From the Principal

Welcome to Term 2 and welcome back after what I hope was a relaxing break with family and friends over the Easter period. While we all move on very quickly in our busy lives I would like to reflect just a little on the message of Easter and its meaning for us in a Catholic school.

We all know the story – Christ’s resurrection — and we celebrate that as Christians, but Easter has a wider meaning. I like to adapt our traditions to a contemporary context and behind the story of Easter is the theme of new life, new hope and the expectation that the world can and will be a better place. One of the intrinsic messages from Easter is to implore us to affect wise and compassionate hearts. Given the international tensions in the Korean peninsula and so many other areas at present it would be great for our world leaders to follow this line. When we follow the message that Christ’s death makes us one, there is relevance for all of us regardless of our level of devotion to the faith.

Easter can be seen as a time that encourages us to reach out, to guard and protect life and those around us, particularly those most vulnerable and in need. After the terribly distressing details coming out of the Royal Commission our need to focus on child protection has never been more urgent. From the challenges, despair and depression of this dark period comes new, strategic measures to safeguard our young people; new life, to draw the parallel with Easter. The policies and practices around child protection in 2017 provide hope and surety around a much more positive future.

Finally, Easter is a time to forgive ourselves and others. I wonder how each of us can reflect at this important time of year to better look after ourselves and improve the lives of those around us, surely the most significant of themes in a Catholic Lasallian school?

ANZAC Day

On Friday 21 April we held a moving ANZAC service to commemorate the sacrifice of so many men and women, military and civilian, across some of the darkest periods in Australia’s history. The theme for 2017 was to acknowledge and highlight the tremendously important role of so very many women in Australia’s war effort, especially in World War II. Moving seamlessly from domestic duties, women filled so many roles previously dominated by men in industry, agriculture and various sections of the military – a huge boost to Australia’s war effort. I would like to thank Mrs Christine Thompson, Humanities Learning Area Team Leader and Ms Lisa Harkin, Deputy Principal – Students for the organisation of the historical elements of the service and Mrs Rana Brogan, Deputy Principal – Faith and Mission for the liturgical content, so ably attended to by a range of student leaders.

Photo: Year 10 student Anthony Ryan delivered a stirring rendition of the Last Post at our ANZAC Day assembly.

Caution re: Netflix television program

I think it is important to draw parents’ attention to a program currently airing on Netflix, as we at the College are concerned about unsupervised viewing of this series. It is not my role to tell you what your sons can and cannot view but I would encourage parents to be aware of the show’s content.

This article from The Sydney Daily Telegraph provides more information: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/13-reasons-why-netflix-show-most-dangerous-program-on-tv

On Wednesday 26 April, a letter was emailed to all families by our Deputy Principal – Students, Ms Lisa Harkin regarding this matter. Please refer to the Deputy Principal’s column of today’s Duce for more information.

Mission Action Day

Following the themes above of giving new life, reaching out to assist the vulnerable and those most in need, last term’s Mission Action Day was another outstanding success. I must thank Mr Larry Evans and the Mission Action Day Committee – including the four Year 12 House Lasallian Captains – who did a wonderful job in organising and administering the whole event. As the sponsorship pledged nears $100,000 yet again, I would ask all families to follow up with their sponsors and donors to ensure all the money comes in. Lasallian communities in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, New Guinea, Vietnam, South Sudan amongst others, will benefit from the students’ efforts and the generosity of their sponsors. Various local charities will also receive some funds as we look closer to home to support those less fortunate than us.

Year 12 Immersion Experience – Sri Lanka 2017

This year sees a significant change in our traditional Year 12 social justice immersion experience. After consulting with various offices of the De La Salle Brothers, the Lasallian Mission Council and the Lasallian Foundation we have decided to shift our focus from India to Sri Lanka.

