There were a number of events during the week that acknowledged matters of both national and local significance.
NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The 2020 NAIDOC Week theme Always Was, Always Will Be recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years: “It shines a focus on the length of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander occupation of Australia. In our narratives Aboriginal people talk of continuous occupation of being here when time began: we are part of the Dreaming – past, present and future. Anthropologists and archaeologists have dated our sites to being hundreds of thousands years old, in fact recording some of these sites as being the oldest on this planet.”
The Riverview community is blessed to welcome and embrace the richness of culture and identity brought to us by our First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) students and their families. We remain steadfastly committed to redressing the inequalities associated with access and educational outcomes by supporting First Nations students to achieve to their highest potential. This is essential in recognising the dignity and respect for all in a Jesuit school that actively promotes “a faith that does justice”. Ably led by Kaleb Taylor, Riverview is also fortunate to have our First Nations program supported by dedicated Learning Enrichment staff, Cultural Support Tutors, Volunteer Academic Tutors and individual adult Mentors (drawn from Old Boys and current parents). First Nations students ground us in this ancient land and allow us to walk together into a more united, more just and more harmonious society.
That said, we still have a long way to go to fully recognise and embrace our First Nations’ story. I was personally disappointed during the week that the motion to fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags in the upper House of Parliament did not succeed. The Australian flag, which arguably represents all Australians, was first used in 1901 – well before Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were formally acknowledged in the constitution, well before land rights were determined in the High Court. It has been a struggle for recognition in all institutions in Australia and it remains one to be fully represented in the corridors of government. As NAIDOC Week draws to a close we must remain committed to a robust process of truth-telling about Australia’s history and colonisation, and continue to address the harm and suffering of our First Nations Australians.
The 11th of November is a day when the world stops to recognise those who have perished in war and to commit to peace moving forward. At the Remembrance Day Service held at the College on Wednesday, attendees wore red poppies as a sign of hope. Gus Masters’ words at the Assembly were poignant and significant:
Poppies grew amidst the carnage of the Western Front – they provided colour in the grey specked mud of the churned up farmlands and the rusty threats of the forbidding fortifications. Beneath the larks still bravely sang and flew, this bright sight providing a speck of nature’s warm colour, a small triumph over the machinery of destruction that mankind had wrought upon itself. It represented Hope for a regenerating world in a degenerate situation.
This is a message of hope, courage and conviction amid the unfettered destruction that consumed the world on two occasions during the last century. Lest we forget.
Of special significance to the College community during the week was the passing of Cornelius (Conn) O’Donovan, a long serving member of staff who died peacefully on Tuesday. Conn was a revered figure who, in the later years of his life became the Thinker in Residence. His profound intellect was influential over a generation in the Ignatian Centre where his deep faith found expression in myriad ways. We give thanks for Conn’s long and fruitful life and commend him to his God.
There were a number of school events of significance. Among others, they included:
- The conclusion to the HSC Examinations. It has been a demanding three weeks for the boys , their parents and for the staff who have supported them throughout.
- The Year 10 Reflection Morning, which saw the boys draw back from the intensive learning program and focus on matters spiritual and personal. In a fast moving world the importance of stillness and contemplation about faith and futures cannot be underestimated.
- The induction of students entering the Senior Campus in 2021 saw frenetic activity with testing, visits to House areas, induction programs and the like. The energy, anticipation and not a little apprehension were palpable.
- The AGM of the P&F, which was the first external meeting held on the school grounds since the onset of COVID! Ms Hera McCaffrey presented the College with a cheque for $108,000 to be forwarded to the Bursary Program. My deepest thanks are extended to the entire community for such generosity.
- The AGM of the OIU was held on Thursday evening. It profiled the outstanding work the Old Boys undertake, from the Mentoring Program with First Nations boys through to financial support for bursary boys in the post-schooling years.
Riverview is a very fast moving and dynamic community. Events of significance abound at this time of year and for that I am indebted to the many who give life to the educational program in myriad ways on a daily basis. It is heads down for another two weeks and then the curtain call – but not before.
Best wishes for the week ahead.