Friday 10 March 2017

Building Community

One of the five domains of the Strategic Directions 2015-2020 document that was developed two years ago focuses on the strength of community; one which has reciprocal interest and involvement in the educational program from the immediate and extended community of the College. The events of the past week have highlighted how rich and integrated that human fabric is and the common vision that exists in relation to key priorities and futures.

Last Friday key representatives of the Parents and Friends (P&F), the Old Ignatians Union (OIU), the Past Parents Association (PPA) and the Single Parents Support Network (SPSN) met as a group to discuss the School Goals for 2017 and how they can collectively respond to them. Over recent years, the College has worked to build a common sense of purpose by ensuring that the constituent members of the College community come together to support each other and to work collaboratively to achieve the individual and collective goals of each body. In the case of the P&F, a concerted effort is being made to broaden parent involvement and to support the bursary program through funds which are raised throughout the year. The OIU are dedicating many of their resources to the Banksia Project, which supports counselling services for Old Boys who are dealing with mental health issues, while the PPA are aiming to strengthen the connection between more recent and long standing members of their association. And, it is heartening to have the involvement of SPSN under the direction of Rosie Traill, who has built this from small foundations into a much more inclusive and robust group of committed parents who support each other and organise social gatherings.

Despite the rain last Friday evening, the Regis Parent Evening was a resounding success. Capitalising on the energy of so many new parents into the College, particularly in Year 5, the evening was a mixture of information pertinent to the Regis campus and the educational program, as well as the chance to mingle and develop new networks of parents who will tread a collective path over the next eight years. The energy, sense of anticipation and eagerness of parents who have picked up the threads of a very busy year was palpable. And, what a portent this is for the future as the boys in Year 5 and Year 6 will form the graduation classes of 2023 and 2024 respectively. While it sounds such a long way off, it is worth speaking to the parents of the boys in the graduation class who marvel at how quickly the years have gone and who have relished the community to which they have belonged for such a lengthy period of time.

The Lane Cove River, unusually drenched with autumn rain throughout the day, was the vibrant scene of the Gold Cup on Saturday. Visitors from far and wide attended this event which first occurred at the College in 1883. It was trying conditions for the crews who have been managing intense training schedules for months but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the boys and girls from schools around the city who showed strength, resilience and skill on the water. And, in a very particular and unique way, many who have attended this event for the last half century came along to celebrate the pageantry, the fitness of the rowers, the spirit of competition and the camaraderie that comes with that deep sense of community, be that confraternities associated with rowing, the schools and universities who participate on the day, or local municipal authorities who have been part of this occasion for over a century.

The tapestry of the Year 7 community was woven more tightly during the week with the boys participating in their annual Camp at Narrabeen. It was an action packed program that contained a busy mixture of canoeing, raft building, rock climbing, abseiling and beach games, all of which were undertaken in a team environment. Beyond the activities, the boys were asked to build relationships and to reflect on their transition to secondary school over the early part of the term. They were also asked to consider the goals that they have for the year and how they could best embrace the many opportunities afforded by the educational program at the College into the future. The boys need to be commended on the manner in which they approached each and every activity, with special thanks being extended to the staff who accompanied them over the three days.

An event which draws upon the immediate and extended community – including girls’ schools in Sydney, is The Wiz, which thundered into the Ramsay Theatre during the week, and, what a truly superb production it is. An extravaganza of music, dance, theatre, lighting, sets, special effects, direction, production and stagecraft came together after months of preparation and the quality of the outcome was a true vindication of the efforts of so many since the latter part of 2016. Over recent months the rehearsal schedules have been intense, with staff and students committing inordinate time to make sure that all would be in readiness for the season. Just one of the many emails received from the audience captured it all: WOW WOW WOW WOW!!! Hats off to you and your amazing team.

To those who have yet to see this exceptional production I urge you to come along to the final two performances which will be held tonight and tomorrow night. And for those with children, this is fantasyland Riverview style and something not to be missed. Congratulations to all who are involved for their discipline, perseverance, talent and dedication to the cause of excellence, which has treated audiences to such a memorable theatrical experience.

That we are fortunate to have such an expansive an integrated community is abundantly clear. But, we need to be reminded of an old maxim: Vigilance is the price of excellence and complacency the greatest threat to it. We aspire towards a robust, committed, connected and supportive community and work assiduously towards it. It is not taken for granted nor treated with complacency. As the term intensifies over the coming weeks let us, in the best Ignatian sense of the term, be grateful for what we have, and let us work unambiguously towards a community where all feel welcome in a spirit of mutual support and endeavour.

Dr Paul Hine