Reflect, Respect and Celebrate

In his Australia Day message, the Governor-General of Australia David Hurley listed three fundamental values which underpin our challenge as a nation – Reflect, Respect and Celebrate. These three values are so important today as we tackle new challenges due to the pandemic. There is no question that we are all suffering a form of COVID fatigue. Our world has been turned upside down, our hopes at each point have been dashed by setbacks. Everyone in our society is suffering in one way or another. So why would we be in the mood to reflect, to respect or to celebrate?

In the last few months, I have seen people respond in ways that bring out the worst. A mindset that is based more on a self-centred position that then manifests in behaviour that is disrespectful. Recent studies about current perceptions of Australian values, in fact, highlight these concerns. If one believes that Australian values include fairness and equality, mateship, freedom, democracy, respect, tolerance, and a sense of fun (larrikinism) then how are these visibly present when we are navigating the toughest times in modern history? What I have seen on the other hand is all these values rise when we are faced with tragedies such as bushfires, floods and deaths. It is during events of this magnitude that we see the best from Australians.

COVID has become such a polarising environment where we see the worst and the best. It has created a blame environment and a ‘them versus us’, with little tolerance or respect. Given my observations, I fully support the Governor-General in his address for us to Reflect, Respect and Celebrate. It is precisely in these times of uncertainty; of discord and fatigue we need to focus on what we as Australians aspire to – to remember that we are indeed “The Lucky Country”.

Reflect, Respect and Celebrate challenges us to remember our history, our tragedies and our triumphs and the opportunities ahead of us. It challenges us to look at diversity as a strength and it challenges us to celebrate because we are good-hearted people.

I reflect that in spite of this global pandemic, for us at Cardijn College, we have been able to make the most of life in these past two years. We have not had the long lockdowns or lengthy periods of online learning experienced in the eastern states. We have still been able to hold our significant events such as Sports Day, Athon Day, camps, retreats, graduations and major extra-curricular events. We have been blessed with so many great moments where students and staff together contributed to the community to make it a better place. We have been blessed with students achieving amazing academic results and finding their pathways beyond school to university, apprenticeships and jobs. I reflect on the amazing resilience of our students who have adapted to the situation and made the most of it. I am in awe of student leadership and their role modelling. I am so grateful for our staff who see the students as their priority and will do everything possible for each student to thrive. It demonstrates their unconditional commitment to our school and our community.

In these most challenging times, as we prepare to bring school back for 2022, I respect that there are some significant challenges regarding safety, levels of angst and uncertainty about the rules. I respect that people have differing opinions about what should happen. One fact remains – we have navigated the last two years very well and been diligent in our execution of the rules and adhering to the health advice from our Government. I am confident that we will again shine and seize the moment to make this work as best as we can. We are going to have to learn to live with COVID active in our community. Therefore, let us be respectful of those who must make the tough decisions and of those who must ensure we adhere to the expectations and rules.

Let us celebrate who we are, because there is much to be thankful for and acknowledge and recognise. Reflect, Respect and Celebrate is what we are asked to do, and I am confident that we have great optimism for this school year which is exciting and special. There will be tough days and we will have times when we disagree or become extremely frustrated, but we are good people, we are people of strength, determination and hope – and that is worth celebrating.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

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