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Year 12 Catholic Studies

One of the key features of Catholic Studies in Year 12 is to explore the idea of Life’s Journey. Our Year 12 students are challenged to think intimately about the person they are, and want to be, as they prepare to embark on that intensely personal journey, Life’s Journey, beyond the Siena gates. Our Guest Speaker program invites students into the world of our presenters whose lives have taken surprising and challenging detours, enabling them to make a profound difference in our world.

We have been blessed with a range of interesting and challenging speakers who generously share their stories of witness with us. Early in the year, Sr Sheila Flynn OP told us about growing up in Ireland and her vision which enabled the establishment of the Kopanang community in South Africa, a place of welcome, joy and love for HIV/AIDS affected women and children. The Kopanang project was the first part of a community based response to begin training women in income generating skills (embroidery and papermaking), empowerment, personal development, dealing with critical health issues, life and death, all within a faith based context, establishing relationships, building confidence and respect for the various cultures that came together.

We also welcomed Ann Hatchett, a Community Health Nurse, who works serving the poor and homeless of Melbourne. She spoke inspiringly about health as a universal aspiration and a basic human need. Her stories of people living in the streets, parks, squatting in derelict buildings, cars or railway carriages and of moving from one shelter to another using emergency accommodation, refuges, relatives or friends reminded us that poverty is a desperate reality in our community. Ann uses her medical training in compassionate and proactive ways to bring about greater justice for those who are voiceless in our society.

Paulie Stewart, lead singer of iconic Australian punk rock group, Painters and Dockers, lost his older brother, Tony Stewart, who was one of the Balibo 5. We are privileged to host him each year, to listen to his story of profound loss, musical success and great love for the East Timorese people who also inspire his support for asylum seekers and their plight here in Australia.  In 2014, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) abandoned a war crimes investigation into the killing of five Australian newsmen at Balibo in East Timor in 1975. There has been no protest from successive Australian governments over the forty years since Balibo and the consequences for the East Timorese people were devastating. Paulie brought with him Zeca, an asylum seeker from Timor Leste. Zeca too, shared with us some of his journey, seeking refuge from violence and poverty, which has brought him to Australia, where he witnesses in schools and shares his passion for drumming. 

Insightful reflections made by our students included:

‘We were unable to come to terms with the fact that many countries, particularly Australia, turned blind eyes to East Timor’s devastating circumstances, choosing not to get involved… Despite losing his brother in this shocking way, Paulie turned disastrous circumstances into positive ones, working with the East Timorese people, building schools for disabled children… The whole story of Balibo was incredibly moving and inspired an interest in me to learn more.’ 

‘The Balibo story has sparked real curiosity in me. I am amazed at the sheer bravery of the reporters and how determined they were to report the injustice they were witnessing.’

‘What was most interesting is that there are still so many issues of injustice that Australia faces today. What was most shocking is that Australia did so little to help these people and our complete lack of sympathy and support given to one of the poorest countries in the world.’

‘As a truth seeker with a strong interest in politics and history, I found the story of Balibo striking, surprising that it is one not known, and the injustices committed against innocent civilians outrageous… It takes ten times more courage to face the issue and bring about change… What I learnt from Balibo was essential for the life I wish to lead and the world I dream of for the 21st century.’

‘Paulie is so inspiring and his work profound. I’m so grateful to have been given this insight into forgiveness and how to move forward, creating good in the world.’

‘Power and corruption are rife in this world and leave many people devoid of human rights.’

‘I found it interesting to learn of the events of Balibo and, in particular, the way this grave injustice inspired Paulie to pursue a life of action and service to work for justice for the East Timorese community. As Catholics, we can’t help but reflect on the core principles of Catholic Social Teaching and the imperative to make these real in our world.’

‘As Christians, we must strive to seek truth. Exposure to the story of Balibo has made me question what else I don’t know about in this world. Learning to question is an essential skill to make the world a better place.’ 

‘Opening my eyes to the world around me and being informed are essential if we want to make a difference. We are impelled to spread awareness. Our government acts in our name; what happened at Balibo was not transparent.’

‘Reflecting on Paulie Stewart’s presentation, this was one of the most insightful and important experiences I have heard of and participated in at Siena.’

‘The key learning I have taken away from these lessons is the importance of involving ourselves in social justice issues. It is imperative to ask questions and be diligent in raising awareness in our commitment to seeking truth and justice.’

‘In the Balibo story, every one of the Catholic Social principles was violated. This reminds me how important these are to fight for.

As truth seekers, we must hear God’s call to action on our journey, inform ourselves, ask questions, and act with intelligent compassion. We are lifelong learners and the challenge of adulthood by virtue of our Dominican tradition is to remain contemporary and to be a voice, a crusader for justice, for those who can’t speak. The Guest Speaker program compels us not to be bystanders; rather, we are ‘upstanders’. This means that we are courageous; we care.



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