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Boarders show resilience in testing times


The twists and turns of the pandemic have thrown up plenty of challenges for Catholic school students over the past 18 months, and for those studying and living a long way from home their resilience has also been tested.

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For many, border restrictions and quarantine requirements have made it impractical for them to return home during term as they normally would for exeat weekends and they have spent many weeks apart from their families. Lockdowns have also thrown up another set of obstacles, with the most recent one seeing some students staying in Adelaide under the care of boarding house staff.

Rostrevor College’s director of Boarding, Michael Vickery, said while the college had made every effort to get students back home or to a safe host during the July lockdown, a few had remained at Duggan House for the week.

“The last lockdown was different as in past lockdowns the curfew was midnight but this time it was 6pm so that necessitated a far more urgent response,” he told The Southern Cross.

“A lot of boys choose Rostrevor because they have existing family and connections here so out of our 60 boarders all but six were able to find a place to stay for that lockdown.

“Those six were well looked after by our boarding house staff who were considered essential workers.

“It was not all bad as they were very well catered for – we had food for 60 and only six of them – and they had the run of the campus to go for walks and exercise.”

The majority of students boarding at Rostrevor come from South Australia, but there are also some boys from the Northern Territory, Orange and Mildura.

Mr Vickery said providing a “home-like” environment and continually checking on their wellbeing was key.

“With 60 boys living in close proximity to each other, having a good sense of mateship is really important. We facilitate that through a buddy system so when students arrive it helps them to settle in,” he said.

“We also have a student leadership group that meets with me on a regular basis to review all elements of the house and one of the things we look at is ‘what is the general vibe’ and ‘how is everyone’s wellbeing going at the moment’.”

Year 9 student Jacob Newton was new to the boarding house at the start of this year and he said while the adjustment to city living was “hard” initially, “after five or six weeks I got used to it”.

“I really like everything about being a boarder,” he said.

With his family in Elliston, Jacob was one student who, with the support of the college, made a quick dash to get home before the last lockdown started.

“All the flights to Port Lincoln were booked out but I managed to fly to Whyalla and Mum drove three hours to pick me up,” he said.

“It was pretty frantic, but it all worked out in the end.”

Luke Homan (left) and Darcy McKenny in Duggan House.

Luke Homan, who will be Head Boarder next year, said when he arrived at the college from Naracoorte in 2019 it was a bit overwhelming.

“Rostrevor is a big school and the expectations coming here, being in a new place and not having the support of parents (made it challenging),” he said.

“But when I came into the boarding house everyone was really welcoming and that made things a lot easier to settle into.

“There are 60 boys in the boarding house and all are really close and come from different parts of Australia – boys from NT, NSW and Victoria – and just living with 60 of your best mates is pretty cool!”

Head prefect for 2022, Darcy McKenny is also from Naracoorte and joined the boarding house with Luke in 2019.

“It was challenging moving to a new place and a new environment and it’s always hard to be away from family… the first term was hard as I was just trying to get used to the environment but after that initial period it was quite easy,” he said.

“I have definitely made some good friendships with other boarders – you are with them all the time so you get close to them.”

Annabelle Honner and Lilli Anderson outside the boarding house at Loreto College.

Year 12 student Annabelle Honner is one of the 45 boarders at Loreto College and is nearing the completion of a disrupted Year 12.

Coming from Apsley, 7km east of the SA border, her Victorian postcode has thrown up some obstacles during the pandemic and made her final year of secondary schooling a bit more “stressful”.

“Year 10 was great but COVID has made Year 11 and 12 challenging and stressful at times through lockdowns and with the rules for border communities continually changing and being unclear,” she said.

Contending with Victorian lockdowns and quarantine requirements in South Australia, Annabelle has spent some holidays staying with her grandparents and families of her friends in Adelaide.

During the current school holidays she was planning to go back and see her family, before returning to Loreto for the last two weeks of Year 12, swotvac and then exams.

She said despite the hassles surrounding COVID she had “loved” being a boarder at Loreto for the past three years.

Year 7 student Lilli Anderson is in her first year at the Loreto boarding house after being home schooled on her family’s remote sheep property out from Broken Hill, NSW.

She and Annabelle were two of a handful of students who remained at the boarding house during the last lockdown. They were able to enjoy the ‘Loreto Olympics’, a fire-pit one evening and also had the run of the beautiful grounds during the week.



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