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Treasuring The Aussie Spirit

As Australians, we are a very proud nation. Often we hear something described as iconically Australian and we have images firmly entrenched in our memories of things that we see as iconically Australian. Iconic is a really great word; it is a word that we as Australians, use to capture that special Australian spirit we treasure.

It is a word that means to typify or to exemplify and there is so much that is typically Australian or exemplifies the Australian culture. Whilst all nations are proud nations, Australia is one that sees its traditions as one that is very definitely about its people rather than its places. Whether it is about our proud indigenous story or more recently our story as a small nation forgiving a larger presence on the bigger international landscape.

Recently on my drive to work, the topic of ANZAC Day was being discussed on the radio and the term ‘iconic’ once again reared it’s head. As a radio station they focussed on what was an iconic ANZAC Day song that evoked that special feeling. For me it was very clear. Starting my working career in the early 1980’s the Red Gum song “Only 19” captured my energy and to this day every time I hear it, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

For me this song encapsulates the sadness and the challenge that soldiers faced and continue to face. Whenever I hear this song I become uncomfortable when I challenge myself on how I think I would have responded had conscription been in place for me. To this day I am haunted by the simple fact that I am not sure that I would have had the courage to answer this call. I am comforted by the fact that despite by own query there continues to be thousands of brave young men and women who to this day, continue to display the courage that typifies the ANZAC spirit.

As a nation it is always great to be able to celebrate ANZAC Day. It is important that the story of ANZAC Day is kept alive in the hearts of all Australians in particular the hearts of young Australians. The heroic deeds of our Service men and women are stories that inspire and uplift us and our hope is that their efforts will always be remembered. ANZAC Day is not about the glorification of war. It is about the celebration of a unique Australian spirit that is realised in some wonderful values; values of courage, of valour, of mateship, of decency, of a willingness as a nation to do the right thing, whatever the cost. And as today we rightly mourn the loss of so many young people we reflect upon their lives cut short, we give thanks to them and to all of those who came back, for what they did for us. Today it is important that we remember our young men and women on duty for the Australian Defence Forces in other parts of the world carrying on this great tradition of helping out those in need.

A final challenge that I would leave for families is around what discussion will take place in your house around the ANZAC day message. Will you discuss ANZAC Day with your sons and daughters? Or is this a subject that will not get a mention across the day off. My suggestion to you is that the message of war or more particularly the message of hope, love and peace is a really important message for our young people to hear and learn about. Our unique ANZAC spirit gives us a story that I think talks about a wonderful legacy that we have all inherited and it is a story about the importance of the values that we should strive to develop in our children.

Mental health concerns for young people regarding Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’
I would like to draw to your attention advice we have recently received regarding a recently aired show on Netflix titled “13 reasons why”. The series depicts a young woman who suicides and presents the viewer with very confronting and graphic messaging and imagery inclusive of suicide method and means. This show directly exposes viewers to very risky suicide content and may lead to a very distressing reaction by the viewer particularly if the audience is children and young people. National and international research clearly indicates the very real impact and risk to harmful suicide exposure leading to increased risk and possible suicide contagion. While we are not aware at the moment of any of our ATC students having seen this show but I feel it is important that I draw this to your attention.

Headspace is a National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds, along with assistance in promoting young peoples’ wellbeing. Last week, headspace issued a media release to inform the wider community of the concerns about this TV series. Since 13 reasons why premiered, headspace’s national online and over-the-phone counselling services have received a growing number of calls and emails directly related to the program.

It is important that young people feel comfortable and supported to talk about their mental health. We encourage you to use your discretion in raising this matter with your son and to talk openly and honestly with him and let him know that you are aware of some general concerns about this series. When discussing suicide with young people, we encourage you to promote the idea that everyone should seek help from others when they feel down or vulnerable and that young people should tell an adult if they are worried about a friend hurting themselves.

If you have any concerns that your son may have been exposed to the content and has expressed concerns about his mental health, distress or suicidal thoughts, I would encourage you to contact one of our School Counsellors – Paul Toon or Kate Nankivell for support. There are also support services available in the wider community if this is more appropriate for you family, and a good starting point is the headspace website.

Student Achievements
It is always great to hear of student achievements and recently a number of our students were busy following their dreams. At the recent Australian Triathlon Championships Mitch Densley (Year 8) competed in the National Schools Triathlon Championships in Penrith. These championships brought the cream of Australia’s junior triathletes together for the gruelling multi-disciplinary event. Mitch has worked tirelessly to overcome a series of injuries (this time last year Mitch was hobbling around in a moon boot to overcome a significant lower leg injury) to be in a position to compete at this year’s championships. Mitch finished fourth in his Under 13 -14 Years individual event and teamed up in the mixed relay event to finish second. This is an outstanding achievement and he should be very proud of his special achievement and hopefully sees it as a satisfying result of all the sacrifice and hard work that he has put in over the last twelve months. Well done Mitch.

The last couple of weeks has also seen the National Age Swimming Championships held in Brisbane. We have had a number of students competing in the Under 14 age group. I would like to congratulate Daniel Woodrow who placed 4th in the 100m Freestyle final. This is an outstanding result, he was touched out by one hundredth of a second for third place. I think the magnitude of this achievement is seen when you realise that out of the hundreds of thousands of 14 year old boys across Australia there are only three boys who can swim faster over 100 metres – a remarkable achievement. Not content with this achievement Daniel teamed up with fellow ATC students Tom Kearney, Josh Nowland and Nick Chapple to finish fourth in the final of the Under 14 4 × 50m Freestyle relay final. Once again a fantastic result for the boys and a real reward for all the hard work that they have put in.

Last weekend the school rugby and football seasons started. The demands of organising home rugby / football days is demanding and one of the more challenging tasks is finding people who are willing to take up the often thankless task of match officiating. Last weekend it was great to see both current and past students answering this call. On the football front, Year 9 student Mitchell Bradshaw backed up to assist with refereeing three football games on Jack Bowers West. On the rugby scene it was great to welcome back three recent old boys Sam Clifford, Will Roach and William Kirk refereeing. Each of them assisted with refereeing two games each. They are currently in Year 11 at Terrace and it was great that they found time to help out at their old school. Well done Mitch, Sam, Will and William for a job well done, it was very much appreciated.

I would also like to congratulate four of our ATC students who recently completed a challenge that they have been training for. Sebastian Silanesu, Aiden Sauer (Year 10), Riley Brittain and Robert Stringer (Year 9) completed the Kokoda walk in PNG over the recent holidays. This is a wonderful achievement and the expedition poses not only strong physical challenges but also imposing mental challenges over the duration of the trek. Together with their fathers and other group members this achievement importantly raised over $13,000 for the Mates 4 Mates cause that seeks to support returning Service men and women. They toiled through the numerous physical and mental challenges and learnt that we are capable of much more than we sometimes believe we can do. Setting a goal and working towards it is an important life lesson and I am sure that Sebastian, Aiden, Riley and Robert have this lesson tucked away in life’s kit bag. Well done boys and dads.

With best wishes,
Michael Senior

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.