A reflection of Boarding in 2019

December 17, 2019

By Director of Boarding, Mr Mike Silcock

It would be easy to identify the wonderful precinct that we all reside in as a key strength of our Boarding program. It is unrivalled in Victoria, if not across Australia, and allows us to operate in a space conducive to providing the optimum care for our Boarders. It is though in our staff that we truly find our greatest strength. Never was this more evident than in our final term this year. I was on leave, which had to be extended when my father’s illness necessitated me returning via the UK. Our Boarding staff, so ably led by our two Housemasters, Mr Ryan Bullock and Ms Tamara Westwood, and supported by our GAP Tutors and a myriad of support staff, navigated a challenging term for our Boarders, with Year 12 final examinations just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of important events occurring.

The consistent care our staff provide our Boarders is, for me, the significant point of difference that sets us apart from other Boarding schools. What was a further indication of this strength was that it came as no surprise to me. The level of professionalism that our staff demonstrate on a daily basis is a credit to them, to our College and a great benefit to our Boarders. On behalf of our whole Boarding Community I thank our Boarding staff for the year that was 2019.

I am often asked what does differentiate us from other Boarding schools. Perhaps, more broadly, why would (or should) a family send their son to board. As the year progressed I spent considerable time searching for the appropriate way to articulate what is at the heart of St Patrick’s College Boarding and I share these with you now:

St Patrick’s College Boarding is;

– A place in which diversity and difference is celebrated.

– A place where we all live together as one, but cater for the individual.

– A place that promotes inclusivity, acceptance, respect and kindness.

– A place that strives to provide a platform for our Boarders to grasp the many opportunities that the College provides.

– A place where the goal is for us all to help one another be the best version of ourselves.

– A place where consistency of care is paramount in our attention to the wellbeing of each Boarder.

– A place that acknowledges the privilege that we all enjoy and our responsibility to support those less fortunate than ourselves.

Our diversity is a remarkable thing to behold. It is the very fabric of our Boarding community. There is not a ‘one shoe fits all’ model to being a Boarder at St Patrick’s College.

Year 7 boarding buddies Dwayne Hayes and Eric Yang.

Our Boarding community was further enriched this year with our first Overseas Boarder. Eric Yang joined us from China in Year 7 and, as can only happen here, formed the strongest friendship with a fellow Year 7 Boarder, Dwayne Hayes, who calls Ali Curung, a remote community in the Northern Territory, home. Their friendship epitomises the diversity of our Boarding community, our celebration of such diversity and the opportunities so unique to our Boarding experience.

Our junior Boarding program continues to grow, which has long been a goal of mine and just the presence of Boarders across all year levels continues to positively influence the dynamic within the Boarding Precinct. As always, what assists the success of our junior program is the wonderful example set to them by our senior Boarders. This year there has been a collective leadership shown by our Year 12 cohort, who have grown immeasurably over the course of their journey through the College. We applaud them and wish them all success as they enter life beyond our gates.

Our Year 11 Prefect program continues to develop and will be a great source of reflection before the new year commences. It is our wish that this opportunity provides our young men with a platform to develop leadership skills. This year Benedict, Patrick, Ethan, Fraser, Hudson, Edward, Thomas, Alexander, Archie, and Alexander served as Year 11 Boarding Prefects and worked collectively to support our Boarding program. Whilst not a prerequisite it was pleasing to see that our 2020 Boarding Student Leadership has come from our Year 11 Boarding Prefect group.

We congratulate once again our Captain of Boarding for 2020, Benedict Howard, who will be well supported by two Vice-Captains of Boarding, Patrick Rea and Ethan Councillor. Boarding Student Leadership will enter a brand new, exciting landscape in 2020 with the introduction of a Boarding Council. This notion has been utilised in years gone by, however its design for 2020 will see involvement from all year levels with increased accountability and influence on how our Boarding program operates. Ultimately, our goal is to provide the best possible Boarding experience and what better way to do this than working in an authentic partnership with our Boarders.

A key highlight of our 2019 year actually occurred in December of last year. We have reflected at length on our annual Orientation program. For many years it had been a single night, before joining our wider College Orientation day. Ahead of this year we made the decision to increase this to a whole weekend, which also enabled us to fly in our new interstate Boarders. The Orientation weekend itself was a great success, however its true value was only really seen when the new College year commenced at the end of January. Friendships were not being made, but being reacquainted. Routines were not being learnt, but remembered. It created a ‘togetherness’ that has certainly underpinned the successes of this year.

One of these many successes is our Social Justice program. Superbly coordinated by our Housemaster Ms Tamara Westwood, our Boarders have been involved in many College and Ballarat local initiatives. To name but a few our Boarders have assisted at various MND (Victoria) collections, Clean Up Australia Day, Walk off the War Within, ANZAC Day, The Smith Family Koori Learning Club, the Mother’s Day Classic, the RSPCA Million Paws Walk, the College’s performance of ‘Shrek The Musical’ and Ballarat’s Run 4 a Cause. So many of our Boarders have consistently given of their free time to help others, something we shall continue to promote and encourage. Boarding is a privilege, so it is important that we foster in our young men the spirit of service and evidenced by this year our Boarders embrace this.

As with the conclusion of any year it marks a period of transition. We have farewelled a number of Boarders and we must say goodbye to our Senior GAP Tutor, Daniel Lombard. Daniel has been an unbelievable addition to our Boarding Staff team and will be sorely missed by staff and Boarders alike. Daniel has a wonderful, personable manner that has endeared himself to the members of our community and he has been a great role model for our Boarders. We wish him well upon his return to South Africa and in his future ventures upon returning to Australia. Daniel will be replaced by Shingirai Katsvere, who will join us in January from Zimbabwe. We look forward to welcoming Shingirai in the new year. I strongly believe it is testament to the closeness of our Boarding Community that we are afforded such consistency with our staff, which only serves to better support our Boarders. We again thank all our staff, a staff that includes Ms Jo Crick, our Laundry Coordinator, our domestic team, our Catering team, Study Tutors and all our College staff who help our Boarders on their educational journey.

Our Boarding Community is thriving. We are blessed to be able to offer an experience that we believe will provide the greatest opportunities to enjoy all that our fine College offers. That said, we shall never grow complacent, nor shall we ever stop striving to improve what we do. 2019 has been an exceptional year and we are grateful to all in our Boarding Community who have contributed to this.

The 2019 Boarding community at St Patrick’s College.