Where are they now – Shane Pianta (SPC 1973-74)

August 6, 2018

The College recently reconnected with former boarder Shane Pianta (SPC 1973-74) who retired this year after a fulfilling career in town planning. Shane recalls some of his memories of his favourite teacher, Br “Ace” Cole and the friendships he has retained with both boarders and day students.

Shane Pianta.

Where has life taken me since leaving SPC?

Following completing my HSC year at SPC in 1974 (I was a boarder for two years – 1973 and 1974, off a wheat and sheep farm at Tempy in north west Victoria, about 20 miles south of Ouyen in the Mallee), I studied Town Planning at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and obtained a Diploma in Applied Science in Town Planning and a Degree in Applied Science in Town Planning. The courses in those days were offered generally part time. This was great, as I was able to obtain a town planning position and study at night (twice a week). I was able to correct the lecturers on changes to Acts of Parliament. The first year of the courses was full time.

My first full-time job was as a Town Planning Assistant at the Geelong Regional Planning Authority which after one year’s work became the Geelong Regional Commission. I stayed in that employment for between nine and 10 years before moving interstate to South Australia and becoming the first qualified town planner at the then District Council of Strathalbyn situated on the beautiful Fleuriou Peninsula, only 55 kilometres from Adelaide. I left that municipality after three years and joined the former Shire of Swan Hill based in Swan Hill between 1987 and 1989 as its town planner. Following leaving Swan Hill, I moved to Ballarat (again) and worked as a planner at the former City of Ballaarat for one year.

I then joined the State Government of Victoria as a planner based in the Grampians/Central Highlands Region). I worked in that region for six years based in Ballarat before moving to the Gippsland Region within the same State Government department.- After two years in Gippsland I moved to Melbourne and worked in the State Government planning department for 20 years before retiring on January 26 2018 (Australia Day). In my 28 years in the Victoria State Government I have worked in so many departments (the government of the day changes their names and roles – I think it is at least eight departments). I have been involved in working on various strategic plans for the future.

My career aspirations whilst working in the town planning field (including strategic and statutory planning) have always been principally to leave the environment, both natural and built form, in as good or better condition than previously found. Melbourne for instance for the past five or so years has been voted as the most liveable city in the world based on particular criteria. Town planning is linked to so many other fields, the least not being transport; and integrated planning is vital, I believe for any enhancement we make in the world. (However, on a sad note in my 40 years of planning I have not planned a town -“ bit of a misnomer! the town or urban area has always existed and then grown).


What are your fondest memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?

As a student boarder at SPC, my favourite memories of the College would be enabling me or setting me up to live away from home in my future life and, of course the friendships I have retained with various students (both the day rats and boarders). In my HSC year in the middle of winter in Canny House (now where the basketball stadium is), I clearly remember all of us listening to Br Cole’s radio for the Victorian country football league scores on a particular Saturday night and the commentator mispronounced Walpeup in the Mallee league and a commotion occurred and I chased Maurice Conway down the corridor and received a punch in the stomach from someone coming the other way – it turned out to be the Headmaster, Br Nangle and because we were all meant to be studying, we were all (about 16 of us) sent to the old chapel for punishment and to study – no heating until about 11:00pm – we were freezing in there.


Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?

My favourite teacher at SPC was the late Br Cole (known as Ace). As a teacher and person he was an ‘ace’ guy. I admit I was not an academic student- (Lou Baker (Corazza) could admit to that) but without ‘Ace’ mentoring me and giving me great advice on studying techniques for my HSC exams and in a way tipping the questions to be asked in the exams, I may not have passed my HSC. He also gave me a game of tennis for SPC against Ballarat Grammar and we won that match and I won my singles match as well. A number of the lay teachers were also great.


How has your education shaped your professional life?

St Patrick’s College has shaped my professional life in many ways, the least not being to identify and practice true values and ethics to all and to communicate well to all. I have also used my education and boarding experience at SPC to help others less fortunate. I also have taken on-board to do my best in anything or work undertaken and not to be just a ‘yes’ person to things. Speak your mind and evaluate things before making a decision.


How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?

Working to assist St Vincent’s de Paul on weekends at SPC has strengthened my desire to assist and help those less fortunate. Homelessness has become a huge issue, not only in Melbourne, Victoria and Australia and more needs to be done to provide housing and other essential needs for these unfortunate people.


If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?

I would say a message to the students of today is to do your best and who knows where that will take you to in your future. Speak your mind and don’t always just follow the mob. Be prepared to evaluate things before making an answer or taking an action it could affect others and not just yourself.