Our School community will be aware of the considerable media interest St Catherine’s School has received this week, creating a challenging time for some of our students and their families. I also appreciate this has been an unsettling period for our School community more broadly.

All our girls are reminded that whilst the incident occurred outside of School hours, they represent the values and ethos of the School in everything they endeavour to undertake, and most notably, when they wear the School uniform. This week, I have worked together with the families and Police to determine an appropriate consequence in light of the unacceptable conduct of the students concerned. The girls well understand the seriousness of their actions and are deeply remorseful. An important lesson has been learnt by the students and the strong disciplinary response of their parents and the School has reinforced this message.

St Catherine’s School values the close working relationship with our parents and we will continue to work together to ensure that the welfare of all our students and community is supported. This incident is, however, a timely reminder of the importance of road safety, the impact of social media for our younger generation and the high standards and appropriate behaviour we expect at School, and outside of School hours from all students, as well as their families, carers and/or guardians.

There are also valuable lessons that can be reinforced to our broader student body. This week, we have guided conversations within our student cohorts in the Senior School on important life learning issues (or life lessons) like making positive choices, defining and acting with integrity, peer group support, speaking up, the challenges of social media and the importance of social media audits. We shall continue to convey these messages regularly through our Wellbeing programs every year. Incidents like this week bring home with even greater clarity what these messages mean.

In addition to this, we invite Australia’s foremost expert in cyber safety and young people, Susan Maclean, to present to all girls in the Senior School. As a School, we shall continue to ensure the welfare of our students is of fundamental importance by endeavouring to partner with parents. The girls’ wellbeing remains at the heart of our decisions and actions. As such, we will continue to reinforce the values, standards and School pride in our students visible through their positive engagement in academic and co-curricular programs, and to also assist parents in guiding their children through a flourishing St Catherine’s journey.

I reflect on a statement I wrote in the Autumn Edition of St Catherine’s News in 2014 and feel reminded of our mission to guide young women by the values of the School: Empathy, Curiosity, Perseverance and Integrity.

“This year, it has been a privilege to witness the growth and development of each St Catherine’s girl and children from our ELC through to our Year 12’s. All students have experienced the opportunity to discover their individual passions, interests and talents in the classroom and in their co-curricular pursuits. In my role, I am acutely aware of providing each student with a network of support and care as they navigate their way through their adolescent years, their tween years and their childhood years. In so many ways, the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ rings true; Hilary Clinton coined this phrase, but it was believed to have originated from a Nigerian culture and has been in existence for centuries. The significance of establishing a strong community to support our students can never be underestimated. Together, our careful guidance and nurturing of over 700 students keeps our School enduringly steady and strong to its mission.” M Carroll 2014.



St Catherine’s students and staff had an incredible opportunity this week, to host Aboriginal Elder Murrundindi at the School. Though he has visited the School before, the students embrace the opportunity to learn from Murrundindi, and hear his experiences.

Last year, we developed the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that we are working to develop throughout 2020. The community of St Catherine’s School brings a wide range of cultural backgrounds and experiences to reconciliation. Through open and thoughtful conversations combined with deliberate actions, we seek to increase our community’s understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories and experiences and to inspire further reconciliation. Thus it is timely that we begin the 2020 school year with a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony, facilitated by Wurundjeri Elder, Murrundindi.

The morning started with Murrundindi attending our Senior School Assembly, with our Class of 2019 also in the audience. Murrundindi sang a song of welcome, and delivered a Welcome to Country, filling us with a sense of deep significance and weight, as he spoke in his Aboriginal language.

Murrundindi shared details of how he grew up, how he was born in the kitchen of his family home in 1945 (some clever Year 8 girls figured out his age of 75 the fastest when he asked us!). Though hearing of these experiences is not new for many of our girls, it weighs just as heavily in heart and mind, and we listened intently with open ears as he described not being educated in the school system, and his journey to becoming the spiritual custodian of the Wurundjeri tribal region.

Following Senior School Assembly, he spent time in the Early Learning Centre, telling stories, playing the didgeridoo, and singing and dancing with the children. The delight on his face is evident, as is the ‘hanging-on-every-word’ look on the face of the students.

During lunch, the Junior and Senior Schools, as well as staff were privileged to a Smoking Ceremony.  An ancient Aboriginal custom led by an Elder, a Smoking Ceremony consists of the burning of native plants, paving the way to a brighter future. The sacred plant used in the Smoking Ceremony was that of the Stringy Bark tree which is cut, then stored in the ground for a period of time until it grows a fungus – and this is when it is burnt It differs from the often seen Smoking Ceremony involving gum tree leaves.

The girls gathered around the fountain, and Murrundindi adorned his possum fur coat, circling the fountain and singing a song of welcome before lighting the sacred fungus. The smoke was beautiful, healing, and had an almost floral scent to it – with our clothes holding the scent for hours afterwards. The Smoking Ceremony was a spiritual and collective experience for those in attendance. We are grateful and enriched to have been gifted the days events by Murrundindi, and the RAP Committee.

We will be welcoming Murrundindi back to St Catherine’s in the coming weeks, to bury the remains of the sacred fungus as per Wurundjeri tradition. The chosen place for the fungus will become a place of reflection for our students.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal