Friday 23 April 2021

A Portent?

The term has begun in emphatic style with two major community functions during the first week, both of which speak to the potential for the full conduct of the educational program over the next 9 weeks. On Monday evening the new parents of the boarding community gathered for dinner in Ramsay Hall, as their counterparts have done for decades. However, this same function for the first time in a generation did not proceed in 2020 due to the intense restrictions associated with COVID, so it was wonderful to host the new families from near and far. This was just the second community function that the College has hosted in over 12 months so it was a joy to engage in conversation and connection and share in that great gift of Ignatian spirituality. In the case of one family with two boys, the opportunity to begin the year at Riverview was denied because of the restrictions on interstate travel back in January, but these boys have now taken up their positions in the school. Furthermore, one of our young men who has been trying to return to Australia from London for over 12 months and who has been ‘bumped’ from three flights, arrived back in Australia last weekend to resume studies over the coming days. Some new beginnings, along with the resumption of traditional functions and activities, clearly signpost the way ahead.

A second function involving over 300 new parents of day boys was held on Thursday evening, the majority of whom are enrolled in Year 5 and Year 7. This gathering also included families from 2020 who missed the equivalent function due to the shadow of COVID. A vibrant energy pervaded the evening as families came together to build their own sense of community, one that will consolidate and strengthen over the many years ahead. It was not without notice that some of the new dads were Old Boys from times past, as the next generation make their way into the College to write a new chapter into the unfolding history of this remarkable school. There is a deep sense of encouragement as we approach the coming weeks: a portent for what is hoped to be a widened opportunity for all to participate in College life to its pre-COVID counterpart.

For the boys in Year 6, the educational program moved to Canberra during the week as the young men participated in a variety of activities and experiences associated with the national capital. Among other things, there were the mandatory visits to Parliament House, Questacon, the War Memorial and the National Gallery, along with the many incidental learning experiences that are part of this perennial visit. That inter-regional and interstate travel is back on the agenda is indeed a harbinger for the future, one that is anticipated to roll out further with the vaccination program and diminished incidence of community infection.

On Wednesday evening, Maree Crabbe, Director of the Australian violence prevention project ‘It’s Time We Talked’, addressed the issue of pornography and respectful decision making in a well-attended function in Ramsay Hall. While the issue of unfettered access to pornography, particularly for young people, is something which is unique to the current generation, the wider social consequences of it is not fully known. The concern that has been raised in recent times about misrepresentations of sex through pornography and its implications for consent in adolescents, is one that needs further investigation and much wider discussion. To that end, further consultations are being conducted with representative groups of students at different age levels over the coming weeks, and these will be augmented by other forums as we progress this matter in the future. I would encourage parents who were unable to attend the function to absorb the contents of this challenging but important area of concern on the video of the presentation available on InsideView.

The preliminaries associated with the winter co-curricular program go ahead in earnest tomorrow, with hundreds of boys pulling on the blue and white for the first time. There will no doubt be moments of anticipation and apprehension, as some young men move into activities that are entirely new and forge new friendships that will remain with them for many years ahead. Much preparation has been entered into across the break in order to ensure the smooth conduct of a very expansive program. My thanks are extended to all who give so generously to the sporting and cultural life of the College – staff, parents, Old Boys and, of course, the boys themselves.

Term 2 has its own internal character and intensity. It is shorter than the other three terms and it culminates by completing a full semester of learning. Over the coming weeks there will be a significant increase in momentum as assignments and assessments come to the forefront. It is a term to be particularly mindful of going into, in order to avoid the bottleneck of activities that cascade in towards the end. That accepted, we look forward to the fullness of the educational program and the opportunities that will be provided for all in the school community.

Dr Paul Hine