From the Principal
Remembrance Day is always a solemn yet significant event on the calendar and this week we were privileged to be part of a special ceremony. Many of you will be familiar with the College War Memorial, just inside the Dalny St gates, on the end of the Year 6 classroom. The original version was commissioned by the Old Collegians Association, then blessed and dedicated in 1948 to commemorate past students from De La Salle who made the ultimate sacrifice in war. Plaques were added to commemorate Old Collegians who died in later conflicts.
Over the decades, affected by weather and age, the original tablets with the list of fallen Old Collegians fell into disrepair and were replaced late last year with engraved granite slabs. At De La Salle we have a strong culture and tradition of our students recognising and observing the importance of Remembrance Day and Anzac Day in formal ceremonies and I was very proud of our College Leaders, Class Captains and musicians for the manner in which they contributed to Tuesday’s dedication ceremony for the updated War Memorial.
We were very pleased to welcome a range of special guests to participate in the ceremony. Federal Member for Higgins Kelly O’Dwyer; State Member for Malvern and Treasurer of Victoria, The Honourable Michael O’Brien; East Malvern RSL representatives Brigadier Geoff Christopherson and Mrs Leonie Christopherson; Mayor of the City of Stonnington, Counsellor Adrian Stubbs; Vice Chair of the College Board Mr Damien Nolan and Parish Priest of St Michael’s Ashburton Fr Hien Vu, who conducted the dedication. Ms O’Dwyer was an excellent guest speaker and we were very grateful to Brigadier Christopherson for providing the RSL protocols for the service and conducting the military sections of the ceremony. We were also honoured to have four De La Salle Brothers from the Malvern community join us: Br Julian Watson, Br Peter Gilfedder, Br Bede French and Board Member and former Principal of the College Br Peter Smyth.
The refurbishment of the War Memorial is a fitting tribute to the 52 Old Collegians named on the original tablets and plaques and the formal blessing and dedication is another significant chapter in the history of the College.
Since the previous dedication we have had another Old Collegian lose his life in the line of duty and it was fitting that during Tuesday’s service the College dedicated a commemorative plaque to Sgt Blaine Diddams MG. Sgt Diddams attended De La Salle in 1986 and 1987, followed by an outstanding 22 year career in the Army. The popular and highly decorated 40-year-old soldier and 17-year SAS veteran was on his seventh tour of Afghanistan when he lost his life in the Chora Valley on July 2 2012, not far from the main Australian base at Tarin Kowt.
Sgt Diddams has been awarded the nation’s third highest gallantry medal, the Medal for Gallantry (MG) for his actions on that day. His citation says that on 2 July 2012, Sergeant Diddams displayed inspirational leadership and selfless courage in extremely hazardous circumstances. “To support his patrol and ensure mission success, he knowingly exposed himself to draw fire and lead assaults on insurgent positions,” it says. “His leadership and selfless acts of gallantry, which ultimately cost his life, were of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of Australian special operations forces, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.”
Sgt Diddams’ 12 awards and decorations also include a US Army Commendation Medal which he was awarded for his service during Operation ANACONDA in Afghanistan in 2001.
As an Old Collegian and a soldier it is appropriate we remember and commemorate Sgt Diddams. Sgt Diddams’ wife and children and his parents, who all live interstate, were invited to the ceremony but were unable to attend due to commitments at another commemorative service interstate.
The dedication and blessing of the Memorial were followed by campus ceremonies at the traditional time of 11:00am, with students gathering at Kinnoull and Tiverton to pray, observe the traditions of The Ode, Last Post and Rouse and to remember all who have given their lives for our freedom, particularly the Old Collegians from De La Salle. It was tremendous to see our students standing and listening in respectful silence – although I must say I had every confidence it would turn out this way.
Inaugural Community Mass a great success
Last Sunday 9 November we had our very first De La Salle Community Mass at St Michael’s Ashburton. It was great to work with Fr Hien Vu, Parish Priest and appointed by Archbishop Hart as our College Chaplain, and celebrate Mass with the very healthy number of St Michael’s/De La families and the local parishioners. I must thank the various De La Salle boys – all past students of St Michael’s – who delivered the readings and the gifts, resplendent in full uniform and representing the College in splendid fashion. Thank you also to the various staff who came along to support the Mass.
This was a deliberate strategy to engage more with the community, to provide families with the opportunity to connect with the College and our staff and for us to connect with some of our parishes. It was great to chat to a range of parents, students, incoming Year 7 students and Old Collegians at the morning tea afterwards and get to know a few more families. I now plan to extend this event to a range of other parishes in the coming months, so please keep an eye out for notices around these Community Masses and I’d love to see as many families as possible in attendance.
Lasallian Mission Council dinner
On Thursday evening last week I was fortunate to join nine of our staff at the final Lasallian induction and dinner, run by the Lasallian Mission Council and held at St John’s College Dandenong in their Hospitality Centre. The program has run throughout 2014, giving staff new this year (both teaching and non-teaching ) from De La Salle, St Bede’s, St James and St John’s the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Lasallian charism, share the benefits of our Melbourne Lasallian network and forge a relationship with peers in other schools and the staff from the Mission Council. Thank you to Director of Staff Development Mrs Christine Thompson for facilitating Malvern’s involvement.
End of year preparations
This week saw the majority of Year 12 VCAA exams coming to a close and the beginning of the Year 11 examinations on Wednesday. Reports from most of the Year 12 students have been favourable and for many it’s now a matter of waiting and praying, now all the hard work has been done. For Year 11 students this is a crucial period to demonstrate their readiness for the Year 12 subjects they have selected, to gain invaluable examination experience and really set themselves up for a successful Unit 3 & 4.
All Year 10 and 11 students roll over into Year 11 and 12 and begin 2015 in the HeadStart Program next Friday 21 November. I must stress this is a compulsory and priceless period in the academic year. It is not simply a bit of introduction and warm-up for next year – it IS next year. The 2015 Unit 1 & 3 work begins in earnest with the 2015 timetable teachers. Study designs, assessments, timelines and expectations are all explained and work is set for the holiday period and attendance records for the six days count. There is clear evidence that students who commit to their VCE from day one perform all the better and it is certainly our expectation that all 2015 Year 11 and 12 students attend and take full advantage of the opportunity.
While classes and exams will all be over in a matter of weeks, the pace at the College shows no sign of slowing! ACC sport for Year 7 – 10 continues, ACC chess, debating and public speaking were on this week, we have had the information evening and orientation day for our incoming 2015 Year 7 students, rehearsals for Grease are well under way with OLSH Bentleigh and end of year assessments loom for Year 7 — 10. Our young men are thriving in what is a very busy environment!
Mr Peter Houlihan