Trintiy College Students 'Change Their World'

Colac’s Trinity College students are discovering that they can change the world – at least their part of it. On Founders’ Day (September 5) the secondary school’s 780 students participated in a walkathon around the town’s Botanical Gardens and raised a staggering $9,000 for McAuley Community Services for Women.

While the money raised will make a huge difference to the maintenance of services for women who are homeless because of family violence or mental illness, the students also explored the issue of family violence and looked at how they could be agents of change by changing behaviours in their own school community.

Founders’ Day at Trinity College celebrated the compassionate work of Catherine McAuley (foundress of the Sisters of Mercy) and Edmund Rice (founder of the Christian Brothers), the two religious orders that established schools in Colac that later formed Trinity College.

Anne Hughes, Director of Faith and Mission at Trinity, said a key part of Founders’ Day was encouraging the students to do something for someone, without getting anything in return. The sponsored walk meant McAuley Community Services for Women, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, reaped the rewards of the many kilometres walked.

“This event combined faith and action. We needed students to focus on care for others, outreach and generosity and to be active in seeking support from others rather than expect parents to just donate some money,” Anne said.

“The walkathon was an opportunity to make a public statement that we are attempting to live our lives as Jesus would want – reaching out to those in need.”
Anne said: “At the school assembly in the lead-up to the walkathon, students in the Social Justice Group described participation in the Walkathon as a public statement that ‘violence is not acceptable in Colac, not anywhere’.
“When students engage in violent behaviour in the playground, use abusive and racist comments, target others through malicious gossip on social media we, as adults, must act immediately to prevent students thinking such actions are acceptable. Adults must take that responsibility. Our interactions with family, work colleagues, the general public are all giving examples of what it means to be a wholesome person. If we bully, harass and hurt or support such behaviour in others then what sort of role models are we?”

Unfortunately, many young people in Colac are exposed to family violence. Last year the Colac Herald reported that: “Family violence cases have skyrocketed for Colac and district police, with officers responding to more than three cases a day on average. Colac Otway Shire had 1297 reports of family violence last financial year. The figure is almost a 300-per-cent increase on the 424 family violence incidents reported to Colac district police in the 2008-2009 financial year. Colac and district has had an increase in family violence statistics. But police and family violence experts say the skyrocketing incident reports are a sign that victims are becoming more confident to speak up”.

People in Colac do want to do something about family violence and homelessness. One man, a former policeman, asked the students during the event why they were walking. He was so moved by the ‘cause’ he donated $200 on the spot and told students he would do anything to support their work against family violence. Another student walked down the local street telling shop owners what the school was doing and why. She came back with $350.

“Founders’ Day was really special this year. It’s the day our students had the experience of freely giving without anything in return. And they discovered you can change the world,” Anne said.

If your school would like to run an event and raise money for McAuley Community Services for Women please contact mcsw@mcauleycsw.org.au.