All will, in the end, be well.
Mary MacKillop 1883
Dear Parents and Carers, Staff and Students, and Friends of Mount Alvernia College
I hope that you enjoyed that rare treat – a public holiday in the middle of a week. The weather was beautiful for whatever you were doing. The weather is beautiful at this time of the year and it was good to have an extra day to enjoy it.
I arrived back on Monday from the Yarning Up trip to Lockhart River on Cape York. Both flights into the town and out of the town were uneventful, which was pleasing as we flew in very small propeller planes. On the way up, the sky was very cloudy so the view was disappointing. However, the plane we flew back from Lockhart River was a small ten-seater aircraft. While it was small, it was a smooth ride at 25000-feet cruising altitude. The view of the coastline and the Great Barrier Reef was amazing, and it was a treat to see the beautiful clear waters for most of the time. The runoff from the cleared areas was obvious, with the waters changing colour from blue to brown. I am certain that I, like most of us, do not really appreciate the beauty that is our own country.
After my trip, I am more convinced than ever that working for reconciliation with our Indigenous sisters and brothers needs to be at the forefront of our educational outreach programmes. Over the course of the next while I will be looking at our options for remaining connected with the people I met on the Yarning Up trip. The school is looking at developing a working garden like ours, so I have already spoken to Jack about options. Siobhan, the Principal, has invited me to bring some staff and students to work in the school and community, and I know that it would be really worthwhile for all concerned. Students would gain an appreciation of how others live and learn.
Getting gear into the area is problematic as it is eleven hours by car to Cairns, so gear of all sorts and food of course comes in on barges from Cairns or by aircraft. When we shopped in the local store, it was clear that the distance meant much more expensive food – at least twice the price of goods in Brisbane. For example, I bought some yoghurt and paid $4 for a $2 tub. There is also a limited variety of food, though the council does subsidise fruit and vegetables. All meat arrives frozen and lots of food is tinned.
Getting the students to school is also a challenge; families function very differently from what we have come to expect. The school provides breakfast and a hot lunch each day, as well as providing a bus to pick up students so they can come to school.
It is clear that most families would love to have work to do rather than the 'sit down' money they receive from the government. The council is doing a great job with road and house building, but there is so much scope and so much interest in starting up new enterprises. The situation is made difficult because the community is a closed one; no outsiders are allowed to set up businesses and there are difficulties with accessing training.
More than anything, I was struck by the generosity and kindness of the community. Indigenous people in this community were welcoming, funny, insightful, and wise, are aware of their issues, and are working to sort themselves out. They have moved on from the stereotypical handout mentality to making positive decisions for themselves and they make great fried scones. As one man told me, “Actions speak louder than words”. St Francis would have approved.
As this is the fifth week of the term, the pace of Teaching and Learning at the College is really ramping up. Students are really well engaged in their learning and this is pleasing. Before long the Year 12 OP students will be sitting the QCS Test. This is the second last time this test will be administered and, as we move into the world of ATAR, life will change for our students once again. I am satisfied that we have been fully engaged in the process at so many levels. I am on a Steering Committee at the Curriculum Authority, members of the CLT have been meeting with other Deputies and Assistant Principals, and staff have been attending many and varied workshops to ensure understanding of ATAR and QCE 2020. Change after such a long time is always going to have its teething problems, but I know that we will manage this to best serve the young women at the College.
Peace and all good things