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Social Justice Co-ordinator

Social Justice has had some great new innovations this year and it has been an active and exciting time. Regular school assemblies with presentations on a variety of issues and initiatives have kept social justice in the forefront of people’s minds this year. It is difficult to do justice (no pun intended) to all the work going on but here is a snapshot.

Project compassion is our annual fundraiser for Caritas over the Lenten period. Each student is invited to take a donation box after our Ash Wednesday liturgy and this year we raised over four thousand dollars which was a great effort, so congratulations girls on your generosity and persistence.

On the last night of term two Justice and Democracy under the guidance of Ms Lappin organised a sleepover in Kennedy Hall to raise awareness on the issue of homelessness. Activities included film and discussion on the causes of homelessness plus some of the ways that people cope with and overcome it, were explored. Education was stressed as something that can go by the wayside when people become homeless and the importance of staying in school was shown to be an important contributing factor in overcoming long-term homelessness.

We had soup and rolls for tea to emulate eating at a soup kitchen. At the end of the night we curled up in our sleeping bags on the thin physical education mats and drifted into sleep. Next morning Ms Lappin greeted us softly with some wake up music. After breakfast we wandered off to class in our pyjamas and dressing gowns to raise awareness of what the night had been about. The thirty students who took part in the night were enthusiastic and wonderful participants in discussion and activities. I must thank them for taking the time to make the experience such a success. Thanks also goes out to Margaret Miller from Joey’s van, who was the guest speaker and she gave a great talk on the history and work of the food van in the Dandenong area. They continue to do a tremendous job feeding the marginalised and I would like to acknowledge the wonderful opportunity they offer us by allowing us to work on the van each term. Thanks also to the instigator of the night, Ms Lappin and the Justice and Democracy Group. Her tireless energy and enthusiasm guides the Justice group and she did a fantastic job organising the night. She managed to fit this in whilst also producing the school musical. I think she may have invented the twenty-five hour day!

Brigidine Day was another great success and Ms Dimian and the St Vinnies girls did a wonderful job organising an Italian feast for the lunch basket auction. Baskets were auctioned for up to two hundred and fifty dollars with funds being divided between our mission work in Papua New Guinea, the Cyrene Centre in Noble Park and the Oblate Little Flower Orphanage in China. Students dined in comfort and were fed by the Vinnies girls and the home economics team providing the support needed for such a mammoth event. This annual event is such great fun and a great awareness and fundraiser.

Whilst on the topic of China Little Flower orphanage I would like to thank Mazenod and Father Twigg for giving Killester students the opportunity to travel to China and work with the children and foster families that the Oblates support. Students who went gave a report at the first school assembly showing film footage, photos and providing stories of this amazing experience. Currently we are organising next year’s trip and all concerned are very excited about the prospect of such an experience.

Another opportunity came to us at the end of last year when Wallara, a disability support organisation in Dandenong approached us to help raise awareness about disabilities and create a partnership with the school. After an initial meeting we visited the school in Dandenong and their factory in Keysborough for a tour. The premises in Dandenong provide training and accommodation for people with a range of disabilities and the elderly. It is a beautifully designed, colourful and warm place and we witnessed the staff and residents interacting with such care, respect and dignity. It just spelt out one our Brigidine Core Values, “To welcome all people, especially the most vulnerable.” From there we went to their logistics warehouse in Keysborough where over ninety people with a range of disabilities package items for large companies such as the Body Shop, , Beanie Kids, Oxfam, Myer and the RACV. They have an incredible work ethic and accuracy that is above industry standards and the supervisors and workers showed with great pride, their work and packaging methods. This also reflects the justice aspect that everyone has the right to participation in all that society has to offer. After some consideration it was decided that all year eights would visit Wallara and experience both premises. Currently we are working one class at a time for their visit and students and teachers alike have found it a very rewarding experience. The music department is also working with our choir to perform with Wallara residents and that should be a wonderful experience towards the end of the year. Much thanks go to Phil Hayes-Brown the CEO and Kay Noy who liaises with us and conducts the tours. We are tremendously grateful for the relationship you initiated.

At year eleven we had the whole year level attend a workshop over two excursions to the “Big Issue.” The seminars introduced the purpose of the magazine, which is to raise awareness about issues of homelessness as well as provide opportunities for people to gain employment and work skills and to reconnect with society. Sellers get half the purchase price of the magazine (five dollars) for their pay. After the workshop we all went out and found a seller to buy a magazine after an awareness-raising walk around the city. We then had lunch at “Crossways” restaurant, which is recommended for students, the homeless and unemployed. It is another great organisation, which reaches out and empowers the vulnerable and they do a wonderful jib.

Of course there has been much activity on a number of issues such as Fair Trade, child labour and refugee and detention centres as well as the upcoming social justice film night to see “The Sapphires” plus a social justice quiz night at the end of term three. It has been a busy but fruitful year. I would like to finish with a quote from Luke when Jesus tells his disciples to, “take up their cross daily.” He was reminding them that the work of the kingdom is ongoing and that they have to be in it for the long haul. It requires persistence. I would like to particularly thank the school leadership, the staff and the great dedication of many students who work to that end. Let’s keep chipping away at it daily. Have a great Christmas and let is start with some work for justice in your world.

Peter O’Neill
Social Justice Coordinator