Principal’s Message: Term 2, Week 2, 2024

Dear families and friends of St Edmund’s College,

2024 Scriptural Theme: “I have come so may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10)

Term 2 has certainly commenced in a big way.  We have had many significant events mark the commencement of Term 2, and I will try to do them justice in this Vortex report.

On Tuesday 30 April we held our ANZAC Commemorative Assembly. It was an honour to once again welcome the Australian Federation Guard Catafalque Party who graced our gathering with their presence. Additionally, we were incredibly privileged to host Captain Carlie Gibson as our guest speaker. Carlie, who serves as the Military Public Affairs Officer for the Land Combat College at the esteemed Royal Military College – Duntroon, not only brings professional expertise but also a personal connection as a mother to two of our students and a great supporter of the College. During her address, Carlie shared a poignant narrative, highlighting the valour and sacrifice of a young 14 year old who bravely enlisted in World War One. The story deeply resonated with our students, capturing their attention and stirring reflection. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Carlie for generously sharing her time and inspiring us with her words. We also extend our appreciation to the defence families who joined us.  Many thanks to Ms Kylie Rose for organising our ANZAC Day Commemorative Assembly.

On Wednesday 1 April our Performing Arts Faculty organised a special concert for International Jazz Day (a UNESCO initiative). The concert consisted of a performance by our combined St Edmund’s & St Clare’s band, with several local primary schools in the audience. I thank Ms Rachel Rasmussen and Ms Leanne Thomas for their work in organising this wonderful and educational afternoon of jazz music (my favourite was the traditional Spiderman theme – great piece of music!).

Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights last week saw the culmination of months of rehearsal in the performance of our school musical, School of Rock. Through the guidance and encouragement of Rachel Rasmussen, Leanne Thomas and Rhys Hekimian, our students were empowered to step out of their comfort zones, embrace their talents, and shine on and off stage. A huge thank you to these teachers as well to all our performers for their hard work and tireless efforts. Many thanks to the small band of lead performers from St Edmund’s for sharing their talents with us – Lachlan Nicholls (Year 12, O’Brien) and Liam Burke (Year 12, O’Brien), Nicholas Isherwood (Year 9, O’Brien), Dale Fisher (Year 8, Haydon), William Childs (Year 5, Mulrooney) and William O’Sullivan (Year 5, Haydon).

We celebrated Founder’s Day on Friday 3 May. This was the feast day of Blessed Edmund Rice, a day on which we not only celebrated the life and times of Edmund Rice and the rich enduring legacy of his charism, but also the day on which we proudly celebrated the 70th anniversary of St Edmund’s College, the oldest continuing Catholic school in Canberra.   The Founder’s Day Mass was indeed a highlight of the year, with our boys conducting themselves in a reverent and appropriate manner.

We were very fortunate to have a large contingent of Christian Brothers attending our Mass, including the Deputy Provincial Leader Br Paul Conn, former Principal Br Bob Wallace, former Deputy Br John Giacon, and former member of staff and old boy Br Bernie Gartland.

We were also fortunate to have attending Dr Michael Slattery, President of EREA and Chair of the Trustees of EREA; Chris Woolley CEO of EREA Colleges Ltd; Dr Liam Smith National Executive Director and Peter Fullagar, our Regional Director of Education and former Principal of St Edmund’s.

I sincerely thank Mel Wilson and Bridget Cusack for organising the Founder’s Day Mass, as well as Margaret Thomas, Rachel Rasmussen and Leanne Thomas for guiding our students in the band and choir.  The boys enjoyed a great afternoon of fun and activities back at school after the Mass, organised by Kylie Rose and Monica Day.

Amongst all of our other special guests, I would like to single out one individual guest.  Mr Damian Borgia was a former member of staff and an old boy (Class of 1992) who now works at Merici College.  I originally worked with Damian at St Patrick’s College for Girls in Campbelltown in Sydney, where Damian and I became good friends.  At that time I was awe struck by Damian’s artistic ability; he is a brilliant artist, specialising in sketching.  I reached out to Damian last year with a special request for our 70th Anniversary.  I explained to Damian that nearly all Edmund Rice schools around the world have the same portraits of Edmund Rice.  I wanted a portrait of Blessed Edmund Rice that was unique to St Edmund’s College for our 70th celebrations, that no other Edmund Rice school anywhere in the world had.  I commissioned Damian with this task.

Damian’s portrait captures the younger spirit of Edmund Rice walking alongside two students of the College, students whose everyday actions are influenced and shaped by the life and character of Edmund Rice.  These students serve as embodiments of the collective spirit of all past, present, and future members of our College community. Radiating from the portrait is a captivating sense of light and optimism, infusing the artwork with a profound sense of beauty and positive energy.  I thank Damian so much for this very special enduring gift he has given our community.  It captures beautifully the vision of our College.  The framed original is hanging is our Reception area.

