Reflection by SPC OCA immediate past president Allan McKinnon
June 20, 2022
“I was told that I was the longest-serving OCA president until I checked the records. I share the record with Sir Hugh Devine (SPC 1893-1894) who was president from 1914 -1919
I write this piece as my last report for The Shamrock (June 2022 edition). It is ironic that I, a winner of the Sir Hugh Devine trophy for impromptu speaking in 1969 should also, like him, be a long-serving president of the OCA – although more than one hundred years later. One has to wonder how different the OCA of today is from what existed in 1919. This report is a reflection of my time as president and some of the memories I take with me.
I came to the position of president when the Royal Commission hearings were coming to an end. I cannot but admire how the principal at the time, John Crowley dealt with the enormous amount of negative publicity that was being reported about SPC. John led the way supported by (Director of Community Development) Paul Nolan and (Deputy Principal) Stephen Hill and (Alumni and Foundation Officer) Lorrie Liston in reaching out to survivors. One person during this time was a “stand out” – I refer to Lorrie Liston. It was Lorrie, Paul and John who would reach out to survivors. But it was Lorrie who was the backbone of SPC Care program and got it to where it is today. That period was very difficult for all concerned at the College. Much of the correspondence and emails which John, Paul and I received left much to be desired and were hardly becoming of “Old Boys” of SPC.
At the end of the day, it has to be remembered that SPC is a school. The first responsibility of any school is to the students. The staff members, who work so hard to prepare students for the next stage of their lives, should not have had to read constant negative reports about SPC. Three 2015 Year 12 students wrote to the Ballarat Courier in defence of the school. It was a letter that was well received by the school community and victims alike. It resulted in more victims connecting with the school.
One of the things that distinguish the SPC OCA from many Old Collegian associations is we are not involved in the operations of the school. We have all read of Old Collegian Associations wielding too much power. Some have been responsible for the dismissal of principals and council members of schools. The SPC OCA does not see that as its role. We are there and will always be there to support the school and the Old Boy community in any way we can. That is where the OCA stands today and hopefully always will. We do not interfere with decisions that the Advisory Council or EREA make. We have no say on property acquisition, curriculum, staffing or any other operational issues. Some in the Old Boy community need to understand that.
I mentioned SPC Care before. One of my most poignant memories was travelling with Lorrie Liston to Port Campbell to visit Old Boy Phillip Younis (SPC1970-73) who was involved in a tragedy off the coast of Port Campbell at Easter 2019. The two other rescuers (father and son) drowned. Phil was winched from the raging surf with multiple injuries and survived. The tourist who they went to rescue also survived unharmed. When we visited Phil some six months after the ordeal he was still in a great deal of pain. He and his partner appreciated the visit of Lorrie and me, plus the good wishes of the College. The Coroner’s findings into the deaths of father and son lifesavers were recently released. One of the recommendations was that Phil is nominated for a bravery award for his heroic actions on that tragic day. That is but one example of SPC Care in action. Many kind acts are a result of SPC Care. Something is done almost weekly to assist an Old Boy or the family of an Old Boy.
The introduction of the scholarship program by the OCA is also something we are very proud of. Two boys are selected in Year 11, for a half-tuition scholarship in Year 12. The OCA Scholarship is not necessarily allocated to the smartest student or the best athlete or the pre-eminent musician. The scholarship is targeted towards two students who have contributed in many ways to the school. Once applications are received, the OCA, in collaboration with senior College staff, will determine a short list of students who will be invited to attend an interview. Following that process, the interview panel will recommend to the College Principal the names of two students to receive the OCA Scholarship for their Year 12 year. We hope to extend this further in years to come.
The OCA has recently donated $120,000 to the restoration cost of the main oval. The oval looks magnificent; you could run the Stawell Gift on it! I encourage all Old Boys to buy a picket and have their name immortalised.
I wish Charlie Flynn, my successor all the best for his term as president. Charlie is a third-generation Old Boy. I do not doubt that Charlie will do a great job. He is SPC to the core. Both his father and grandfather attended SPC; his brother Michael was elevated to Legend status in 2019.What an extraordinary story Michael has, I encourage all to go to the College website and read it.
An interesting fact is my late father (Jim) and Charlie’s late father (John) were both in Legacy as both were returned servicemen from WW II. My dad was in Warrnambool Legacy and Charlie’s father was a member of Colac Legacy. They knew each other well and spoke to each other often. It should be remembered also, that SPC Old Boy Frank Doolan (SPC 1908) was one of the founding fathers of Legacy. I have had the privilege of being a member of Ballarat Legacy for many years, and have been witness to the great work it does. Michael Flynn, after the celebration dinner of 2019 sent me several speeches that his father made concerning Legacy. They were beautifully written, eloquent words.
As I come to the end of my reflection, I wish to thank the members of the College Development Team. Firstly: Paul Nolan, the College’s former Director of Community Development. I worked with Paul up until he left towards the end of 2021. Paul worked tirelessly during some of the most difficult times in the College’s history. I wish to thank Roger Le Grand for the help and assistance he has given me, since coming into the position of Director of Community Development in late 2021. I also wish to thank the members of the Development team, Lorrie Liston, Rachel Bryant, Caitlin Bennett and Halina Sztynda for all the support and help they gave to me during my time as president. I would also like to thank previous principals and acting principals, John Crowley, Stephen Hill and Elizabeth Ryan who, like Paul, guided the College through a difficult time. The help and advice you gave to me whilst president was truly appreciated. I also wish to thank Steven O’Connor for the assistance he gave to me since taking on the role of principal of SPC in 2021.
Finally good luck Charlie, I am sure you will be a great president, enjoy every moment. You have the good wishes of the whole SPC community behind you.
Immediate Past President SPC OCA