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To Walk Alongside

A former colleague posted this week the sad news that their partner had died after a four-year battle with cancer. He made a beautiful comment, which I want to share with you.

The relevance is that it is not uncommon in a school year that a student will experience the loss of a parent or a grandparent or even a sibling. These are tragic circumstances, which require a deep level of care and support. For me, these are times when I see our staff at their very best, when the humans within the institution emerge like giants, with great hearts and hands for holding. Their support can look like a million different things, but it is always in a form that is appropriately sensitive and personal to the individual and, by its very private nature, it is most often invisible to all others.

Indeed, we rarely know all that is going on in each other’s lives, regardless of the size of a community, and this fact alone should demand the need for kindness. Through our encouragement and promotion of the School’s values of truth, respect and service, we are working towards a kinder culture, in which students will more instinctively reach outside of their friendship groups (and often this means outside of their comfort zones too) to include others. This was my message to students in Muster. I appealed to those who are fortunate to have already found a sense of safety and security in their connections, to not settle on this, but to use it as a stable foundation to reach out to include others and draw them in. In their silent attention to the message, I sensed a commitment and eagerness to respond.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all in our community who have suffered loss in weeks past. The comment that I wanted to share is below, and I hope – at the right time – these words bring you and those close to you much-needed peace and inspiration:

She is now a part of me, embedded in my character, my decisions, my hopes and ambitions, and I will continue to look to her life and indelible spirit for inspiration and guidance. (Out of respect, the source will remain anonymous).

On an equally reflective note, it is important that my lasting message this week is one about reconciliation. In particular, I would like to thank Uncle John Lochowiak for never failing to bring joy and learning to St Peter’s College. Uncle John is a Wadi (initiated Man), who has strong ties to many language groups throughout Australia including but not limited to Pitjantjatjara, Kaurna, Ramindjeri and Arerrnte. In our special Muster to initiate and renew our collective commitment to reconciliation, Uncle John inspired all with a smoking ceremony and his Welcome to Country.

To not in any way discount our priority of building positive and effective partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we cannot ignore the universality of Uncle John’s lessons for us as a St Peter’s College community. In all of Uncle John’s visits, our learning deepens, not only on cultural inclusion, but on the importance of respect and connection more broadly, and of walking alongside each other, in every sense.

Marcus Blackburn
Deputy Headmaster / Head of Senior School