Australian High Commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu, returns to Nagle College

WHERE IT BEGAN: Nagle College 2018 vice captain Marina Santanelli and captain Derica Elogious with Australia's High Commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu, a college alumnus. The statue depicts Irish Catholic education pioneer Nano Nagle. Picture: Harrison Vesey
WHERE IT BEGAN: Nagle College 2018 vice captain Marina Santanelli and captain Derica Elogious with Australia's High Commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu, a college alumnus. The statue depicts Irish Catholic education pioneer Nano Nagle. Picture: Harrison Vesey

From Blacktown to New Delhi, one of Australia’s highest diplomats has returned to the school that set her on the path to success.

Harinder Sidhu, the High Commissioner to India, visited Nagle College on Wednesday morning to inspire Blacktown’s next generation of young women.

A proud Australian and Punjabi woman, Ms Sidhu said the Catholic school was the first place she felt settled in Australia.

“If someone had said to that young girl in Blacktown in 1977, ‘you’re going to be a diplomat and you’re going to represent Australia’, I would have absolutely laughed my head off,” she told the assembly.

“A lot of people talk about the glass ceiling, and it does exist, but sometimes the ceiling you put on yourself is the one you have to struggle with.”

It was the first time Ms Sidhu had visited the college since graduating in 1979. At the time she was one of three Indian girls among 200 students mostly of English, Italian and Maltese heritage.

The diplomat encouraged the 800 young women to believe in themselves and not put a lid on their ambition, before taking questions from the audience.

After the assembly she was accompanied on a tour of the school by Class of 2018 leaders Derica Elogious and Marina Santanelli.

Ms Sidhu spent time encouraging the young leaders, and telling them more about her journey from Blacktown to leading a team of 300 at the Australian High Commission in India.

“It was really enlightening to see someone from our area, from our school, growing up the way that we did, can go and achieve so much,” Derica said.

“I’m sure back in the ‘70s it would have been harder for her, so to see her go through all these avenues and remain resilient is really inspiring.”

“I guess we’re in the same position, we’re students at Nagle College in Blacktown and we both like studying, we like school,” Marina said.

“It’s inspiring to see you can really make it if you work hard and it’s something that you want. It can happen to us.”

Derica said the visit from Ms Sidhu had given her extra motivation as she starts year 12 and strives to study law.

The diplomat encouraged them to hold onto their foundation and the values taught at Nagle College.

“The five values of welcome, courage, action, learning and faith really just summarise what we stand for,” Derica said.

“Even though we’re women, we’re diverse, we’re young, we have so much talent and ability to really spread our wings and show what we’re capable of. To be a woman of action, of faith, of courage to just step up and do what we believe in.”

Marina added: “Our school motto, ‘In deed not word’, means we don’t just say we’re going to do it, we act. So plan what you want to do, understand the issues in the world, and take it upon yourself to fix things in the world that aren’t right.”

Ms Sidhu will also visit Blacktown Council today as part of a three-day stint in Sydney.