From the Head of College, Graham Leddie
Term 1 has started very positively and the boys have found a good rhythm early. Our Wellbeing program has already started to change the feel of the College or, as stated so eloquently in the Australian movie The Castle, ‘the vibe’. Some of the changes are subtle, others more obvious, but there is positive change in the air amongst both students, staff and the feedback from parents has been very heartening.
At our first Years 5-12 assembly of the year, the boys were challenged to make a difference in someone else’s start to the year. As a Catholic School in the Edmund Rice Tradition, community means everything: how we treat each other, how we work together and support each other is fundamental to who we strive to be. Recent scientific research into the study of social neuroscience by renowned psychologist Matthew Lieberman (author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, 2014) supports this Christian belief and explains the positive impact on our own wellbeing. Lieberman’s research suggests that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental, more basic, than our need for food or shelter. This is also backed up by Brene Brown’s research at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Many of you may have seen Brene as she is the fourth highest viewed TED Talks speaker of all time and her talks are worth watching.
We have a collective responsibility for the wellbeing of others, and to assist others to feel comfortable, fit in and to build each other up. The research also tells us that when we assist others, give them a hand up, we find happiness ourselves. The College’s new Wellbeing Program and structures aim to assist boys to better develop connection with each other. The College’s connection to the Matthew Talbot Hostel provides our Year 11 students an opportunity to assist people who are on the margins and to challenge ourselves to be better people and builders of community.
Our spiritual wellbeing is at the core of maintaining this personal and social wellbeing. By holding the values of the Gospels close at heart we can be reminded of the Christian purpose – to be with others, to help others and to create a fulfilling life for ourselves and others.
Royal Commission Hearing
Monday 6 February marked the commencement of the final hearing involving the Catholic Church at the Royal Commission into institutional responses. The next three weeks will be traumatic for the survivors of these harrowing crimes, for their families, for the Catholic community and the wider Australian community. Evidence to be presented during the Royal Commission hearings will be analysed with statistics about the extent of abuse made public and these will be confronting. As a community we are shocked and dismayed at the scope and nature of the abuse reported and feel deeply for the victims.
Although Waverley College ceased to be run by the Congregation of the Christian Brothers in 2007 and is today governed by Edmund Rice Education Australia, many of us may feel upset, anxious or demoralised by the reports from the Royal Commission. Our focus needs to remain on safeguarding our students, whose wellbeing continues to be our number one priority. Our College abides by the highest contemporary professional and legal standards of child protection with stringent policies, structures and protection processes.
Gillian Triggs Lecture
Visiting the College on Wednesday to present to our Year 9 and 10 Philosophy students and the House Prefects involved in Social Justice/Advocacy was Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission and Acting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Professor Triggs spoke of the fundamental elements of ‘respect’ and the ‘law’ as the two key factors in play when dealing with difficult human rights issues. Professor Triggs inspired our boys to have a genuine desire to understand better the role of human rights in our society and our world. We are extremely grateful to her for making time to speak with our students as part of the ‘Visions of Leadership’ lecture series.
Our students are faced with a variety of challenges in a school day. The rigor of the academic program, the responsibilities of co-curricular activities and the demands of their peers can be a test. Those students who prepare themselves for class, make use of effective study habits, and seek help from their teachers and peers, are those who are maximising the strategies available to achieve their best. There is satisfaction to be gained from knowing that you did your best and have applied yourself to learn as much as you can. Ms Elizabeth Watson (Director of Learning) writes in this newsletter edition of how boys can set goals and do an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses.
New Wellbeing Mentor Meetings
Our new Parent/Carer/Student and Mentor meetings offer a valuable opportunity for parents to make contact with their son’s Wellbeing Mentor and to work collaboratively with them to help realise his potential. Wellbeing Mentors now play an important role in your son’s education at Waverley. All families have been emailed this week with details on how to book an interview and I encourage you start the year well by making time to speak with your child’s Wellbeing Mentor.
A sad loss
Our prayers and thoughts go out to Susan Connolly and her two boys Sam (Year 8) and Ryan (Year 11) and their family on the tragic loss of their husband and father, Michael, who passed away this week. Michael was a proud supporter of Waverley College across a number of areas including Treasurer of the Cricket Supporter Group, and his legacy will live on. Please keep the family in your thoughts at this difficult time.