The Waverley College Social Justice program goes beyond the community service programs of most schools by ensuring that students interact with personalities and social issues that are outside their usual experience. Genuinely giving back to less fortunate communities and individuals generates hugely positive experiences that are brought back into school life and frequently remain with the students after graduation. In the tradition of Edmund Rice, the program reinforces that Christianity is tied with action.
Being an EREA (Edmund Rice Education Australia) school we take Christ as our model. Edmund Rice imitated the values of Christ and put them into practice; the way Jesus lived, his values. Our job is to give these values to the boys so they can use and apply them in their own lives. Geraldine has made that active practice very contemporary, so that students are confronting issues in our contemporary society.
We try to give the students an idea that their spiritual wellbeing is important. There is more to this world than material goods. Retreats, focus days, immersion days to places like the Holocaust Museum demonstrate to the students what can happen to people when values go astray.
My nephew got the highest ATAR score in his year group, and when he came back to address the school community he said the thing he remembered most was the Night Patrol. He placed this as being more significant than his HSC score. The Night Patrol experience stood out because homeless people were different to what he imagined. He talked with these people, they were articulate and had stories to tell.
It helps shape the way they relate to other people. It gives students an awareness that every person in society deserves respect. There is nobody who isn’t deserving of basic humanity.
Our students see Social Justice as the practical way they can live out their faith. They get it, they get that Christianity is tied with action, and that without action it’s vacuous. During Religious Education classes they’ll discuss the model of Christ and Edmund Rice, which is all about looking after the marginalised, caring for people who don’t have what they have. For example when the students will go into the community to feed the homeless or visit Aboriginal communities they understand what living their faith is all about. It’s not just about going to church, it’s putting faith into action.
Recently I got a call from a student who graduated from Waverley College eight years ago, he went to Villawood Detention centre with me. He now wants to do something for refugees. So that day back then sowed a little seed in his head. He’s just finished his Law Degree and is now in a position where he wants to do something.
Social Justice is not just a school thing, it usually comes from a student’s home life and his parents. All we do is consolidate that and give them practical opportunities to put it into action. And it doesn’t stop at graduation. I’m here as a contact who can support them but they know what they need to do. They know that this is what Waverley students do.