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Rural schools on national agenda


South Australia’s smallest Catholic school, St Joseph’s Gladstone, played host to the executive director of National Catholic Education Commission Jacinta Collins last month.

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The former Victorian Labor senator spent four days in South Australia, meeting with local education and diocesan leaders and addressing more than 130 principals.

During her regional tour, Mrs Collins also visited St Joseph’s Peterborough where she attended a whole school Mass for Ash Wednesday.

St Joseph’s School Gladstone comprises only 48 students in three classrooms from Reception to Year 7. Principal Martin Hayes and school captains Liam Coe and Emma Hanley, led a tour of the school for Mrs Collins who was accompanied by director of Catholic Education SA Dr Neil McGoran and his Port Pirie Diocese counterpart Mrs Nichii Mardon.

Mrs Collins said part of her role as national director was to understand the needs of regional, rural and remote students.

“Nearly 40 per cent of our 1746 Catholic schools are outside major metropolitan areas of Australia,” she said.

“And we know that the backgrounds and needs of regional, rural and remote students are vastly different to their peers in the cities.”

Mrs Collins welcomed the Federal Government’s recent announcement that it would review the funding impacts on school communities located in regional Australia.

“Many of these communities have difficulty attracting teachers and experienced leaders to the area, or there is a lack of specialist support and services available,” she said.

“There are also environmental factors such as drought and the financial hardship that brings, and more recently, the bushfires affecting families and school communities.”

St Joseph’s Peterborough principal Rebecca Fahey said it was a privilege to be able to share the story of the town and showcase “our little school”.

In Adelaide, Mrs Collins visited Nazareth Catholic Community, touring campuses at Findon and Flinders Park, as well as the early childhood centre. She also attended a breakfast for women leaders in Catholic education.

Addressing principals at ‘directors day’, Mrs Collins said the Catholic voice was “respected and heard” at the highest levels of government.

“I think it is worth stating, that the Australian taxpayer through the Commonwealth Government is our biggest funder. And that of course is why our relationship with the government is so important.”


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