Friday 29 May 2015

A Moving Statement

Symbolism, gravity, respect and sincerity were salient features of the Indigenous Reconciliation Assembly that was held in the Gartlan Centre on Tuesday 26 May, the day that has been reserved for the national commemoration of Sorry Day. The richness of culture and a prevailing spirituality footnoted the ceremony with a fusion of traditional and contemporary dance and music. This was complemented by a compelling rendition of the stolen generation, captured with dramatic emotion and intuitive depth by Joseph Althouse. A personal statement by Ali Crawshaw-Tomlins profiled the life of his grandmother – Nanna Daisy Ruddick, who former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam described as ‘Australia’s royalty’; a life that was debased by the historical circumstances of her contemporary world but one that was a triumph of resilience and integrity. More than a school assembly, this was a statement of regret and lament for the grave mistakes of the past and the need for a fully reconciled Australia into the future. I would encourage each and every family to watch the assembly via the College’s Vimeo channel. Sincere thanks are extended to Kaleb Taylor, Kerry Johnson, Malarndirri McCarthy and Rebecca Marren who coordinated proceedings, and most importantly, to our talented Indigenous boys who gave freely and generously of their culture to make this such a very special event.

Indigenous Reconciliation Assembly ceremony. Photos courtesy of Greg Skeed and Thomas Lunn.

Old scholar and current Prime Minister Tony Abbott (OR 75) made time at the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) annual report and luncheon to chat to two Riverview boys who represented the College with distinction in the public domain. Anthony Tracey (Year 12) and Maia Dowd (Year 11) joined other Aboriginal students from schools across the nation to profile the extraordinary success of recent initiatives to promote the cause of education and gainful employment provided by AIEF as well as other significant providers such as Yalari. In 2015 six Indigenous boys from the graduation class at Riverview will take their place either at university or in the world of work through arrangements that are being put into place at the present time; ones that will produce life opportunities for these young men and for a country in need of reconciliation over the decades ahead.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott (OR75) chats to Riverview students at the AIEF compendium. Photo courtesy of Nikki Easterbrook.

The O’Kelly Theatre throbbed last week with the Year 9 Co-curricular Drama, presenting a fine rendition of the classic script Sherlock Holmes. Combining mystery, action, danger and not a little comedy, Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective story came to life in a complex weave of plot and characterisation. What was particularly instructive was the way the boys embraced their roles with passion and maturity, giving the play its own impact and presence across four nights of performance. Twists and turns so synonymous with the theme and intrigue of detective mystery, wove a memorable chemistry to produce some wonderful theatre both for the boys and for the audience. Many thanks are extended to Ms Cassy Cochrane and Ms Natalie Baines as Director and Assistant Director, respectively, and to the team of staff and students who have worked assiduously to produce such a quality product.

State of the art technology combined with the traditional discipline of debating to produce a new frontier in real time interaction through a virtual
at the College during Week 5. Using a Polycom video conferencing unit, St Ignatius’ College and Canberra Grammar School participated in a digitally transmitted contest of the proposition ‘That All Schools Should Be Required To Be Co-educational’. To add to the virtual experience for both the debaters and the audience, the coordinator of the debate, Mr Ian Quartermain was located in Queensland, and the adjudicator, Mr James Stratton, undertook his duties from Sydney University. The Riverview boys in Year 7 and 8 argued very capably to win the debate, capitalising on concurrent participation from students and officials in four different parts of the country. Extrapolating on this experience, there is every opportunity for a virtual debate between schools in different countries of the world, the only logistical limitation being the synchronisation of time zones! The impact of technology continues to produce new opportunities and frontiers with the increasing porosity of education across the globe.

Year 7 students participate in the virtual debate. Photo courtesy of Ian Fairhurst.

Another of the many extension activities transpired last week through a forum conducted by Academy Conferences for Gifted and Talented students from 20 schools across Sydney involving over 250 students. Facilitated by an academic from the United Kingdom who lectures at Kings College and Oxford University, the topics included the place of science in civilised societies, ethics and the loss of individuality in the contemporary world, as well as lateral and problem solving questions that are posed during interviews for entry to Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The day was a resounding success, offering deep learning for the students who moved out of their daily epistemologies to tackle more probing and tangential issues that crossed traditional disciplines and fields.

Ramsay Hall was a hive of activity on Friday evening with the P&F Wine Auction, celebrating both the cause and effect of community. A major fund-raiser for the year, preliminary indications suggest that it was a financial bonanza, with approximately $70,000 being raised in a few short hours, but equally important, the very strong sense of community that was generated on the night. And, the funds that are the object of pursuit in 2015 lie at the heartland of Ignatian spirituality: two bursaries for boys who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend Riverview, and, some funds set aside to assist parents who need counselling for all manner of reasons – for parenting support through to bereavement and loss. Many thanks are extended to Denise Wilson, the organising committee and those who came to support a night of fun, entertainment and not a little by-play in the gamesmanship of public auction.

Year 10 Examinations began on Wednesday in the Ramsay Hall, signalling the arrival of the latter stages of the semester. The count down is truly on, with just 14 teaching days remaining until the term concludes. In this context, the boys across all year levels are asked to review their study and revision programs in order to approach this time with discernment, system, purpose and commitment.

On a final note, congratulations goes to Angus Clarebrough of Year 10, who was awarded the Local Area Commander’s Commendation for his assistance in the rescue of a 71 year old man who fell into the water at Manly in January this year. Angus was recognised for his selfless act at a special awards ceremony held on Tuesday 26 May which was attended by Premier Mike Baird.

Best wishes for the week ahead,


Dr Paul Hine