One of the reasons I feel so privileged to lead this College every day is the inspiration I receive from knowing I am part of a community founded on the strength of extraordinary women, the Brigidine sisters, that every day for the past 65 years have contributed to the quest for equity for women through the power of education. Whilst we officially celebrate on 8 March, the intention of International Women’s Day is at the heart of every day at Clonard. When our students graduate, I urge them to ensure that through the privilege of their education they use their voice for those who have no voice. Too often in our society the voiceless are women and children. This week at our annual IWD Breakfast we heard from two Geelong Cats AFLW players, our own staff member Danielle Higgins and former Captain Melissa Hickey, who gave honest and authentic expression to the challenges of women in sport. Thank you to Gabrielle Blythe who also supported our Year 9 students to engage with activities with St Joseph’s students at Westcourt. Yesterday the College Captains Kaitlyn and Isabella, Sasha Semjonov and myself represented the College at the Soroptimists International’s annual breakfast where we listened to guest speaker Frances Diver.
Jo Ryan our Assistant Principal: Student Learning and Wellbeing, who hosted our breakfast, shared a powerful reflection on IWD which is shared in this newsletter.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the breakfast as I had two days of meetings in Melbourne with Kildare Ministries (KM) as well as a night with the Year 7 students on camp. During our time gathered as Principals and managers of community works, we worked through matters that directly connect to the Trustees strategic intentions for KM. We spent time deepening our understanding of compassion, through exploration of the scriptures and Pope Francis’ writings in Fratelli Tutti. This was a rich and powerful session. We examined some of the implications of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change Report, in connection to the Trustees intention for their ministries to ‘hear the cries of the poor and the cries of the earth’. As a College we have commenced engaging with Catholic Earthcare Australia to support us in our work in this area. We have already received Level 1 accreditation and will now look at the requirements for Level 2. We also discussed how we are working towards reconciliation with our First Nations people in our communities. Again, we have had strong leadership in this area and look to build on that work with the development of a Reconciliation Action Plan in conjunction with our First Nation students and families. The area of safeguarding and the new standards that come into effect from July this year was on our agenda, along with a number of policy updates.
It was a highlight to be able to attend the Year 7 camp earlier this week, even if only for a night. Many of the students I spoke to shared how they had met new people and made new friends. For a number of our students it was their first time away from home, having missed out on this type of experience due to the pandemic over the last two years. This was a great achievement! The activities that the students undertook on camp built team work, personal confidence along with the opportunity to learn and have fun. I joined the night walk on Monday night, and along with the students experienced the wonder of the universe listening to Gab Tolan sharing her insights and knowledge of our sun, stars and the planets. On our return in chatting with one of the students she shared with me that she thought the talk was ‘just awesome!’ I want to acknowledge the care and commitment of the staff who leave their families to ensure our students have this experience.
There have been some positive COVID cases that have emerged since the Year 7 camp with some students being deemed household like contacts and needing to isolate. Barwon Health has been working with us and we continue to follow their advice. Whilst we are not experiencing cases in every year level every day, with reports of another variant of Omicron in the community we need to ensure we continue to utilise the Rapid Antigen testing made available to us, along with ensuring that we stay home if we are displaying symptoms. This week we received an update to Operating Procedures which stated that if a student tests positive through a rapid antigen test but does not have symptoms or has not been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19, it is recommended that they get a PCR test within 48 hours and stay isolated until they receive their result. If the PCR test is negative, the student can return to school. We are also aware that there are a number of cases of gastro circulating in the community. Whilst masks are not mandated, any student who wishes to wear a mask is welcome to do so. Thank you to all families for your support especially in responding promptly when a student displays symptoms, feels unwell and needs to go home.
Next week we welcome prospective families to our annual Open Day tours. We will hold 6 sessions across the week and families are asked to book online using the link Open Day – Clonard College Geelong It will be a great opportunity to showcase a working school, what we do everyday. If you have family or friends who may be interested in attending please let them know about our link.
The long weekend has come at a good time for us after a busy but calm start to the year. A good chance to rest, reset and be ready for the next 4 weeks of term and our Athletics Carnival next week. Maybe as we spend time with our family and friends this weekend we have a chance to express our gratitude to the amazing women in our lives who enable us to do what we do or be who we are.