Principal’s Update – 8 August 2019

Our 125th St Dominic’s Day last Friday was a joyous community event that ‘celebrated the harvest’ of our great tradition and history. I would like to thank all of those who attended and supported us in different ways. I particularly acknowledge the presence of our Dominican Sisters, Dominican Education Australia representatives, our local Federal member of Parliament, the leader of the State Opposition, and the Mayors of both Strathfield and Burwood. It was also wonderful to welcome back former students and staff, and to open the time capsule interred 25 years ago. I have attached my address to the community to share with those who were unable to attend, and for those who asked for a copy.

As our Year 12 students undergo their trial examinations for both HSC and IB Diploma, we pray that they do their very best, and keep these exams in perspective. They have worked hard, and this is another opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Most students feel stressed at such times. It is important to remind them that their worth is not determined by marks or grades. Comparison with the results of others, whether they be family members or other students at school, is very unhelpful. While our whole education edifice tends to want to rank young people, the focus on achieving personal best is all that can be controlled. Effort and persistence are often unglamorous and underrated qualities but I hope we all acknowledge and celebrate these qualities in our young people. Santa students are generally very hard-working and unassuming about their abilities. 

Santa Sabina genuinely values the ideas and opinions of our students. So as part of the ongoing development of our strategic plan, I have engaged with different groups of students from Primary, Middle and Senior Years. While I led the discussions, along with Heads of School, the ideas generated have all been those of the students. They have shared their thoughts on schooling for the future, opportunities to improve their experiences, attributes of the Santa Sabina graduate, and ways the College can provide opportunities for all students to achieve their personal best. These workshops have left me in no doubt that our students are capable, articulate, generous and hope-filled young people. They were a delight to work with. I’d like to share some words from the Middle Years representatives about how they wish to be regarded by peers, older students, and teachers. They were adamant that labels like ‘cute’, and ‘little’ are demeaning and patronising. They want us to acknowledge that they are capable, knowledgeable, brave and ground-breakers. They exceed our expectations and are not limited by age. I’m sure if the same question about how they want to be viewed and represented was asked of your Primary students, their answers would be very similar. It is a great reminder for all of us to respect the dignity of every individual in our community. Thank you, Middle Years.

While I’m talking about Middle Years I’m thrilled to announce that our Year 7 Debating Team are the winners of the Catholic Schools Debating Competition for 2019. Congratulations to Molly Hoogland, Olivia Radford, Inez Crosby and Medha Masur Sirish. Many thanks to Ms Jane Sulis who supported the girls, and ex-student Gabbie Murphy their coach. The fact that they won the competition on the evening of St Dominic’s Day made it extra special.

I also had a really insightful conversation with Year 2 who were visiting the Senior Campus, and were meditating in our sacred prayer space, Dadirri. They had the opportunity to meet Sr Sheila Flynn OP who is spending this term with us, and is the artist responsible for the beautiful stained glass windows in Dadirri, as well as the design of the cross. Students showed great understanding of the particular design of the cross; the gap where we normally see the suffering face of Christ invites all of us to fill the gap and bring Jesus alive in our times through our words and actions. These Year 2 students asked Sr Sheila various questions about the artistic design of the windows with its familiar aboriginal features. Sr Sheila explained that she worked with the indigenous artist, Mr Sam Jupurulla, to ensure the integrity of the design, and its appropriateness to the cultural and school community. So, in a very short space of time, the students walked away with a deepening understanding of the purposes of meditation, and the capacity of art to enlighten us spiritually and culturally. In the words of Sr Sheila at the time of the design of the artworks: ‘We would do well to recover such a spirit of sacredness in our post-modern times. The choice of preparing designs helped me make links with their ceremonies, rituals and sacred paintings. It is after all about relationships. About journeys. About willingness to engage in the creative action and presence of God. What better preparation for me, than to open my eyes and heart to the deep history of Australia through the creative work of the Aboriginal people.

Finally, I congratulate our College Representative Dance Teams on their recent results. Over the weekend some of our teams competed at The Ultimate Dance Challenge and The Sydney Eisteddfod. All teams represented the school so well in their performances.

We also had some fantastic results from our teams:

The Ultimate Dance Challenge:

  • Primary Team: Highly Commended
  • Senior Contemporary Team: 2nd Place
  • Senior Jazz Team: 1st Place

Sydney Eisteddfod:

  • Senior Hip Hop Team: 2nd Place

We are so proud of all our dancers and look forward to the upcoming dance eisteddfods!

We celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Mary MacKillop today. Mary MacKillop is the first Australian saint and the founder of the Order of St Joseph. She was a tireless advocate for Catholic education for children from needy and indeed destitute circumstances. She was a woman who raised the powers of love in her time and continues to inspire us to do the same in our day. Love was at the heart of all that Mary did. She recognised that the source of her love had its origin in God. She knew deeply within her that:

God is love and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
1 John 4:16

Dr Maree Herrett