Friday 18 May 2018

A Salient Reminder

Each week I have the pleasure of penning some words about the many rich and diverse activities that form the different prisms of school life. The key domains of the College’s Strategic Directions (2015-2020) often provide the inspiration, along with the many different components of the educational program that include spirituality and faith formation, teaching and learning, pastoral care, community and school resources and environment. One event happened out of the sight line during the week down in the recesses of the Rose Garden, where a sanctuary has been created in recognition of students who were abused during their time at the College. It was the installation of an artwork in the precinct that has been dedicated to the memory of those who suffered abuse while students of this College. It is a reminder that while Riverview is a place of joy and growth for so many who have walked through the gates over the years, for some it has been anything but. It has resulted in the betrayal of their youth and produced life-long repercussions as a result of falling victim to the predications of those whose intentions were self-seeking and pernicious. The College cannot hide from this; nor should it. A shadow hangs over a very sad and lamentable part of the College’s otherwise illustrious history and we need to be reminded of the pain and the suffering it has caused – a suffering that is ongoing.

Last week an Old Boy who was abused in the 1980s courageously addressed a representative forum of parents and Old Boys about his experiences. It was emotive and confronting, but, it was important to hear. On the same day, the artwork that had been under the creator’s hand arrived at the College and now sits prominently in its resting place, alongside the public apology that commemorates this regrettable chapter in the school’s history. The artwork is deeply symbolic, the creator describing it thus:

This sculpture acknowledges the abuse that has occurred at the school. The story is communicated through the simple motif of the force and resistance of water. Caught in these waves is the crashing of values, of power misused and innocence abused.

This is a story about resistance and survival in the face of despair, about the struggle to overcome bullying, persecution, violence and all forms of abuse. This is the story of the survivor who fights to rise above malevolence, anxiety and cruelty.

These are the waves of suffering, of those who put their love and trust in others and were cast into chaos; that we may embrace their pain to the centre of our community, just as each wave is connected to the greater movement of the sea. 

This is a story that ends in hope for peace, of calmer seas to allow the pain and suffering to be recognised, cleansed and healed. 

The waves stand as testament to the survivor’s cry, a cry not insubstantial but as big as the ocean, and one we are all responsible for hearing and bearing.

As a community who do care, we stand in solidarity with those who have been adversely affected by their experiences at the College. And, we offer a deep and sincere apology for the pain and suffering that they have endured.

NAPLAN tests taking place this week

NAPLAN has dominated the calendar during the week, not only in the College but across the nation. Students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 have undertaken testing in literacy and numeracy with a view to being measured in relation to national benchmarks. These can be moments of anxiety for our young folk as they become involved in the first of many standardised tests and assessments that are part of the national and international landscape of education. For the first time, the NAPLAN program at the College was delivered online, as it was in other selected schools that possess robust digital platforms that can accommodate the vast amounts of data that need to be transferred across the testing regime. I am pleased to report that the boys were generally positive about the digital experience and that the on-site testing was seamless, thanks to the work of Mr Brett Houghton and the IT Department. Results of the tests are timed to be released in September this year.

Last Friday, night some of the best orators in schools across the state gathered at Trinity Grammar to compete in the Lawrence Campbell Oration. Established in 1935 in honour of Lawrence Campbell – a famous teacher of elocution in various schools in Sydney, it is widely regarded as the most prestigious and difficult of the New South Wales Public Speaking competitions. Each candidate is required to give a speech of eight minutes on one of three topics given 15 minutes beforehand. The emphasis is on oratory, the art of speech, and so the manner of delivery counts equally with the subject matter. Saint Ignatius’ College was represented by Bas Braham, who was awarded second place amid the most competent and experienced speakers. This is a truly exceptional result and one that Bas and the school community should be very proud of, particularly as Bas is only in Year 11.

The intensity of Term 2 has settled into its own cadence since the resumption of classes. As Year 11 prepare for the final tests of the semester over the coming week, other year levels attend to their own assessment schedules and work commitments. The weekly calendar is augmented by the winter co-curricular program which has begun in earnest, with some wet and wintry days over the weekend that saw the boys relish the conditions. Rugby, Football and AFL are the main codes while many of the other less popular but no less important activities such as Volleyball, Mountain Bike Riding, Fencing and Tai Kwon-do add depth to a very wide ranging array of options. As the busyness of the coming weeks intensifies, let us be mindful of the many blessings that are endowed through the educational program, and let us not take them for granted.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine