigade.

But CSHS Principal Ian Insley insists the truth is quite the opposite. He said he was adamant the Year-12 girls were elected “entirely on merit”.

That’s how it always should be. The school body spoke and that’s who they wanted put forward.

CSHS vice captain Hayley Underwood

“It was a really rigorous election process,” Mr Insley said.

“If you want to be a leader of our school you need to apply, you need to have references, you need to sit an interview and go through an election process where our students and staff vote.

“They also have to get up in front of their peers and talk about why they’d be the best person for the job.

“These girls are a testament to our school and to our town. They got the job entirely on merit.”

CSHS captains Bridie Benecke, Chloe Ellem, Jemina Lithgow and Hayley Underwood

The delightful young group – Jemima Lithgow, Chloe Ellem, Bridie Benecke and Hayley Underwood – would’t have it any other way. 

Chloe said there’d been plenty of cynics, especially given there was virtually an equal number of male and female students in the class of 2021.

But she said the fact she and her friends were elected because of their leadership talent, rather than gender, made them proud.

It’s not just good marks, it’s who we are as people and the ideas we have.

CSHS captain Chloe Ellem

“There was heaps of backlash,” she said. “People were saying ‘imagine if it was all boys. Imagine the riot that would cause’, but we’re like – not really.

“There’s a really good system that goes into electing the school captains. It’s not just good marks, it’s who we are as people and the ideas we have.”

Hayley added: “And that’s how it always should be. The school body spoke and that’s who they wanted put forward.”

“It’s changed for the better. I think in the future people will be coming into the vote with a completely different mindset, because of the way we’ve been elected.”

CSHS class of 2020 graduate Lachlan Reis received his award at the leadership ceremony based entirely on merit as well.

Last year, Lachlan topped his class in the inaugural Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) examinations and was awarded the school’s prestigious Gallipoli Student Dux Award, sponsored annually by the local RSL.

“It’s exciting, especially after a tough year with all the Covid interruptions, to be recognised,” Lachlan said.

Lachlan is already running his own drone business locally and has established an additional web business. Long term, he said he aspired to join the Australian Defence Force.

CSHS Dux Award recipient for 2020, Lachlan Reis, with his former headmaster Ian Insley
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