Friday 1 February 2019

Another Year Beckons

Father Dalton with the first staff and students of the College in 1880

As we embark on the 140th year of the College’s very proud and distinguished history, it is worth remembering that the first 12 students, all boarders, arrived in February 1880 to take up enrolment with 14 more joining them by the end of the year to complete the first class of 26 boys. On Wednesday 248 new boys joined the College, 59 of them boarders from country New South Wales, from the different states and territories across Australia and some from distant countries of the world. They may experience some weeks of apprehension and uncertainty, but as the forces of history show, within a very short space of time they will be enculturated into the Jesuit ‘way of proceeding’. By its very nature, that embraces a distinctive spirituality and a dynamism that was part of the first Jesuit school in Messina in southern Italy in 1548, and remains the emblem of the works of the Society of Jesus throughout the world. All who walk through the gate commit to that story, one that will be lived out in manifold ways as the weeks, the months and the years ahead unfold. To all who join the community I extend a statement of warm welcome and to the many who return, best wishes are extended for all that lies ahead.

We can be very proud of the graduates of 2018 and the results profile which captures their achievement. For the third year in succession, the Dux of the College achieved a perfect Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) score of 99.95. Congratulations are extended for this outstanding achievement to Mitchell Hope, who narrowly eclipsed the Proxime Accessit, Richard Rutherford, on 99.90. The smallest of fractions separated third in the year level, Sean Gong on 99.85. These are truly exceptional performances from talented boys who committed fully to the educational program, as did so many who secured scores that took them into the very top percentiles of the state and, by implication, the nation. Some particularly notable achievements, including the All-Rounder Awards and places in the state, are captured in the Teaching and Learning section of the Viewpoint. While the previous two years registered the highest results in Riverview’s illustrious history, it could not be repeated for the third year in succession, but, a close analysis of the cohort and subject profiles indicated that these young men did themselves, their families and their school proud. On behalf of the College community, I extend my warmest congratulations and I look forward to sharing a special day of acknowledgement next week when the graduates return to participate in the Laureate Assembly.

Over the summer, there were many events and activities that resonated strongly with the cause of social justice and global citizenship. Prior to Christmas, two immersions headed off to Cambodia, where the boys spent the better part of three weeks working in orphanages and schools with some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged in South East Asia. Such experiences entail a heady mixture of confrontation, humility and appreciation as the boys see the human spirit tested under the compress of poverty, disease, disability and destitution. At the same time, the Ignatian Children’s Camp was conducted at the College, with graduates from St Ignatius, Monte St Angelo and Loreto providing respite care to severely disabled children. These too are experiences that challenge the very essence of one’s being, as young people surrender themselves to the other and work selflessly to attend to the acute physical and psycho-social needs associated with disability. It was instructive and at times inspiring to see our young graduates, in the words of St Ignatius, ‘give without counting the cost’, and to see the appreciable difference that it made to the welfare and well-being of children entrusted to their care.

While many headed to the beaches and holidays in the aftermath of Christmas, three other groups of students headed off to engage in the faith in service program; one to India and the other two groups to Nepal in the Himalayas. While very different contexts, cultures and geographies were encountered, the boys found themselves well-removed from their comfort zones and deeply immersed in the consuming intensity of the daily lives of others. The harsh reality of life in Nepal for example, revealed that children in the mountains and the villages can be denied an education if they are not able to bring in the equivalent of a few US dollars per month to support the family income. They cannot entertain the luxury of school if the families to which they belong do not have regular incomes. We know that there are 600 million people in the world – a significant number of which are children, without adequate drinking water who are susceptible to disease and infection. As of 2018, nearly one billion people as identified by the World Bank earn less than $2 per day, placing them on the extreme poverty line. Countries like India contain obscene contrasts of extravagant wealth and abject poverty while Nepal is still rebuilding roads, homes and schools in the aftermath of the earthquake. For our young men, this is an education of the richest and most profound kind, and, those who participate experience life-long lessons courtesy of the classroom of the world.

Over the coming week there is much to look forward to and much to navigate. The cycle of House Masses begins with Xavier House the first of the year while preparations are made for the first week of the co-curricular sporting program over the coming weekend. In the senior school, the graduates of 2018 return to be lauded at the Laureate Assembly, a special recognition of the boys who secure Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores in the top 10% of the state.

There is much to keep abreast of as a new school year gains momentum, but in the best of the Ignatian spirit, we give thanks for the many blessings that life endows and for the gift of education that is available to our young men.

Dr Paul Hine