Creating and maintaining a safe environment for children in our school communities is the greatest priority for educational leaders today. As September commences, two key events - National Child Protection Week (2–8 September) and the Australian Catholic Church’s Child Protection Sunday (9 September) - provide us with an opportunity to reflect on steps we have taken so far and what is still needed. The gospel reading for Child Protection Sunday (Mk 7: 31-37) has some key points to help us with our reflection. It is Mark’s account of Jesus curing a deaf man, and there are (3) key aspects to this miracle that are relevant. Before any healing takes place, it is the community who took the man to Jesus and ‘begged him to lay his hands on him’ (Mk 7: 32). Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears in a somewhat confronting scene, directing him to ‘be opened’ (Mk 7: 34).
As we move forward from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and implement the recommendations, it is timely to reflect a little deeper on the effect that state and federal government inquiries have had on our awareness, commitment, and practice. Do we institute child safe standards as a matter of regulatory compliance and external mandates, or do we strive to create environments of safety and security out of love and concern for those in our care? Have we, as a community, come together to acknowledge and learn from shocking past failures, or begged for healing grace to embrace our schools and help us to move forward with hope and optimism? Do we acknowledge that child safety is everyone’s responsibility, every day, and work towards making this happen by creating strong and respectful school communities where children and families are known and valued, connected and supported by each other, and have a strong sense of belonging within the community?
Jesus said to the deaf man ‘Ephphatha’ which means ‘be opened’. Are we open to all that is necessary to progress in this sensitive area? As a school, we have embraced the sacred responsibility to create environments which enable each student to flourish for the sake of their own wellbeing and, more broadly, for the health and wellbeing of the entire school community. But to be effective in this space, we need to be deep listeners, to give voice to children, parents, caregivers and staff as active partners contributing to a positive culture. This is an ongoing challenge, especially as new staff arrive and new families and their students join our community. We need to give everyone the chance to be heard, really listened to, to feel their contribution matters to the life of the greater community. If all school members are empowered to have a voice about safety and know how to raise concerns, and these are taken seriously and responded to promptly and thoroughly, then an inclusive child-safe environment can be fostered and maintained.
The description of Jesus putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting on his tongue is very confronting. Do we really need to know this much detail? We can also feel like this when confronted with the reality of past harm to children, especially here at ‘Rupertswood’; it is an uncomfortable space, often one I would prefer to avoid or assert could never happen again. But being open and honest about the harsh realities of life is the first step to creating environments that protect all, including the most vulnerable, to providing refuge and respite for wounded hearts to heal. This is the work and mission of our Church. If we attend to our duty of care recognising we are imbued with the responsibility to carry out this sacred task, we can work towards knowing our school is a place where the sacred dignity of each person is recognised, respected, and fostered and where children and young people not only feel safe, but in reality are safe.
Last week, in response to the 'Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God', our newly installed Archbishop Peter A Comensoli wrote a 'Letter to the Faithful of the Archdiocese of Melbourne'. While Pope Francis again acknowledged 'the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons', Archbishop Peter noted:
“No words of apology – while always needed – will ever be enough to right the evil done to those who have been abused, and those who were not listened to and believed. Efforts to repair the harm done – while entirely necessary – cannot overcome the evil perpetrated upon innocent children and vulnerable adults, and the harm experienced by families and communities".
He went on to reinforce the Church's commitment in relation to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, with reference to redress and reporting obligations. Archbishop Peter's letter is available here.
Commencing this week, our newsletter has had a slight 're-jig' to make it more accessible and relevant to both current and prospective parents. The intent is to make the stories shorter and highlight key events taking place across the College and, where necessary, to direct parents to SchoolBox where they can access greater detail about events relevant to their children.
The new look newsletter will contain:
• three feature articles each week focussing on key events (past or future) (for example, Father's Day, Book in a Day, Exchange Students, etc.);
• articles on Learning, Wellbeing, and Faith;
• articles on Sport, Arts, Agriculture, Community, Student Leadership (including Student Voice), and Careers.
We hope the new format is easier to read and informative, providing easy links to SchoolBox for more detailed information and news. Feedback welcome!
Each year the College publishes an Annual, or Yearbook, highlighting the key events and achievements from across the school. This is a much sought after publication, especially by our Year 12 graduates, commemorating their final year at the College. In order to include more of their highlights (i.e. Graduation Mass and Dinner, Subject Awards and Leadership Awards, etc.), we have decided to delay publication of the Yearbook until Feb-Mar of the following year. We are also exploring the development of an eYearbook, containing videos and other forms of multimedia.
Last Friday evening, the College Board once again hosted our annual Staff Service Awards Dinner, held in the Mansion and recognising the long and dedicated service (10, 20, and 30 years) of our teaching and educational support staff. We recognised fourteen men and women for their generous commitment and service. Mr Joe Caruana, Board Member, thanked the entire staff for their work with your children, describing the duty of caring and educating for them as both an honour and a privledge.
You can read his entire speech and find out each of the staff members who were presented awards for their dedication later in this newsletter.
Salesian College Sunbury is a large community of students, staff and parents, both past and present.
Please keep the following in your prayers:
You asked that the little children
be allowed to come to you;
for it is to such as these that
the Reign of God belongs.
You entrust them to the care and protection
of our communities of faith.
Guide us as we strive to ensure
that our Catholic communities
provide a safe environment for each child.
We pray especially for all those
who have been harmed in their childhood.
Give them courage in facing the past
and lead them to your healing protection. Amen.
Read an update from Acting Principal, Mrs Angela Romano
An update from our Principal, Mr Mark Brockhus, as we prepare to commence the 2019 school year.
Cricket great, Darren Lehmann, visited last week as part of our Ashes Oval Redevelopment Project and our Father's Day Breakfast