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Humble recipients of King's Birthday honours


Craig Fosdike and Damian Antenucci were in very different places when they learned they were receiving an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for their service to education but both had the same reaction – shock and disbelief.

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Craig was walking the Camino with his wife Jen when the email came through at the end of the day. “I wasn’t going to open it because I thought it was a scam and then I read the intro and thought ‘oh my goodness’,” the St Martin de Porres School principal told The Southern Cross.

“It was a huge shock, but a lovely one.”

Craig Fosdike with his wife Jenny outside the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

After his 720km pilgrimage by  foot on the Norte and Primitivo Camino Treks in Spain which finish at Santiago de Compostela, Craig returned to Australia in time for the public announcement of his award on the King’s Birthday weekend.

Craig said it was lovely to share the news with his family and parents, Bob and Pam Fosdike.

He began teaching in 1979 and has previously been principal of St Joseph’s Memorial School Norwood, and St Anthony’s School Edwardstown.

He is a life member of the Australian Council of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACPHER), co-president and of the South Australian branch of ACPHER, and a life member of the SA Catholic Primary Schools’ Sports Association (SACPSSA) of which he has been a member for 37 years.

Craig said while he certainly didn’t expect any recognition on “a grand scale”, he was pleased that there was reference to primary education which didn’t always get the acknowledgement it deserved.

“I am really happy to accept it on behalf of all the work that primary teachers do,” he said.

“Especially in Catholic primary schools – they do a fantastic job and sometimes we forget that; it’s where it all starts, they’re real communities and the teachers we have in our primary schools are really important, as are the support and admin staff.

“It’s the commitment to children and their right to have a childhood of their own that’s been the driving aspect of my work. My work has also been strongly influenced by the Dominican and Josephite Sisters whose commitment of service to others is just wonderful.”

Craig is passionate about children being active and having an opportunity to be involved in physical education and school sporting teams and carnivals.

“That’s why SACPSSA has been so successful and so important,” he said.

“For over 55 years we’ve been running school carnival programs with up to 15,000 Catholic primary school students each year having the chance to represent their school; not one Catholic primary school doesn’t participate in the programs.

“We are a strong organisation and I am very proud of that.

“But it’s the same as my approach to being a principal, we should never think that what we are doing is perfect, we are always looking at how we can do it better for children and their families.”

The father of three and grandfather of five, said he had been “humbled” by the many messages of congratulations which no doubt will continue when he returns to St Martin de Porres from long service leave this month.

When Damian received an email about the OAM he also thought it was a scam and it wasn’t until after he’d spoken to the “tech guy” at school that he was game to open it.

Like Craig, he has been heavily involved in extra-curricular activities as well as teaching.

From 1977 to 1987 Damian taught at Kilmara College at Thebarton (now the site of the Catholic Education Office), where he was the director and producer of school musicals.

Since 1988, he has held a number of roles at St Paul’s College including head of Senior School, Maths teacher, head of Pastoral Care, director and producer of school musicals and coach of the First XVIII football team.

Damian was also founding member of St Paul’s Old Scholars Football Club in 1992. Since that time, he has been treasurer, president and coach.

He said his first reaction to the OAM was “there are other people who do more noteworthy things, who put in more”.

“I also think that because I enjoy what I do, it’s not that noteworthy,” he said of his involvement in school musicals and sport.

“I don’t find it laborious even though I have been doing it for a long time.”

Damian reluctantly admitted that directing musicals required “a fair bit of after-hours work, even thinking time”, especially for someone like him who wasn’t “theatre trained”.

He was not long into teaching at Kilmara when Brother Michael McManus, who played the piano for a community theatre group, suggested he ask for a script for a school production.

Damian was sure the students wouldn’t be interested because a lot of them came from ethnic backgrounds. But he was wrong.

“I read the script through with some of the students and it became infectious, they wanted to rehearse it all the time,” he said. “It grew from there.”

Prior to that, his great love was sport and he played “everything” in his younger days.

He continued to coach football and basketball while producing musicals and was well supported by his wife Patricia, who passed away in 2013. Damian said his two children didn’t have any choice but to be involved in the school musicals.

In his 35th year at St Paul’s he is gearing up for this year’s production of Gumshoe in August and said he never tired of it because “every time is different and you learn as you go”.

When the 67 year old is not directing musicals or teaching Year 9-12 Maths part time, he is an assistant coach for St Paul’s Old Scholars B grade team.

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