Left and middle: Australia’s newest Prime Minister Scott Morrison and previous PM Malcolm Turnbull | Right: A 17 year old girl from Nauru in critical condition after a hunger strike
As a nation, we were stunned in one sense, and yet not in another, by the events in the national parliament last week. The numbers had changed, Turnbull was out, and in the form of Scott Morrison, the 30th Prime Minister in Australian history and the 6th in the last 10 years was elected to lead a new government. It was theatrical stuff involving the skulduggery of party politics, the partitioning of numbers, the consummation of alliances forged through shadowed conversations and brittle allegiances, producing a media frenzy that eclipsed so many other issues of grave importance in the country. And, this comment is not directed at Liberal politics, for the antics of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd fiasco looms as loud in recent political history. In both instances, some of the most pressing issues of our time go unnoticed or deliberately unattended to. Refugees on Manus Island still look for a home: 1,500 people, including 120 children have spent years awaiting a future while the political circus in Canberra continues to bring in new ringmasters. In June of this year, a 26 year old Iranian took his own life in detention (which is a euphemism for prison) while during the week a twelve year old girl was treated in hospital after trying to set herself on fire. Another girl (called S) is one of several children critically ill on the island. The human face of this is tragic – one that Tim Costello refers to as ‘the ugliest debate in our life time’. And, it is symptomatic of the social ennui that lulls us all into the sensationalism of the big, consuming stage of politics and the lack of vision that is, and has been absent, for a very long time. There are many other matters that deserve immediate attention – party politics aside – homelessness, reconciliation with First Nations communities, environmental targets that will produce the world we want for our children, and the list goes on. If there is any hope and dare I say prayer among this, it is for some stability and vision, removed from the superficiality of numbers, that will penetrate and guide the leadership of this country into the future. It is exigent and necessary, otherwise we will, in the words of Paul Keating, resort to the abacus to see where the next political whim will emerge, and most likely, to the detriment of the human agents who will be disaffected by it. Jesuit schools are voices of provocation, and precisely because of that it is important that they speak out on such matters, knowing that they are likely to draw criticism in the public domain. But, if that generates discussion, and God willing change, then so be it. Best of luck Mr Morrison, and may you take into consideration the higher order human imperatives to which we all subscribe as you assume the mantle of office.
- During the week I had the pleasure of attending the Enrichment Academy at Sydney University, to commend those teachers who have responded to the challenge of STEM in their respective schools. The forces of academia joined consortiums of industry at the university to promote the cause of STEM related subjects, those that the wheels of technology are propelling at a remarkable rate in the commercial world. Twelve schools in metropolitan and non-metropolitan Sydney were commended for their programs, Riverview being at the forefront of those commendations. The fields of Mathematics, Computer Science, Forestry, Civil Engineering and – of all things – Entomology (a branch of zoology that studies insects), came together to look for new and creative ways to develop skills, knowledge and processes that offer manifold solutions to global and real-world problems. While still relatively new in schools, it was very pleasing to hear the affirmation from academics and industry alike that the College is developing units of integrity that enables students to explore solutions to problems that require innovative, heuristic and creative responses that transcend the traditional and atomised frontiers of learning. Special thanks are extended to Ms Sally Munro and the team who are responding to this challenge and forging new futures in classrooms each and every day.
In the aftermath of the completion of the Therry Building – the first stage of the Ignis Project, members of Jesuit Education Australia (JEA) visited the College to inspect the new facilities and to be informed about the subsequent stages of the Master Plan, plans for which are well underway. Chaired by Fr Tom Renshaw SJ (OR 1988), JEA is the parent company of the Society of Jesus under which each of the schools and educational ministries in the Australian Province are managed. I am happy to report that the members of JEA were highly impressed with the new facilities, and the boys’ response to them. These are still early days for the new teaching pedagogies and the collaborative learning activities based upon an integrated and magis-centred curriculum, but the willingness of the boys to be open to new and novel learning experiences is very impressive. Dedicated time was spent with JEA outlining the renewed vision for the Master Plan and how the subsequent stages of the Ignis project can be undertaken over the coming years. Thanks are extended to Fr Tom and the members of JEA for making time amid busy schedules to visit the College, to view at close range the operation of the Therry Building while still in its infancy, and to finesse the next stages of an ambitious transformation of the learning environments over the years ahead.
This Sunday is Fathers’ Day – one day that is set aside to honour the role that fathers play in family life. It’s origin is somewhat inauspicious. An early 20th Century American phenomenon, it was first celebrated in Australia in 1935 – at a time when the international economy was recovering from the Great Depression and the need for commercial activity was urgent to re-start a broken economy. In the vernacular of the early years, it was ‘ties and tobacco’ that became the staple commercial transaction for early 20th Century dads, largely driven by the advertising media of the day. That same subliminal commercial drive has persisted to the present day, where in countries like the US, Fathers’ Day sales this year are expected to exceed the US $17 billion mark. Commercialism aside, it is a time to step back and appreciate the complementary role that dads play both in the family and the broader social context. This was the object of the mass on the Regis campus on Tuesday, when the deeper meaning of fatherhood was explored and prayerful time was spent reflecting on and appreciating the many facets of fatherhood; from mentor and sporting coach to cook and carer. The latter two are a more modern expression of the change in role that has occurred over recent generations, and perhaps a more integrated, realistic, meaningful and rewarding part of the institution of fatherhood. As we approach the, at times ostentatious commercial façade of fatherhood, stepping back to be mindful of, and responsive to, the equally central role that dads play is something to cherish and behold. Best wishes to all dads for a restful and enjoyable day on Sunday.