Over the past 11 years we have enjoyed a productive, positive and mutually beneficial relationship with the Brothers in the Tamil Nadu Province of Southern India. It is important to acknowledge and thank the pioneers, the long term supporters and drivers of this very important chapter in the history of the College. Br Denis Loft was the original architect of the Coolies program and Mr Peppe Di Ciccio, Mr Chas Thompson and Mrs Christine Thompson who remained the driving forces behind its success for 10 years. Besides leading and participating in several Year 12 working trips to India, Peppe, Chas and Christine provided invaluable advice and support for colleagues leading the trip in other years. Theirs is a wonderful legacy and they are primarily responsible for the Year 12 immersion experience now being firmly entrenched in the traditions of De La Salle College, Malvern. So many of our young men over the years have gained so much from their service to the various De La Salle institutions in India and their exposure to a very different culture.

As ever, changing circumstances bring new opportunities and with it, fresh eyes, we now move into another phase of the immersion experience. Whilst travelling to Sri Lanka with my family over the recent break, I took the opportunity to visit Diyagala Boys’ Town on the outskirts of Colombo. Diyagala is a technical school run by the Sri Lankan De La Salle Brothers where 140 boys aged from about 14 to 18 board full-time. The students graduate after four years of study at Boys’ Town with significant advances in their literacy and numeracy, and a qualification in a trade such as lathe operator, toolmaker, automotive, welder and electrician. There are also opportunities in agriculture, animal husbandry, cooking in their own on-site bakery, and a variety of other trade skills.

I was humbled (and a little embarrassed, I must concede) to receive an amazing welcome from the entire school community when I arrived on the Saturday morning (Saturday is a normal school day at Diyagala). Complete with student marching band and a welcome banner, all the students and staff were waiting in the forecourt. As I was being formally welcomed by Br Justin it was very clear how much the local community appreciated having a visitor from another De La Salle school abroad.

It was a tremendous experience to meet so many of the students and staff and have the opportunity to address the community gathered there. I spoke a little about the importance of relationships between Lasallian communities and how much we were looking forward to establishing what we plan to be a long-term partnership between the Malvern and Diyagala schools. After accepting a gift and planting a traditional native Sri Lankan tree to commemorate the visit, I had breakfast with the Brothers and embarked on a very informative tour of the school and its facilities.

In discussions with the Br Christy, the Provincial leader for Sri Lanka’s region, we agreed a change of name for the volunteer immersion program would be appropriate. The term “Coolies”, while having been used for all the right reasons for 11 years does bring into the equation an adverse reference to colonial times when poor local labourers were used for the most arduous and lowest paid work.

Br Christy and I are searching for a new title to reflect the new partnership between Malvern and Sri Lanka, with Boys’ Town in particular. I am working with the Sri Lankan Brothers to decide on a word or phrase from their local language to symbolise the mission. This will give the new program a fresh title which we feel will be a fitting and engaging theme for the Year 12 Immersion in Sri Lanka. Applications from current Year 12 students for this year’s inaugural Sri Lankan program are currently being taken. This new enterprise will capture the meaning of being in an international partnership, a truly Lasallian relationship, with so many advantages and so much to be gained on both sides.

The students arrive at Boys’ Town primarily from very underprivileged backgrounds. Poverty, lack of education and/or family support, broken homes or having been orphaned are all too common in the lives of the boys at Diyagala. Boys’ Town provides a caring environment, a qualification and a range of other skills which equip these young men with the necessities of life to move on and successfully make their way in the world.

The boys rise early every day to assist with the running of the many arms of Boys’ Town which enables it to operate largely as a self-sufficient enterprise. There are cows to be milked, crops to be tended – cashews, strawberries, coconuts, among others — gardens and paths to be maintained, meals to be prepared and cleaning to be done. The boys live a pretty simple but demanding life at Diyagala, but the life-lessons learned and the skills and qualifications gained means they are all virtually assured of permanent employment after their time there. A three hour visit to Boys’ Town was a rich and humbling experience. The Year 12 students lucky enough to visit there for several weeks and make a genuine difference to the lives of these young men via the immersion trip will have their lives changed for ever.

Mr Peter Houlihan
Principal

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 05 - 27 April 2017