Sunday, May 27, 2012

Courage, Courage - St Joey's Bombala Rocks

I was always told once my children started school, life would begin again.
How true those words were!

My children attend a small Catholic primary school.
Small is 20 students.

Big is it's heart.

5 years ago I entered the gates and have ever since been swept up in the challenge of the highs and lows of keeping a rural school viable.

It's turned out to be the fight of my life so far - my children's education.

I never thought that I would have to fight so hard in Australia in 2012 to send my children to the school of my choice.
I never thought we would have to spend every waking hour researching, thinking, constantly talking about it and hoping that today, today a new family will arrive and boost our numbers and we could all heave a sigh of relief just for that day.
I never thought that we could live in a town of 1500 people and have so few care about what happens with their schools and the future generations of our district.
I never thought that we would have to sit up late at night talking on the phone giving and receiving counsel, sharing ideas and pure bewilderment at our situation.  Why won't parents use the school?
I never thought that we would have to give up so much time with our own families to do more work for our school.
I never thought that I would sit up all night trawling the Internet for ideas on how to attract more enrolments.
I never thought we would have to stop in the street and assure other parents we will be fine, after all we have Mary MacKillop on our side, she started our school and therefore she won't let us down.
I never thought that our children's needs would sometimes take second place because we had so much more to think about (my son walked with holes in his soles for weeks because I was too busy doing "school stuff" to listen to his needs!  Another child's mother could not find time to take her to the Dr - another rural issue - because there was just not enough time!)
I never thought that there is nothing you could tell me that we haven't already researched, thought, talked about or worried about regarding a school.
I never thought I would have so many people tell me it would be such a shame to lose the school but then won't support it.  They want the choice but it's not up to them.
And I never thought it would be like this.

I also never thought I would meet such a magnificent group of parents who have held us up and agreed to anything that is thrown at them - because they care so much.
I never thought such a diverse group of people could agree and work so hard for what we want in our community.
I never thought I would be able to laugh so hard at the most ridiculous times because that was the only thing left to do.
I never thought my children would have the benefit of two teachers for 20 students - how spoilt is that!
I never thought that I really could find the best in everyone and see that as their gift but I have.
I never thought that with every conversation I could come away feeling good about what we do and knowing we have such tremendous people cheering us on.
I never thought people would stop me in the street to tell us to keep going, have faith and what we are doing matters.
I never thought a sister of St Joseph's would tell me she admires me (I cried).
I never thought that I would find myself doing things I would never have imagined just to get my point across.  (Hijacked speech from the pulpit anyone!)
I never thought too much about the staff of our school until I realised they were sent for a reason and are doing exactly what needs to be done.
I never thought I could have so much fun fundraising!!  We do so many big event's in our district (hello calf sale, races, Deb ball) and have so much genuine fun.  We raise so much money for our kids and have an excellent time while we do it = great for our town.
I never thought that I would have to step back and look at the big picture of what it means to keep a school open in my town, it has consequences for a rural district, and that is one of the reasons why we keep going.
I never thought that I would find myself admiring everyone else's trust and faith and it being a lesson to me.
I never thought when I moved here I would find such lovely friends and mentors amongst a group of parents.
I never thought I would respect people so much as I do the ones at St Joseph's.
I never thought that we could have the interest of a community watching everything we do and even if its silent, wanting us to achieve.
I never thought I would side with people I have absolutely nothing in common with.
I never thought a group of people, many whom are not catholic, could all find common ground in our values and what we believe and want for our children.
I never thought I would find a school community so welcoming, so accepting, so big hearted and so magnificent as the one I find myself in now.
And I now know that we have succeeded.

It's also pretty cool to have your children attend a school where Mary MacKillop walked (non-believers have even told me this) and we cannot help but think it's all for a reason.  So while we wait for the magic or the miracle to arrive, depending on what you believe, know that there is this little school fighting it's heart out and the people involved, the issues we have faced, the moments we have shared have been miraculous and magnificent.  If you need some inspiration take some from us for we have been at the lowest low and the highest high - and we are still here.
Spare a thought for our children, staff and parents, who in the last 5 years have not known a day without worry.  It takes it's toll.

But this is a good story.  One that few will ever know hence why I write this post.  I want gratitude, honour and acknowledgement to go to all involved.  Every parent has done their part.  It's been crazy, hard, stressful, some days the pressure has been overwhelming and unbelievable and I mean overwhelming and unbelievable.

(In our minds the canteen mums all look like this, why wouldnt you want to be us!)

The good bit - how great are we!!  How lucky are our children to see their parents work so hard for something they believe in.  Something they may only remember when they themselves are adults faced with adversity.  It's a lesson in not giving up or walking away.  I have gained so much from those around me.  And at the end of the day I think that's what life is about.

I know there is always the argument about private v public schools but spare me the comments, I am not knocking any avenue of education or beliefs just supporting a choice which every family deserves.  I also attended catholic, public and private schools so know the pro and con's for all.  It's also very hard to make public something private and stressful (for me anyway).  I am thankful I have the opportunity to fight for what I want.  I always thought a blog for rural women could do alot of good, which it does so I think a post about a school facing a Goliath battle can only do good as well.

All in all I am so thankful for all we have been through for we are a far better school community for it.  We know what works and what does not.  We have classy teachers, vibrant parents and kids who will always be supported.  I cannot ask for more than that.  And even if you are not a believer, non religious or simply don't care I want to tell our story and give credit where credit is due.  Any adversity in life is hard but to go through it with such great people beside you brings so much strength and opportunity.

St Joey's rocks and always will!

“Courage, courage, trust in God who helps you in all things” Mary MacKillop

And thanks to Mary Mac who keeps us going.

Visit their website here and tell your friends!


  1. You have a fabulous teacher in Alice too! She could work anywhere and choses to work at St Joeys. :)

  2. St joeys have had 2 fabulous teachers in Alice & Dell who have also taught my kids. I would recommend them to anyone!

  3. Sounds like a great school and fantastic community. How lucky you are to live in such a great supportive community.

  4. They are fab teachers and yes we have a great school and community. Thanks for your support.

  5. This post hits so close to the bone for me. I too have been in this situation with my children's rural school. I understand the frustration when people verbally offer their support but don't follow through with action (this was an eye opener to me cause I had always had the belief that country people support their own) Don't give up!! Somewhere there will be a lesson in this. And to any readers of this blog - don't lose a school - support it!! - you never get it back once it's gone and once you don't have a choice of schools - it is detrimental to the whole community and has flow on effects - we learnt the hard way. Keep going and good luck!!

  6. Thank you so much for your words, we wont give up, we are a fighting bunch at St Joeys but yes an eye opener when support is not forthcoming. We like to think we "lead the way".

  7. We had 20 kids when our school closed down. We had 150 (at best) in our district/area. It separated our town, as kids had to catch buses an hour trip into three other towns. We can never get the school back or repair the damage it did to our town. So well done on your fantastic efforts to keep your school alive. It's sad when others give up the fight. But you all deserve a huge pat on the back. x

  8. Wow, I thought my kids went to a small school, ours is 3 and bit times the size of yours! And while the teachers do make a school, so do the mum's and dad's and kids and anyone else who helps out. If it wasn't for someone like you who believed in and fought for them they wouldn't be able to do such a good job. Your blog today brought tears to my eyes.

  9. If only our wider community felt this way.... Thank you for letting me have my rant.