Friday 6 February 2015

New, Old, and Transforming Experiences

Although only two weeks of the year have elapsed, the College has settled quickly into its embracing rhythms. The boys who were a little overwhelmed in the early days are finding their way around the grounds and the classrooms, exuding an appreciable familiarity with the structures and routines of College life. I am pleased to report that there is a clear focus on teaching and learning; that which drives the educational equation at Riverview. It is expected that this will continue to intensify over the coming weeks as class work and assessment regimes consolidate.

A particularly pleasing feature of the first weeks of the term is the way that the boys with special needs have settled into the life of the College. Seven new Aboriginal boys, four Special Education Inclusion Program students and three boys of refugee background have joined the school, bringing their own talents and life experiences with them. For these boys, many challenging adjustments are faced as they find their way into a busy and fast moving community and each and every one has made a commendable effort to respond to the many diverse elements of the educational program.

Each year at the College the student leaders draw on a theme to give shape and direction to the affairs of the school. 2014 saw the leaders, through a process of consultation and discernment, decide on Unlocking Our Legacy, which required a knowledge of that legacy and the means by which it would find contemporary expression. In the words of the East Timorese Poet Laureate, Xanana Gusmao: “Owning the past is an exercise in releasing a truth imprisoned by silence”. To own the past, to release the foundational story of Riverview’s illustrious beginning and development to the corpus of staff and students, and to contextualise and adapt its meaning, gave great richness and depth to affairs of 2014. The theme for 2015 is Find Your Voice. It too has been the object of considerable consultation and discernment: it calls upon the boys to go inward, to touch the integrity of their true selves and to make that manifest in the life of the College on a daily basis. The theme implies compulsion and compunction – a strong and directed mandate to discover and give of the self through contribution to community; through generosity of spirit, through pursuit of the magis, through scholarship and creative endeavour. Fr Ross reminded the boys at the school mass of the words of St Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”. In other words, actions speak loudest and have the most enduring impact so as our year unfolds, we look forward to each and every boy finding their inner voice and marshalling it for the greater good of all.

Last Sunday heralded the first Chapel Sunday for the boarding community; it represents a re-enactment of a tradition that spans 135 years at Riverview. Sixty four new boys were inducted into the culture of the mass and eucharist with some spirited singing and all of the ritual that accompanies these community celebrations. A number of parents, particularly those who had journeyed from overseas to see their boys take up their places as boarders at Riverview, attended also so it was a very special celebration that embraced families from across Australia and throughout the world.

Over the weekend the co-curricular program went into full swing. It was uplifting to see the boys on the Regis Campus so engaged in ‘try-outs’ for various sports, some for the very first time. It was also enjoyable to meet and chat with a number of parents, some who have had older boys through the College and a number who are entirely new to the school community. Across on the Senior Campus, the GPS season was in full swing with basketball, cricket and water polo, while the rowing was conducted at Hen and Chicken Bay. As always, there were some memorable wins and some disappointing losses: such is the essence of competition. However, more importantly, friendships were made and consolidated, team skills came into effect, positive encouragement and sportsmanship were part of day in which the diverse range of activities that are provided in the educational program were made manifest.

Staff and students who were involved in the immersion to Cambodia over the summer gathered for a Reflection Evening on Wednesday. Every boy who participated presented a short profile of their experience – what moved them, what was learned and what growth emerged as a result of spending three weeks alongside of those communities that have battled war, political instability and impoverishment in the aftermath of centuries of colonial rule. Particularly impressive was the maturity with which these young men processed the range of experiences, from digging wells and working in orphanages, to living and appreciating a vastly different culture and life style to that which have become accustomed to in Australia. That the boys were confronted by some of the experiences on the immersion was revealed in some of the video footage, which saw tarantula spiders crawling up arms and legs before being cooked in a pan and eaten! Not all were up to this gastronomic challenge but each and every young man can be very proud of the way that they embraced local culture and gave generously of their time and talents. Many thanks are extended to Mr Gus Masters and Ms Angela Pollicino who facilitated this life changing experience for those who were fortunate to attend.

Dr Paul Hine