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Distinction for long-serving Catholic educator


John Mula’s mobile phone didn’t stop “ringing and tinging” after news spread that he had been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday 2021 Honours List.

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The deputy director at Catholic Education SA said he was thrilled to receive messages of congratulation from a wide cross section of the education community – from those in national positions, through to students he taught four decades ago – after it was announced he had received an OAM for his ‘outstanding contribution to Catholic education’.

“For me, Catholic education is special because it is focused on the person and their individual growth, but also on the community… and I saw that sense of community when people from all over Australia who I’ve had some connection with over the years contacted me,” he said.

“Surprisingly, through the power of Facebook some ex-students I taught in Queensland who are now men in their mid-40s sent messages and it was lovely to hear from them.

“That power of connection is such an important part of Catholic education.”

With his 40-year career spanning across seven diocese in four states, Mr Mula has accumulated a wealth of experience in Catholic education along the way.

Raised in Brisbane and educated by the Franciscans at Padua College, he spent most of his working life in Queensland as a teacher, principal and then assistant executive director, Learning and Teaching, in Cairns.

He was the diocesan director of Catholic Schools in Armidale for five years before moving to take up the position of executive director of Catholic Education in Tasmania. Mr Mula also served as the deputy chair of the National Catholic Education Commission prior to taking up his role at Catholic Education SA in 2020.

“There was a small occasion where I stepped outside of Catholic education and that lasted only two years because I missed that sense of purpose, and also that sense of hope for the future.

“We’ve always got to have hope and look for opportunities and better ways of doing things.”

As part of his current role he leads the School Quality and Performance section of the Catholic Education Office and said a “significant” change agenda was happening as a result of the Blueprint for Step Change document released late last year.

“It articulates a vision and a process, and people have really bought into it,” he said.

While school visits were restricted last year due to COVID, Mr Mula has set himself a personal challenge to visit a couple of schools each fortnight so he can get a better understanding of the needs and cultures of the different communities that form Catholic education in the State.

“There is no set agenda, it’s just talking to teachers and students and principals and a chance for them to get to know me,” he explained.

“It’s not a burden, it’s a pleasure. It is actually what gives you energy, what gives you focus, to see what people are doing to support young people.

“Catholic education has been very faithful to me so I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I feel very blessed to be where I am now.”


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