As part of the pastoral program at the Senior Campus during the week, the boys watched The Final Quarter – the documentary that has pricked the consciousness of the nation about racism. Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year in 2015 and one of the most decorated AFL players in the history of the game, was subjected to relentless public taunts and derision over a period spanning three years as he approached the end of his illustrious playing days. At the time it was considered controversial and drew comment from most media outlets across the country; in retrospect it is considered a shameful chapter in Australian sporting history and cause for deep humiliation and regret. Adding to the sense of disquiet and discomfort in the aftermath of it all is the recognition that some who were actively involved didn’t even understand why they joined a public chorus of booing and why they maligned this outstanding Australian; one who not only embraced the best that the sporting code had to offer, but suffered his personal abasement with astonishing dignity and grace. Despite the groundswell of popular rant and media criticism, Goodes stood tall, proud of his culture and unwilling to bend to the tide of disparagement and condemnation. There are few examples that I can draw upon in the modern era where there has been so much disconnection between a public issue and any justifiable rationale that validated it. If there is one important outcome, as is always the case when assessing failure and wrong, it is in recognising that mistakes were made and a genuine period of remorse and forgiveness needs to be entered into. As an avid Goodes supporter at the time and part-time tragic AFL devotee, I for one have been deeply touched by the compelling sentiments contained in this documentary. It is a salutary reminder of the need to confront racism, to critique the indiscriminate power of public opinion and to reflect on the importance of lived lessons. Without the latter, we live an illusion and are hamstrung as individuals and as a country in moving forward.
Our term intensifies with the Trial HSC Examinations, which began on Monday with the various declensions of English. These demanding assessments will continue unabated for the better part of three weeks simulating in design, content and structure the rigour that the graduates will be exposed to in late October and November. While teaching and learning takes centre stage, the many elements of the broader educational program are also making a strong imprint on the horizon. On Monday and Tuesday, two Reflection Evenings were held for the boys who spent their break on immersion in Cambodia. These are truly inimitable and life-changing experiences as the boys see a different world view: the lens of disadvantage into the lives of many who lack the material resources and the opportunity that are so abundantly apparent at Riverview. As much as the reflections of the boys are insightful and instructive, it is always worthwhile hearing the views of the parents in the aftermath of the boys’ reflections, for they too are moved and formed by virtue of their sons’ experiences.
Last weekend the boarding community gathered in Young to celebrate a long and cherished relationship between the region and the school. Our most senior statesman at the gathering was John Bolger, who graduated from the College in 1947. He was accompanied by Old Boys from every decade over the latter 20th century, a large number of current parents, and families who have registered interest for their sons to attend in the years to come. While the drought continues to provide its own difficulties in rural Australia, families from regions such as Young maintain a very strong interest in sending their boys to boarding school, with Riverview as one of the most preferred options in the region. Special thanks are extended to Justine and Rob Back, who hosted a wonderful occasion that was enjoyed by all.
We are currently in the transition phase of the sporting seasons and today is the formal mid-point of the term. So much has unfolded in an educational program of so many prisms, each of which adds its own important holistic contribution to the boys’ formation. That is the Jesuit way. It is in the complementarity of the experiences, undergirded by the values of faith and justice, that these young men are encouraged to see their world. At times, as parents and teachers, we see the shortfalls rather than the glimpses of promise, those that will no doubt come to fruition in the years ahead. But as surely as the many generations that have gone through this College, those who have gone on to become significant figures in their community and their world, this will happen. And, impelled by the spirit of St Ignatius, they will be formed in the tradition of being ‘men for others’, those who will have a special regard for the marginalised – be they of First Nations background in Australia or the remote regions of Cambodia. It is in the strength of the vision that long term is enacted, and for that we give thanks as we move into the latter stages of the term.