Headmaster's Weekly Address


Reconciliation and apologies have been an ongoing feature nationally and locally across the last fortnight. At school we have: on Assembly; in prayers; in notices; in classroom discussions, ensured that St Kevin’s boys understood the importance and significance of Reconciliation Week. Our respect for indigenous culture and people, has to be based on knowledge and relationships. The celebration of fifty years passing since the 1967 referendum which recognised Aboriginal people, was important. The twenty-five years since the MABO decision in the High Court which deconstructed the hypocrisy of ‘terra nullius’ as a basis for the acquisition of Aboriginal land is another milestone worthy of thought and reflection. My own view is that we need a large amount if not totally bipartisan political support to further close the gap in areas such as health, education, housing and longevity between indigenous and other Australians.

In the third edition of Omnia in 2015, and earlier on our website, I clearly stated the College support for individuals and families who have borne the pain of sexual abuse in schools, churches and community groups. Families will also be aware I directly addressed these issues at the beginning of year, Parent Information Evenings, in 2013 and emailed Old Collegians. Recently, at the gathering of all senior EREA staff and Principals from across the country, the Executive Director, Dr Wayne Tinsey, issued a detailed apology to all victims within our EREA community. It was delivered at the National Arboretum in the presence of victims, the Oceania Leadership of the Brothers and current Principals. It read …

In this time of Pentecost – a time when the spirit provides us with the courage to find a new voice – we, the leaders of Edmund Rice Educational Australia, on behalf of our communities offer the following apology. Today we begin a journey of major change by publicly acknowledging the sexual abuse of students in our schools; some dead, some alive, some unknown:

Today we directly acknowledge the scarring harm of sexual abuse as abhorrent, sinful, shameful and disgraceful; and we also acknowledge that whatever was done can never be undone. For this we apologise.

Today we directly acknowledge the helplessness, powerlessness, fear, guilt and shame, that has been, and remains part of a victim’s life when, as a child, they recall feeling no control over their lives and even blamed themselves for what had been done to them. For this we apologise.

Today we directly acknowledge the fact that young people in our schools were betrayed in their adolescence where they had every expectation of, and needed nurturing and protection. For this we apologise.

Today we directly acknowledge the anger which our young students have felt, have shown and may still harbour against their abusers and others who they feel failed to protect them. For this we apologise.

Today we directly acknowledge the sadness, grief and sense of loss felt by victims, especially when the perpetrator was loved and trusted by our young people and their families. For this we apologise.

Today we directly acknowledge that the pain inflicted and suffered continues to have ongoing devastation on victims in their adulthood as partners, parents, extended family and leaders in their careers and communities – and that there is no hiding this pain. For this we apologise.

Today we directly acknowledge the unimaginable pain endured by families, friends and loved ones who have been broken by the ingrained lasting trauma, often hidden, of each and every unspeakable criminal indignity and personal violation. For this we apologise.

And finally, most significantly, today is the day we directly acknowledge that there has been a history of denial, secrecy, suppression and diminution in relation to sexual abuse crimes. Barriers have been placed which have hindered redress. Victims have not had a real voice. Rightful acknowledgement has not been given to those crying for justice. We have not spoken or acted as Edmund Rice and the Gospels would have demanded. For this we apologise.

In the knowledge that, to many, the offering of an apology at this time may seem unhelpful, even possibly adding to the pain in some cases, we offer it sincerely in the hope that it is seen as a significant and necessary step towards healing, reconciliation and ongoing redress. In the true spirit of Pentecost, we pray that Edmund Rice Education Australia has found a new voice in laying stronger foundations for support, re-connection, inclusion and ongoing care for all who have suffered in this way.

I am sorry. We are sorry. We commit to a liberated future.

This heartfelt statement by Dr Tinsey, was an important milestone along the road to EREA maturity and we at St Kevin’s will look to ensure we support the EREA apology and, just as importantly, maintain the highest standards of Child Safe policies and practices.

Returning from Canberra on Friday evening, I headed for the Old Collegians Annual Dinner at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. Philip Baré, 1997 College Captain proposed the toast to the College, to which I had the honour to respond. The large crowd then heard from the Guest of Honour, Dr Anthony Bergin (SKC 71), who, with his background in international affairs, law and geopolitics, delivered a fascinating address. 

Tooronga Sports Fields will open on 17 June. Alongside the First Soccer and Hockey teams, a number of fortunate fellows will play their matches there on the day. The Bursar will be emailing the community with parking arrangements for Saturdays at Tooronga which are both offsite but short walks. May I also take this chance to emphasise that no pets, particularly dogs, may be brought to the grounds. You and your hound will be politely asked to leave if you forget this requirement. It is also perhaps timely to remind people of the sign at the Heyington gates that asks that no dogs, be they leashed or not, be brought on to the grounds.

Enjoy the long weekend.

Kind regards,

Stephen F Russell

St Kevin's College will create academic and co-curricular programs which are engaging and meet the specific needs of boys’ education.
(from the Mission Statement)