From the Principal
On Friday evening 23 February, I had the privilege of attending the ACC Swimming Carnival and cheering on the De La Salle team to their first victory of the ACC Swimming Championships in 22 years.
This was a long-awaited and particularly sweet victory for the dedicated and talented swimmers, most of whom have competed in the past two years when we came second on both occasions to Whitefriars, who came second to De La for a change.
Swimming training can be a thankless task with many cold, early mornings and the potential for monotony. I have been very proud of each and every one of our athletes for their capacity to stick to the task, maintain the routine and support each other. I regularly see them down at Harold Holt pool on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, plus most of the swimmers train with private clubs and squads as well. The swimming team is a great place for the younger students to gain a sense of belonging and peer support as the older boys traditionally look after them, encourage them, include them and build their confidence. There exists in the team a terrific bond across the age groups and year levels.
While our “big names”; Campbell Freeman, Noah Millard, Morgan Morffew and Captain Angus McLean, were simply magnificent on the night, all team members played their parts and contributed to the dominance across all events culminating in a comprehensive 44 point-winning margin over the second placed Whitefriars. Thank you and congratulations to coaches Mr Guy Eylon and 2016 Old Collegian Mr Liam Kelliher. I would also like to acknowledge the legacy of our previous coaches, Mr Chris Windley and Mrs Gabrielle Windley. While they have now moved on to another school, Chris and Gab did a tremendous amount of work in recent years to build a squad with the right culture and push De La swimming back to where it should be. Director of Sport, Mr Jon Edgar and Mr Peter Larsen were also a wonderful support for the team.
From Sunday to Tuesday last week, I attended the annual Lasallian Leaders Gathering, held this year in Brisbane for the first time. The gathering is a rich opportunity for Lasallian Principals, Board Chairs, Directors, Brothers and other senior staff to come together with the Mission Council to report, consult and strategise. All four countries in our District – Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea were well represented. On Sunday afternoon, Brother Visitor Br David Hawke recently reappointed for a further four years and Lasallian Mission Council Chief Executive Merv McCormack reviewed the successes and challenges in our District for 2017 and then mapped out priorities and strategies for the coming year.
In a new and very welcome initiative, we spent Monday out of the conference rooms and travelled to various arms of the yourtown network to see, hear and observe first-hand the myriad of wonderful work this extraordinary service undertakes to support the less fortunate in various communities in and around Brisbane. Yourtown previously operated as BoysTown when the De La Salle Brothers set up a Queensland-based residential school for young men in 1961. So much of the organisation has changed since that time; the services they design and deliver, the assistance service offered and the way they interact with our community, have all evolved. In 2016, the yourtown team felt the time was right to move to a name and image which better reflects the inclusive nature of their work. In an extract from their website, the yourtown staff sum up their goals as a Lasallian organisation.
“We aim to achieve real change for those who turn to us, helping them find jobs, learn skills, become great parents and live safe and happy lives. As an inclusive organisation we need to make sure there are no impediments to young people accessing our services. With programs and services at both a national and local level, yourtown is committed to helping young people in your street, your suburb, your community, your town.”
Yourtown aims to build on the strong foundation in place since developed over the previous five decades. Their focus is unambiguously on tackling the tough issues that impact the lives of young people in Australia. Remarkable in both its simplicity and power, the Mission and Vision of yourtown is a concise summary of a raft of initiatives and services to support our community. “To Make a difference, to change lives and create brighter futures” genuinely captures yourtown’s identity and primary purpose – they are an organisation which helps people. I was fortunate enough to visit the yourtown centre in Deception Bay, north of Brisbane, that runs programs and services around early intervention strategies for disadvantaged children from pre-birth to 12 years and their families. A variety of counselling, therapy and support services operate out of Deception Bay. These are designed to support children, strengthen families and communities, enable school retention and re-engagement so as to strengthen these young people’s ties with their community and enable them to access the opportunities education and support can provide. Deception Bay also runs job training and employment readiness programs for adolescents and young adults. In another significant arm of the service, yourtown also plays a key role in supporting the indigenous community, administering employment and wellbeing programs that create job options and community engagement opportunities.
It was humbling to hear the story of yourtown, to see first-hand the dedication and passion of their staff and to hear of the genuine difference they are able to make in the lives of so many from disadvantaged backgrounds. I often talk about St John Baptist de La Salle’s record of identifying a need and having the courage to do something about it but I have rarely seen such a practical application of the Founder’s zeal than I witnessed in spending the day with the yourtown staff. If you’d like further information or you may even wish to provide a donation, visit www.yourtown.com.au and you can see the extent of their services and wonderful community work.
Finally, with Mission Action Day fast approaching – Thursday 29 March – I would urge all families to engage with your sons and support, promote, encourage and drive their efforts to gain sponsorship for the event. So many of our Lasallian communities in Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, India, South Sudan and other impoverished areas literally rely on the generosity of the De La Salle Malvern boys to fund basic projects and services in their schools each year. Our aim is always to top the $100,000 mark and with all in the College working together we should be able to once again achieve this goal.
Mr Peter Houlihan