As Principal of Our Lady of Mercy College, I have the honour and privilege to serve this school and this wonderful community. I welcome each of our distinguished guests, families, friends, staff and especially, our students who graduate tonight.
Thank you for joining us as we recognise the significant accomplishments of each member of the Class of 2021. Thank you, parents and guardians, for your contribution to our partnership. Together we have sought to assist our young people in achieving the best possible outcomes from their schooling experience.
Students, it has been so encouraging to witness how you have grown in confidence, faith, knowledge and understanding during the last two years. We hope that we have assisted you in laying the foundations for success as you continue your journey through life.
I recently spoke with Mrs Karyn Cronin, who has worked closely with the Year 12s since they commenced at the College in Year 12. She fondly describes them as her "diamonds in the rough". Beautiful young people, of high quality and high value, but needing some work. She said that it hasn't always been easy, but these students have all come through in their own way and really stepped up when needed.
Karyn went on to say that in Years 7 to 9, she had many parents ask her why their child has changed from the well-behaved, respectful child they knew into a moody, disrespectful teenager making some very poor choices! She would assure parents that most teenagers go through this stage and that at some point, their child will develop into a mature young adult, making better choices more frequently; they just had to hang in for the ride.
In the last few years, she has welcomed back many of those delightful young people, and she believes they are more confident in themselves and generous in giving of their time.
When asked, they have always said "yes" to doing things. Many times, students have offered to provide assistance, whether it's organising fundraisers, Friday Fun days, or selling Valentine Day chocolates.
At Year 12 Retreat, the staff got the chance to see some of these students shine – they were friendly, willing to share, and work with peers they wouldn't normally have. While they are not all perfectly polished diamonds yet, Karyn believes that they will endeavour to shine in the various situations they will find themselves in, in the future.
As a College, we pray that our Catholic faith, in the context of the Mercy values, will guide you through the opportunities life has to offer and that you can remain faithful to your beliefs in a world that has become more challenging. I am very sure that your experiences at our College have created a lasting impact on all of you and that they have helped shape who you are and the person you will become.
You are the distinguished heroes of Our Lady of Mercy College for 2021!
Every challenge will have its highs and lows. It will have aspects that you are happy to remember and others you are happy to forget! I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride as your Principal, and I would like to thank all of the teachers and the support staff for helping to guide you through this successful journey. Their energy, drive, and insight, which they have shared with you, have helped to shape you and your experience. Your perseverance and hard work in the face of significant challenges has been exceptional, and we are proud of your responses as individuals and as a cohort. Being here today, ready to graduate is a tremendous feat within itself. Your curiosity, kindness, and braveness - show that you are ready to take on all the world has to offer.
The year 2020, was a moment that caught the world a little off-balance. Academic schedules and learning experiences had to take another dimension. These challenges continued into 2021, disrupting the commencement of the school year and significant events throughout the remaining terms.
During these times, you learnt to adapt to new technologies and became more mindful of the importance of maintaining a positive mindset. You took the necessary actions required and applied the willpower to press on to achieve your goals. The last two years have taught us that - there are times in life when we need to dig deep and even fight to move beyond the limitations and obstacles that come our way.
This year, we have sought to highlight the Mercy value of Courage. Courage is the gift from God that empowers Bravery and we see it in many different settings. Let me share some examples:
On 24 August 2010, in battle in Afghanistan, Corporal Daniel Keeran, risked his life in a hail of gunfire to save his fellow soldiers.
His actions saw him awarded the Victoria Cross.
As an eight-year-old, his Grandfather said to him, "Daniel, you need to find out who you are as a person, what you represent, what you stand for."
Malala Yousafzai was shot when she was 12 years old. The Taliban did not approve of females being educated.
In her speech to the United Nations as a 16-year-old, she stated,
"I speak for those who cannot be heard. For those who have fought to live in peace. When the Taliban shot my friends and me, they thought that the bullets would silence us. But nothing changed in my life except this, weakness, fear and hopelessness died; strength, courage and power were born".
And finally, when Jesus was preaching in the synagogue, he said,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor;
To heal the broken-hearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
Recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free the oppressed".
Courage does not allow you to sit in your comfort zones or choose failure as an option. Courage sets you on a path towards growth and achievement.
Courage says, "Don't let the noise - of others' opinions - drown out your inner voice. Have the courage to listen to your spirit. Somehow, it already knows what you truly want to become".
It was our hope that your Graduation would be taking place within our new Gymnasium. We believed that this would be a fitting and appropriate first event to hold in that new facility and that in some way, it would acknowledge the contribution that you and your families have made to the growth of our College.
Unfortunately, that was not possible. So earlier this term, we decided to take you on a special VIP tour of the gym to ensure that you were, and will always be, the first group of students to visit this building. We dressed you up in a high vis vest and gave you a builder's helmet. These were necessary for safety purposes, but we hoped they also conveyed a very special message.
For you to have a better future, you must be willing to serve. No matter where you find yourself, you have your contribution to make to help the world to become a better place. Regardless of the path you take, we hope that you will apply your intelligence, your skills, your knowledge and your innovative ways of thinking to be builders within your communities.
We hope that even without a high viz vest, that you will always shine a light of hope into the darkness and be a strong model for others. That is the foundation on which you stand, to be builders within your communities and to be individuals who work hard and encourage others.
In summary, your schooling experiences are part of your strength, enabling even your small actions to have positive impacts. Despite the challenges of the last two years, you have had the motivation to forge ahead with life by understanding the value of overcoming obstacles.
You have been tested and responded with a drive for self-determination. You have learned from the touchstones and values that this College aspires to. You have learnt to Embrace Life, Nurture Faith and Inspire Learning in all of its aspects.
Even in tough times in the future, you must never give up and settle in your comfort zone. We encourage you to be wise and be true to your beliefs. Ensure you cherish and protect all you have learned.
You are the author of your life. Be sure to take on every opportunity life presents you. No matter the obstacles which you may come across in life, act with courage!
I am incredibly proud of you and congratulate each and every one of you upon your Graduation tonight.
I wish the Class of 2021 all the very best for the future..