Where are they now – Ashley Carr (SPC 1989-90)
September 14, 2020
The College recently reconnected with former student Ashley Carr (SPC 1989-90) who is currently posted at Manila in the Philippines with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) working on Counter Terrorism policy. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on DFAT’s work overseas and in the Philippines specifically where a quarter of a million infections and more than 25,000 new diagnoses each week has challenged local systems to effectively manage its spread. Ash shares his insights and life story as well as his memories of how SPC has shaped his life.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
I’ve been fortunate to have lived overseas for half the time that’s passed since I left St Pat’s. After five years’ study at Dookie, Longerenong and Wagga, and two years’ teaching in Melbourne, I lived and worked in the UK and Ireland for two years then took a year to travel home overland through Europe, the Middle East and Asia from a boarding school I taught at in Dorset. On my return I taught at Haileybury College then accepted a position with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at Canberra and shifted careers from secondary education to diplomacy. Since joining DFAT at the start of 2002 I’ve posted to Vanuatu, Pakistan, Jordan and am currently posted for three years at Manila in the Philippines where I work on Counter Terrorism policy. I also did short-term postings to Iraq and to Ukraine when Australia’s embassy opened there in 2014. I’m an active army reservist and was fortunate to serve on a deployment to Afghanistan in 2006-07.
How is the coronavirus presently affecting your work and industry?
COVID-19 has had enormous impacts on DFAT’s work overseas and in the Philippines specifically where a quarter of a million infections and more than 25,000 new diagnoses each week has challenged local systems to effectively manage its spread. With a population of 110 million in an area the size of Victoria and Tasmania combined, the Philippines government responded with very robust quarantine arrangements that drove the local economy from six per cent growth to -16.5 per cent and the country’s first recession in 29 years. Australia’s embassy remained open throughout, albeit with a reduction in service delivery given most of its 200-regular staff now work from home or returned to Australia. Manila averages 47,000 people per square kilometre so it’s not possible to fully eliminate all risk here – COVID’s prevalent and I’ve actually been affected already – fortunately the symptoms would otherwise have been less remarkable than even a light cold. With more than 25,000 Australians in the Philippines at any given time the embassy focused to repatriate a good number of expatriate residents and to support Philippines government and non-government sectors to respond to the pandemic.
What are your favourite memories from your time at St Patrick’s College?
All of it – everything. St Pat’s provided distinctly positive and rounded experiences that effectively delivered a solid broad-based education. It’s excelled for more than 125 years to master a blend of academics, mateship, sport, faith, community and service to consistently produce a solid core of Australian leaders. One characteristic that distinguishes St Pat’s is the culture that acknowledges and preserves a rich history while concurrently faced forward and postured to continue to shape and prepare young men to transition to future study and careers.
What teacher from SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
I was fortunate to have great teachers but rather than single out an individual I’d prefer to recognise the Christian Brothers. A fraternal congregation of predominantly sound men, the brothers built and managed St Pat’s to contribute enormously to Australian life. With a long history as education providers that extends back further than State education, there’s a lot to celebrate about the Christian Brothers as dedicated men who devoted, and continue to devote, many years’ extraordinary service – and whose contributions enabled St Pat’s to be the outstanding school it is today.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
Education has enabled every professional opportunity I’ve had. When I was a secondary teacher I impressed on students that education is the best investment: its value compounds; it can’t be lost; it won’t be stolen; and it’s a key to opportunities that provide a fulfilling and meaningful life.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
It provided the broad preparation necessary to appreciate that education is a continuum that extends all the way into adulthood – and not just academically. Broader extra-curricular aspects of a St Pat’s education instilled why and how qualities such as respect, integrity, attitude, resilience and perseverance will usually always realise a dividend.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
Maintain good physical fitness – keep playing team sports, invest in solid friendships with mates and family – they’re important, travel abroad – learn what Australia looks like from the outside, don’t over-invest in work – it won’t likely end well, and don’t outsource your thinking – read widely, critically analyse, maintain perspective and form balanced views.