I felt disheartened by the number of parents who permitted their sons to be absent from school on Friday. I hold a firm belief that the absence of regular lessons on a particular day should not serve as justification for a small group of students to skip school altogether. Founder’s Day stands as the pinnacle of our community calendar, embodying our shared values and fostering a sense of belonging. It is regrettable that some students and parents chose not to partake in this important day, disregarding the essence of community spirit and engagement. Participation in events like Founder’s Day strengthens our bonds within the school community and cultivates a deeper appreciation for our heritage and values. It is vital to uphold the significance of such occasions and embrace them as opportunities for collective celebration and reflection.

At the Founder’s Day Mass we also acknowledged several people in two special groups of awards:

Acknowledgement of Staff Service Awards
We acknowledged the dedication and commitment of our staff members who have been an integral part of our community.  Their unwavering loyalty and hard work have not only contributed to the success of the school bit have also touched countless lives along the way.  Their journey with us represents not just a tenure but a testament to the passion and devotion to the College mission.  I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the following members of staff:

25 years of service: Sue Dowling (finance staff), Bridget Cusack (Junior School), Julia Roche (Junior School)
15 years of service: Tim Bibbens (Assistant Principal Teaching & Learning), Andrew Castrission (High School), Holly Ellem (Junior School), Linda Meulen (High School), Joel Richardson (Head of PHPE)
10 years of service: Alana Beard (High School, Head of House)

Br Matt McKeon Spirit and Service Awards
Mr Matt McKeon was a cherished member of the St Edmund’s College community for over two decades.  He epitomised the spirit and values of our tradition as a Christian Brothers school.  In honour of his legacy, the awards recognise staff, students and alumni who exemplify outstanding dedication to St Edmund’s College and / or the broader community through selfless service.

Staff recipients: Audra Martin (TAS assistant) and Lisa Millar (Head of Diverse Learning)
Student recipient: Jackson Hasler, Year 11
Old Boys recipient: Anthony Fainga’a and Saia Fainga’a (Class of 2004).

War Memorial
Much progress has been made on our War Memorial located at the front of the school. The plaques have undergone restoration or have been replaced entirely, and we are proud to unveil new signage adorning the memorial. This revitalization ensures that our memorial now stands as a fitting tribute to the members of the St Edmund’s community who served their country.

I extend my sincere gratitude to Will Collett, one of our parents, for spearheading and overseeing this endeavour. Will has also orchestrated the involvement of volunteers from Disaster Relief Australia, whose invaluable assistance has been instrumental in this undertaking.  The culmination of this work will be marked by a special blessing ceremony conducted by our chaplain, Fr. Chris Eaton, on Wednesday 8 May.

Father Son Weekend
In amongst all the other activities and events throughout last week, the College held a Father & Son Weekend. These weekends provide dedicated time away from daily distractions, allowing participants to focus on each other and build trust and understanding. Through shared activities and experiences, fathers serve as role models, imparting important values and life skills to their sons. Additionally, these weekends create opportunities for open communication, emotional support and positive influence, all of which contribute to healthy development of the father-son relationship, fostering a sense of community among families and strengthening the school’s social fabric. My thanks to David Kelly (Head of Junior School) for facilitating this important event.

A reminder for all high school students that during Terms 2 and 3, it is mandatory to have a blazer as part of your daily attire. While the puffer jacket is offered as an optional choice for warmth, the blazer remains a compulsory component of our dress code. Please ensure that the blazer is worn to and from school each day.  Please adhere to the following guideline in terms of layering for warmth: the jumper serves as the first layer, followed by the blazer as the second layer, with the optional puffer jacket as the third layer. It is important to note that the puffer jacket should not be worn independently of the blazer.  The beanie is also an optional item of winter clothing that should be worn outside only.

Any additional items for warmth beyond these specified layers are not considered acceptable parts of the College uniform. As stated to the boys, if an item cannot be bought from the uniform shop, it cannot be worn. A simple message.

2025 Enrolments
If you are aware of families contemplating Eddies for their sons’ education next year, regardless of the year group, I encourage you to direct them to our Enrolments Officer, Ms. Rhiannon Muir, as our places tend to fill quickly (last year, we had waiting lists across several year groups).

Student Drop Off and Pick Up
Parents are not to use the staff carpark (off Canberra Avenue) to drop or collect students before and after school. This is a dangerous place for our students to be moving through and we would like to keep this area for staff only. There is plenty of room around the perimeters of the school for drop off and pick up, especially Barrallier Street, Frome Street, Blaxland Cresent, and Wills Street (not McMillan Crescent).

Afternoon pickups from the front driveway are also problematic with cars blocking McMillan Crescent from Canberra Avenue. Again, I would ask these parents to consider organising your son to wait for you at a suitable place around the perimeter of the school. Thank you for helping to keep our community safe.

Loving God, we thank you for the life of Blessed Edmund Rice.
He opened his heart to Christ present in those oppressed by poverty and injustice.
Grant us the courage and compassion of Edmund
as we seek to live lives of love and service.
We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.

Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.

Joe Zavone
Christus Lux Mea