Friday 5 April 2019

A Community That ‘Lifts Up’

All in the College are aware that the Enrolment Cycle for 2021 is well underway. During the week, over 200 interviews were conducted, with each and every family being asked the question: Why are they choosing Saint Ignatius’ as the preferred school for their children’s education? One of the most unique answers I have received over the last seven years was from an Old Boy who, reflecting on his own experience as a graduate of 1997, proffered that “the community lifted him up” all those years ago, and that was what he wanted for his son. When questioned further, he went on to explain that he was exposed to a variety of influences that changed his life and made him what he is today. That included the invitation to explore his faith, something which had become a very rich and important influence in his adult life. It included the impulse for service and social justice, so much so that he has joined a number of OIU programs rendering service inside and outside of the College. It included pursuit of a wider range of co-curricular activities, particularly in the Performing Arts, which has provided a very special and enduring appreciation of the arts. And, it specifically lifted him up in academic aspiration and performance, above and beyond any of the assumptions that he held when he arrived at the College to undertake his secondary schooling in the early 1990s. This phrase has given me cause for reflection and discernment as we consider today the degree to which the boys ‘lift each other up’ – either implicitly or explicitly. It is one of the great mantras of Jesuit education to become a man for others, and as we approach the latter stages of the term, it is worth reflecting on the degree to which this impulse is animated on a daily basis. It is my hope, that in the lived reality of the boys, they are mindful of the reciprocal obligation to lift each other, in a way that enables the unique talents of each young man to be explored and find expression in the College.

Last Friday I had the fortune to accompany our First Nations boys on a mission to the city. The purpose was to purchase a ‘yidaki’; the instrument more commonly referred to as the didgeridoo, that has gifted Indigenous music to the world. Its tones are hauntingly beautiful as it embraces 40,000 years of human history, as it captures the richness of a people and a culture of distinctive and autochthonous essence, while reminding us of a very fractured and regrettable history of dispossession and violence. The latter should never be denied. The yidaki is a totem of the Indigenous world that draws upon the depth of the human experience and provides a window into the past and in its own way – hope for the future. That future relates to a vision where all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have equal access to, and a full share in the institutions and resources of the nation, particularly in the fields of health care, education and the justice system. We are a long way from that at the moment but it is something that we must advocate and strive for – assiduously. In one sense, the purchase of two yidakis for teaching and ceremonial use is a small thing; in another way it is a clarion call for change and public recognition of the need to promote First Nations culture at any opportunity. This instrument will be taught to First Nations boys and used at formal school events, and it will frontload in a demonstrable way, the commitment that the College has to inclusion and cultural diversity.

The Blue & White Café came to life during the week as the boys in the Special Inclusion Education Program (SEIP) treated customers to some fine fare. April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day, which aims to highlight the alarming growth of autism and the impact that it can have on families with children who are diagnosed as being on the spectrum. The SEIP Program holds a special place in the school community, with the young men undertaking a life skills program that prepares them for independent living beyond the years of school. It was wonderful to see the boys responding to the young children who visited from Mirrabrook, who came across to sample the delights of the Cafe. In their own distinctive way, these boys ‘lift us up’ as a community by enriching the diversity of the College and bringing their own gifts and talents to a variety of school programs and activities.

Congratulations are extended to the boys in the Swimming Program who competed so superbly at Homebush last Friday evening. The Senior Division was awarded another GPS shield, the Fourth in the last seven years to be the most dominant school in the competition over recent times. After a neck and neck struggle, the Intermediate Division was placed 3rd and the Junior Division well down the ranks. It is worth remembering that the Senior Team who were successful on the night were placed 7th when they competed as Juniors six year ago. The improvement has been dramatic and forms the basis of a fine win to cap off another competitive summer in the pool. Congratulations are extended to Mr Webb, the coaches and all of the Swimming Team on a demanding but very successful season.

Best wishes as we approach the final week of term.

Dr Paul Hine