St.Joseph’s College Port Macquarie Address by School Principal Mr Jim O’Brien

March 21, 2009 12:13 pm

Distinguished guests, parents and friends, staff and students. Today we assemble to bless and to formally open the first stages of St. Joseph’s Regional College in its new location here at Sovereign Hills. It is an occasion for celebration, it is an historic occasion, and it is an occasion for us to express our gratitude to all those who helped bring to fruition the first stages of this great new facility. This blessing and opening represents an important milestone in the history of Catholic secondary education in the Parish of Port Macquarie. It is a history that dates back to 1913 when the Bishop of the day, Dr Carroll invited the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lochinvar to establish a school in St. Agnes’ Parish. For the next 56 years the Sisters operated a primary and junior secondary school in Hay and Horton Streets. Our Parish Priest, Father Donnelly, had particularly strong links with the original school. His mother was among the first students enrolled at the school and many years later a young Leo Donnelly was enrolled in the secondary school and completed his Intermediate Certificate there. By the late 1960s changes to secondary education under the Wyndham Scheme and increased enrolments prompted the Parish to build the first separate junior secondary school, St. Joseph’s Hastings Regional School in Bay Street which was later renamed Warlters Street. For the next 40 years (1969-2008) St Joseph’s Regional operated on this site and became the foundation campus for the whole Catholic secondary endeavour of the Parish: the Vocational College in 1979, (now Newman Senior Technical College), MacKillop Senior College in 1988 and St. Paul’s High School in 1995. This is now a Catholic Secondary School complex catering for 2,080 students from Years 7-12. Judging from the facilities or the buildings the old St Joseph’s Regional was not a great school. It was developed with mainly temporary and portable buildings because of a long-term plan to relocate it to a larger site. Despite the relatively poor facilities the Regional was an excellent school. What made it great were the people, the community and the culture. It was a school where • the values we hold dear as a Catholic school were clearly practised; • the central focus was on the students, both as learners and as people; • the care of students underpinned academic achievement; • community was built on great relationships; • students involved themselves and did their best; • partnership, trust, mutual respect, collegiality and teamwork were practised. These are the features of a great school. We have not brought with us to Sovereign Hills the rundown facilities, but we have brought with us the same values, the same people, a great community and a very healthy school culture. In this new state-of-the-art College (although only partially completed) it is our dream to further strengthen that culture so that St. Joseph’s Regional College will continue to thrive in its new location and serve future generations of Port Macquarie and the Hastings. We are blessing and opening today the first stages of St. Joseph’s Regional College, stages that are part of a master plan designed to accommodate a maximum of 1,200 students. Thus far, just over half of the school has been completed enabling us to enrol 653 students. To complete the master plan we have several future stages planned, including a $4.57m stage for this year. This stage involves the construction of Technological and Applied Studies facilities (including Wood, Metal, Textiles and Graphics rooms) and a senior Science and classroom block. This stage will enable us to start Year 11 next year. In 2010 we plan to complete the College hall by adding a stage to the north and tiered seating, amenities and entrance foyer to the south. Another classroom block will also be part of this stage. Further stages will be completed as the need arises. Yes, there is a pool on the master plan but that is certainly a future project! It is only around four years since the Parish committed to building a school on this site when approached by Robert Yandell from Lewis Land, the Sovereign Hills developers. Much has been achieved in a relatively short period of time. None of this would have been possible without the support, the cooperation and the expertise of a large team of people. This College community is indebted to: • Fr Donnelly for his vision and unwavering support for Catholic education • Paul O’Brien from the CEO for his expert assistance with grant and interest subsidy applications • Steven Quirk, the Parish Finance Committee and the DIF for their financial assistance and expertise • John McQueen and our Parish Education Council for their support • Brian Tierney, who managed the project with the assistance of Andrew Briscoe. I have been involved in many building projects over the past 24 years as Principal but have never had such expert support and assistance. Thank you Brian and Andrew. • Wayne Ellis, the project architect who has delivered a very attractive and functional design. He has a great ability to listen to the educators and design facilities that meet their needs. We also appreciate the support of Malcolm McNeil who has assisted during the construction phase • Darren Nosworthy and CPG who have been the builders. They have been wonderful to work with. We especially appreciate the assistance of foreman Robert Green in the latter stage • Australian Government & the BGA for their financial assistance There are also several groups of people whom I wish to acknowledge: 1. My colleagues, the wonderful staff of St. Joseph’s Regional College. Their support and commitment throughout the planning, building and moving phases have been outstanding. They have been superbly led by Campus Principal Anne O’Brien and her assistant Cath Deagan. Anne’s commitment and ability to provide great leadership, care and attention to detail has won her the admiration of all her colleagues. Extremely well done Anne, Cath and staff. 2. I want to thank the parishioners of St. Agnes’ Parish. We greatly appreciate their support and interest, especially those who no longer have children of school age. Please join me in thanking the parishioners.. 3. My final words of thanks are for our parents and the students themselves. They have suffered some inconvenience and disruption through the move but have never complained and have looked past that, embracing the new school with great enthusiasm. Please join me in thanking our parents and students’¦ As we bless and formally open this wonderful new College it is my hope and my prayer is that, in this new location, we will build on the great culture and traditions developed over nearly a century of history in Port Macquarie. May this College be a place where generations to come can experience a first class education in the Catholic tradition.