From the Head of Senior School

I love Senior School Assemblies at Carey. The steady stream of students moving as one from all parts of the campus; the bottle neck that invariably occurs at the entrance to the MGH; the call to attention by the School Captains and the supportive shushing offered by staff standing in the wings; the formal procession of the platform party to the stage and the silence that descends upon the space as hundreds of young people settle into their chairs and into the moment.

There’s always a musical item, a reflection by the Chaplain, an address by School leaders, and the singing of the Australian National Anthem. Sometimes we might watch a video put to music by the Sports Captains, or listen to a speech given by a guest speaker. This year we’ve made the decision to commence each new term with an Acknowledgement of Country as a means of formally recognising the Wurundjeri people as the traditional owners of the land on which we gather – a small but significant inclusion on many levels. Week in, week out, it’s all over in around 43 minutes, but there’s no doubting the occasion’s importance in nurturing the ties that bind us in community; the esprit de corps that helps each member make sense of their place within the larger whole.

Perhaps understandably, not all students feel so well disposed to its perceived intrusion on the timetable; to its conventions and rituals nor to the fact that on any given week, half the cohort have a less than stellar experience via video link up in the IWA, but rightly so, we push on because as the Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton reminds us, ‘merely living in the midst of others, [whether that be in a School or House or family context] does not guarantee that we live in communion with them or even in communication with them; to live in the midst of others sharing nothing but the common noise and the general distraction isolates a man in the worst way…’

And Merton was right. Being part of a community demands conscious participation and a shared sense of purpose, a willingness to accept relational responsibilities and a deep desire to contribute something of oneself to the whole. Which brings me to my favourite moment in the entire Assembly, whereby the esprit de corps or spirit of the body finds full expression in the singing of the Carey School Song with its clear-sighted articulation of all that we’re not, giving definition and power to all that we are:

‘Schools there are many renowned, in our story,
Founded by kings in the days long ago,
Weather-worn buildings, romantic and hoary,
Dimly-lit halls, where the footstep falls slow;

Ours not the pride of a royal foundation,
Ours not the glory of centuries’ fame,
Yet let us claim with a proud exultation,
“Carey’s true heirs will through life play the game”.’

Natalie Charles
Head of Senior School
natalie.charles@carey.com.au

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