From the Principal

As we approach Mission Action Day on 5 April, and all in our community turn their minds toward our annual fundraising drive to support the Lasallian mission, I write this week in relation to one of our key partners. A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to visit Papua New Guinea, along with approximately 15 other Lasallian Principals from Australia and New Zealand, accompanied by our Brother Visitor David Hawke and other key staff from the Lasallian Mission Council. 

As one of only four countries in our Lasallian District of ANZPPNG (Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Paua New Guinea ) our colleagues in PNG work closely with us on a variety of fronts. Intrinsic to our networking and relationship is the capacity of Australian schools to support the mission of our PNG neighbours, who really do a genuinely terrific job educating so many students, with such limited resources.

De La Salle Malvern has a proud record of supporting De La Salle Secondary School Bomana, both financially and through sending groups of staff and Year 11 students to work on building projects over a number of years. In formalising this support mechanism in recent years, we have engaged in a “twinning” program with Bomana. Organised with the support and administration of the Lasallian Mission Council and the Trustees, Malvern has a commitment to provide money to Bomana each year to support the education of their boys. This money, primarily from Mission Action Day sponsorship funds raised by students, goes directly to Bomana, where it is used for critical everyday educational resources, the like of which our students take for granted. 

Equipment, furniture, basic yet essential everyday maintenance, toilets, reliable running water and electricity supply are all enabled largely in our PNG schools through the generosity of  Australian and New Zealand students, families and other benefactors. It is essential for their future that we continue our tradition of generosity so that these young people in PNG can have the opportunities virtually every Australian child has as a matter of course. There is still a very high percentage of children in PNG who do not have access to an education. Our financial commitment to Bomana and their neighbours really does emphasise the “Make a Difference” aspect of Mission Action Day.

It was certainly an eye-opening and sobering experience to visit Papua New Guinea. On the first day we had presentations from the Principals below, where they each explained the nature of their schools and the issues and problems they faced. However, most importantly the Principals’ overt positivity, enthusiasm and ambition for their students’ progress was a shining beacon.

De La Salle Secondary School BomanaBr Antony Swamy
Jubilee Catholic Secondary SchoolMrs Bernadette Ove
La Salle Technical College HoholaBr Jeyakumar Kulandaisamy
Sacred Heart Teachers’ CollegeMrs Theckla Aknonero
Rosary Secondary SchoolMr Raphael Kua
Kupau Primary SchoolMr Peter Daka
Mun Primary SchoolMr Pere Koimo

The next day we visited four schools in and around Port Moresby. We toured all four institutions, each of which demonstrated heart-warming generosity and pride in their school. We went to a mass and a Leaders Investiture at Jubilee, were guests at assemblies, witnessed cultural shows and had a lunch prepared for us by students at Hohola, worked with trainee primary teachers in their classes at Sacred Heart and marvelled at the work and improvements Br Antony and his predecessors have achieved at Bomana – including the handiwork of our visiting Year 11 Immersion groups.

The conditions, facilities and everyday routines of the schools and their students are rudimentary at best by our Melbourne standards. While this was an inevitable and uncomfortable observation for us as visitors from Australia and NZ, what we really took away from the visits was the warmth, enthusiasm, dedication and ambition of staff and students alike at all the schools. The students’ smiles, their friendliness and their gratitude towards us for simply taking the time to visit was extraordinary, remarkable and memorable.

They are doing a simply marvellous job with outrageously limited resources and uncertain futures. Everything we can provide by virtue of our financial support through Mission Action Day, the twinning arrangement and hopefully more containers of resources – literally every dollar and any resource we give – goes such a long way in the Lasallian educational landscape of our PNG schools.

On a different note, you will remember from the last Duce I wrote about the sexual abuse issue, reiterated our stance on the problem, committed to Child Safety and encouraged our community to focus on the many great things a Catholic, Lasallian education provides in 2019 and beyond, leaving behind the shame of the past.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the many parents, staff and others in our De La Salle community for their support in relation to our recent involvement in the media. I have had many emails, messages and phone calls of support in recent weeks and indeed, over the journey we have taken together in recent years around this issue. 

I am grateful for the approach of the Trustees of the De La Salle Brothers, led by our Brother Visitor David Hawke. They have been very supportive and in regular contact to provide advice and information as issues arise. I must also mention Br Ambrose Payne, who many of you will know. Ambrose’s unenviable role as Professional Standards Officer for the Brothers puts him in the middle of these issues and he has also worked proactively and supportively with me in dealing with Malvern victims’ cases.

In such a challenging period for our school, Catholic education in general and school leaders like myself, it has been gratifying and heart-warming to receive such support from my community. I believe in and pray for a brighter future for all in our community and reinforce our commitment to the protection and safety of our young people. 

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2019 04 - 21 March 2019