Farewell Message from the Principal – End of Term 2, 2023
Dear MacKillop College Community,
I am filled with mixed emotions as I write this farewell. On one hand, I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride for the journey I have traversed over the past 28 years. On the other hand, there is a real sadness, knowing that this chapter of my life at MacKillop College is coming to a close.
When I first arrived at MacKillop College in 1985 (38 years ago), little did I know that I would be blessed with such a wonderful community. When people describe MacKillop, they usually talk about our students / our staff / the facilities / the learning and teaching / wellbeing programs / Catholic identity and leadership.
What they are describing of course is our culture.
MacKillop’s culture lies in the hearts and souls of its people. They are the keepers of the culture to which they belong.
This place of learning – Our MacKillop – has been built on the foundations of its Josephite heritage and charism, and is unique.
I believe MacKillop is recognised by its culture of:
- Harmony and Support
- Prayer and Calmness; and
MacKillop College, Werribee, mirrors our Mary MacKillop foundation school in Penola, SA.
We are a community of people who care about one another and the social justice issues of our time. We are an inclusive school that speaks directly to our founding Mother’s priorities – carried through the decades.
Just as Mary MacKillop brought together those from the very margins of Australian society into its mainstream, we welcome all; we welcome all because here we celebrate a vibrancy of people learning together with a single sense of purpose – to be the best we can. We have never accepted mediocrity. We are proud, and we should be proud.
I genuinely appreciate the healthy, uplifting and supportive vibe that is alive and strong here at MacKillop; and we must protect this vibe.
When a young person becomes a MacKillop student (or a new staff member joins us) they become part of the MacKillop story. They become one who influences and protects the culture for the generations of the future. This is why MacKillop will continue to flourish, and when a student or staff member leaves our gates – for their last time – they take part of our culture with them, into a world that needs them.
And our connections extend beyond the walls of this College. I acknowledge the invaluable support and collaboration we have received from the various communities around Werribee (Aged Care homes / MacKillop Family Businesses / Fire brigade / Footy Clubs / and particularly our Parish of St Andrews). Our relationship with the parish priests has been a source of strength and inspiration. Their dedication and spiritual guidance have played a significant role in shaping the values and character of our students and thus our culture. In particular Fr Barry Moran, Fr Frank Buhagiar and Fr Albert Yogarajah. They allowed me to do my work. Guiding but never interfering.
Moreover, our bond with our feeder schools has been instrumental in fostering a seamless transition for students entering MacKillop College. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the principals, teachers, and staff of these schools. Especially Corpus Christi, St Andrews, Bethany, St Josephs, Our Lady of the Southern Cross, St Johns, including also St Peters and St James. Together, we have worked tirelessly to create a supportive and nurturing environment for our young learners, preparing them for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
I take the opportunity to also thank my Catholic Secondary College principal colleagues who, without judgement, share their thoughts on various matters that affect our Catholic schools. A special mention to those from the ‘Association of Josephite Affiliated Secondary Schools’, who share our unique identity. It has been a genuine honour to work with those striving to embrace, extend, strengthen, and perpetuate the charism of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop.
It is the memories made with our students and their families that truly make my heart swell with joy. Each day, I have witnessed the wonderful potential and growth of our students. From the first day they entered MacKillop College with wide eyes, oversized uniforms, and hopeful hearts to the day they graduated as confident and capable individuals, the journey has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Throughout my tenure, I have been continuously inspired by student resilience, dedication, and achievements. I have watched them overcome challenges, embrace new opportunities, and evolve into exceptional individuals. Student academic accomplishments, artistic talents, and sporting triumphs and taking up social justice issues, have made me immensely proud. I have had the privilege of witnessing countless achievements, big and small, and cherishing the milestones our students have reached. From their first hesitant steps on the stage during a school play to their triumphant sporting victories, every moment has left an indelible mark on my soul.
But beyond the accolades, it is their kindness, compassion, and sense of community that have truly made MacKillop College special.
I would particularly like to congratulate all students who have ever taken on a leadership position – Class Captain, SRC Representative, Sport, Social Justice, Environmental, Academic, Catholic Identity and many others. Specifically, I congratulate all past and our current school captains. They are exceptional individuals and have led their peers beautifully. Well done. I am grateful to the families who have entrusted their children’s education to us, allowing us to be part of their lives and contribute to their growth.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to all members of the School Advisory Council (Board), both past and present. In particular, to our long-standing chairperson the late Mr Lee Revell. Thank you all for your unwavering support and friendship. And to all those who have served on our Parents and Friends Committee, thank you.
As I reflect on my time at MacKillop College, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the incredible cohort of teachers and staff who have been my partners in this journey. Their incredible dedication, passion, and commitment to student education and wellbeing have been instrumental in creating a nurturing and enriching environment. I am grateful for their tireless efforts and the positive impact they have had on student lives. I have witnessed some extraordinary teaching skills that manifested outstanding academic results in senior classes that we can all be very proud of. I am in awe of staff commitment, talents and care.
To my supportive administration teams, and I include here my Management team, OH&S Committee, Property team, Finance team and Consultative Committee, to my Personal Assistant – Sandra Camilleri, Deputy Principals Assistant – Kim Gomes, College Registrar – Amanda Gough, you have all made a profound impact on the school and my own professional growth. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to each member of past leadership teams and my current leadership team, which includes Warren Arrowsmith, Steve Higham, Troy Rickard, Anna Marazita, Rosy Klyscz and Shane Noonan. I want to acknowledge the hard work, commitment, and constant support they have provided to both the school and to me personally. It has been an honour and a privilege to be a part of a group led by individuals of their calibre. The impact they have made on the lives of students and staff will be felt for years to come. The memories made together, and the humour will forever hold a special place in my heart. As I move on to new endeavours, I am confident that the legacy left behind will continue to shape and hopefully inspire future generations.
My eternal gratitude will always be to Sr Giovanni for employing me as a graduate at Mount St Joseph’s Girls College in 1981 and then again in 1985 at MacKillop. Her wisdom, guidance and mentorship were a constant support. She entrusted leadership of MacKillop to me, and I hope I have not disappointed. Along with the kindness and generosity of Sr Therese Quinn and all other Josephite sisters that I have worked with, I believe I am truly blessed. The Josephite charism will always remain part of who I am and will guide my thoughts and actions and forever be appreciated by my family.
I would like to wish Mr Chris Caldow, as the 6th Principal of MacKillop, every success and happiness. I trust Chris will feel the same support, care and love that I have enjoyed. I am very confident MacKillop is in excellent hands. All the best to Chris and his wife Marnie and family.
I thank my family. To my brother Terry, who is the Property Maintenance Manager here at the College for having to put up with me.
And, finally, I wish to thank my wife, Sharon, and children Tarryn, Braeden and Marny. It is impossible to be in the position of Principal without the unwavering support of family. They have understood, tolerated and enabled me to do the necessary work. It has never been lost on me the sacrifices Sharon has made to allow me to sustain my role at MacKillop (never complained, always supportive). The love of family is essential. I cannot thank Sharon enough.
As I bid farewell to MacKillop College, I will carry with me so many wonderful memories. I thank God for the opportunity. MacKillop College will always be a home to me, and I am forever grateful for this beautiful journey.
And to all past and present students – I hope you remember…
MacKillop is not a good school.
MacKillop is a great school.
May God bless you all,
Mr Rory Kennedy