As the 2018 school year began last week, our schools and colleges were once again filled with hope and excitement for the learning, development, joy and positive new relationships that lie ahead.
What a privilege it has been for us to welcome staff, students and families to Catholic education in Western Australia, whether that be students returning to continue their education journey in Catholic education or those beginning in Catholic education. I extend a personal welcome to families in all our schools across Western Australia. Your partnership with your child’s school and teachers plays a vital role in your child’s education and is deeply valued in Catholic schools.
Starting the year with news of fantastic results for our 2017 Year 12 students fresh in mind is a source of encouragement for us all. Our schools’ support for these students is evident in these impressive outcomes in ATAR and VET alike. There are stories now online at CEWA News that share more detail of these achievements. As I reflect on the successes of our Year 12 students last year, I wish all those starting their final year of schooling in 2018 all the very best.
Each day in the life of our schools there will be countless examples of students thriving in their learning, growing in their personal faith journey, and enthusiastically innovating and collaborating in exciting ways. There will be numerous stories of hard work, creativity and passion paying off. I look forward to hearing about these initiatives and achievements, and to sharing these encouraging stories with you.
2018 has been nominated the national Year of Youth by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Celebrating the role of young people in the Church will inspire many activities and learnings in our schools, and there will be wonderful opportunities available to students to participate in the Australian Church’s involvement in the 2018 Synod of Bishops in Rome, discussing young people, the challenges and issues they face, and their contributions to the Church.
Once again this year our students will be able to express their creativity, and find a public voice, through involvement in the Catholic Arts program. They will have opportunities to grow personally and benefit others in ministry roles and Christian Service Learning activities. They will demonstrate their ability to work together and enjoy challenges in programs like the Tournament of Minds and a range of exciting STEM initiatives that take them beyond their regular classrooms. We also know that they will encounter new tools for learning, that connect them to other students across the state and around the world, and make available to them new resources, as our LEADing Lights digital transformation initiative continues to be rolled out. This will bring new opportunities for all, but importantly will help bring greater equity and accessibility to those in schools outside of the Perth metropolitan and major regional centres.
We are committed to our system improving year by year, and this year there is a renewed focus on child safety. Our schools and system have been working hard for a number of years to make sure policy and practice contributes to school cultures that put the wellbeing, safety and learning of students at the centre of everything they do. With the learnings we have taken from the findings of the Royal Commission, we are as resolute as ever to ensure that our Catholic schools are the safest learning environments possible. We welcome important work undertaken and shared by others which aligns with our own work, including the recently published report by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, giving voice to young people right across Western Australia.
With Term 1 of the 2018 school year underway, I once again want to wish each of our students, their families, and our dedicated staff the very best. As we each do our part in supporting the formation and learning of our young people, and strive to grow closer to God as Catholic communities, I am confident that we will strengthen relationships, start exciting new ones, and hopefully grow ever more aware of the needs of those around us.
As we begin our Lenten journey with Ash Wednesday, we can reflect on the reminder in Pope Francis’ Lenten Message of the merits of prayer, giving alms and fasting. I encourage us all to use this time, and these Lenten practices, to reflect on our relationship with Christ, with ourselves, and with others.