Last Sunday was the Fourth Sunday of Easter and the Gospel reading was from John’s Gospel. In this reading, John uses the analogy of the sheepfold. In the reading, Jesus describes those who enter the sheepfold by climbing over the fence as thieves and robbers. He says that it is he who enters through the gate that is the shepherd of the sheep. In understanding the message of this reading, it is important to note that in those times, sheepfolds had only very small wall of stone or branches and many flocks of sheep would be herded together to spend the night. Shepherds were only allowed to enter through the front gate by the gatekeeper or person who owned or oversaw the sheepfold. The sheep knew it was time to move by knowing their shepherd’s voice and they would only respond to that voice. The shepherd would call and lead them from the sheepfold and they would follow. The sheep would not follow the voice of a stranger. Jesus said that he was the gatekeeper and those that entered through his gate were safe.

“The truth of the matter is, I am the sheep gate. All who came before meWere thieves and marauders whom the sheep did not heed.I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be safe- you will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.I came that you may have life, and have it to the full!” (John 10: 7-10)

Sometimes in the busyness of our own lives, it is a good thing to take some time to reflect and ask ourselves: who are our shepherds? Likewise, in times when we are the shepherd: who are our sheep? The last line of this John’s Gospel reading is very well known – “I came that you may have life, and have it to the full”. As parents or significant adults (shepherds) in the lives of our young men, it is an interesting consideration to reflect upon: how do we support them to live life to the full. Our young men are growing up in a world that relies heavily on media and wide spread channels of communication. They are constantly “wired” to others or types of media. Very often the news that they take in or the communications that they are a part of, can be quite negative. Maybe sometimes being the good shepherd might be about reminding them what they have to be grateful for and they know that your “voice” is familiar and safe. Whilst adolescents can be difficult to communicate with at times, or appear to be disinterested, it is my belief that they would love to be reminded of this on a regular basis.

The month of May has been set aside asDomestic and Family Violence Awareness Month. This topic has rightly received national coverage over more recent years. The following basic statistics from the Domestic Violence Centre highlight the prevalence and severity of violence against women:

  • On average at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.
  • One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.
  • One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
  • One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.
  • Women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner.
  • Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation because of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives.
  • Of those women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care.
  • Violence against women is not limited to the home or intimate relationships. Every year in Australia over 300,000 women experience violence - often sexual violence - from someone other than a partner.
  • Eight out of ten women aged 18 to 24 were harassed on the street in the past year.
  • Young women (18-24 years) experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups.
  • Intimate partner violence contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.
  • Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for womena common factor in child protection notifications and results in a police officer call-out on average once every two minutes across the country.

Whilst the perpetrators of domestic and family violence are not only men, the reality is that men are very clearly the main offenders. As a Catholic School in the Edmund Rice Tradition that offers boys’ only education, this issue should be of importance to us. The warning signs can be evident from an early age and is often passed off as ‘boys being boys’ or something that is tolerated. This can lead to a young man believing that the behaviour is acceptable and it may amplify as he grows older. Some of the more recognised symptoms that may lead to later behaviour include:

  • Physical abuse towards others such as pushing, shoving, slapping, punching etc;
  • Threatening to hurt others or their friends, relatives etc;
  • Damaging property or pets;
  • Forcing others into a compromising position particularly sexual assaults;
  • Demanding things such as money or possessions from others;
  • Constantly criticising, humiliating or insulting others;
  • Following others around without their consent or permission;
  • Repeatedly contacting another person even after they have been asked to stop;
  • Constantly doing things to others that may them feel uncomfortable or unsafe even after they have been asked to stop.

During this month, we will be putting regular signage around the College to increase the awareness of our young men regarding this issue. We have already adjusted the school laptop home screens and will raise the matter several different ways through our College assemblies. On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Kearney and I joined 10 of our Year 11 students in a march against domestic violence in the main street of Sandgate. It may also be an excellent topic for home. Depending on the age of each young man, of particular interest might be their thoughts on relationships with young women and how they might react to different situations when the relationship is in tension. The other frightening statistic is that at least 25% of students at schools are in families where domestic and family violence occurs. In such circumstances, it is important that the protective parent talk to the young person about how they are coping and seek external assistance as soon as possible, particularly if the person starts to normalise these behaviours.

Many of our Year 12 students participated in the KAIROS retreats from Sunday to Tuesday during this week. This is a very powerful experience for the young men and the staff whom attend. I have received some very heartfelt feedback from students and staff and I am sure that the experience was very challenging but a rewarding one.

This weekend we host St Laurence’s College at the College for Chess on Friday afternoon and at Curlew Park on Saturday. The College Leadership Team will be hosting a morning tea for all our mothers and the Year 5 students will perform outside the function room at 10:00am. This morning tea is for all parents and our chance to say thank you and catch up with any feedback that you may have for us. I look forward to meeting with many parents during this time.

At our Spirit Assembly in the first week of the term, I told our students that this term we have two clear aims in our co-curricular activities. These aims are:

  1. To have the best sporting teams in the AIC competitions – teams where everyone enjoys themselves and tries as hard as they can; and
  2. To have the best teams of sportsman in the AIC competition – all players demonstrated exemplary sportsmanship to the officials and opponents.

This weekend is our first home-game for the season and during the week we have spoken to the young men about hosting other players and families at our grounds. These expectations have also included wearing the correct uniform whilst supporting our teams as well as sportsmanship on the field and manners to all off the field. Every Tuesday, we hold our own College “judiciary hearings” dealing with matters including poor conduct with referees or being given “cards” during games. Unfortunately, students will often blame their behaviour as a reaction to the poor behaviour or actions of their opposition. We have been very clear with our young men that we have standards and everyone is expected to rise to these standards. We do not drop to the lower standards of poor behaviour of our opponents if that is the case, but model our own high standards. I would encourage all parents to remind their sons of this and as adults at the games, it is also incumbent on each of us to also model these standards to our young men.

I look forward to meeting with many parents at the Mother’s Day morning tea on Saturday.

God Bless

Mr Chris Mayes - College Principal