As Principal, I am conscious that I am joining a community which has a long and proud history centred on the core values of Saint John Bosco and Salesian spirituality.

Good morning everyone and I’d like to thank our College Captains, Travis and Jackson, for their kind introduction and welcome.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation on whose land we are gathered. We pay our respects to the elders both past and present for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and the hopes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Welcome to staff returning to the College and a number of new staff: Gerard Burke, Margherita Busacca, Sharna Cousland, Louis Goutos, Fiona McKendry, Thomas Murphy, Janelle Spring and Esther Yamada.

I am truly delighted to be present at today’s assembly along with parents, staff, past pupils, our Salesian Priests and brothers and of course you our students.

I extend a special welcome to our Year 7s who have made a truly excellent start to 2016 and to all students who joined the community at other year levels. Welcome also to new staff and families. You are indeed all very welcome.

It may seem to Year 7s and their parents that there is a long road ahead, however, these years will go by in the blink of an eye. This is evidenced as I speak to our past pupils who are with us today one of whom said, “Look at those Year 7s – I remember my first day at St Joseph’s, it seems like yesterday.”

As Principal, I am conscious that I am joining a community which has a long and proud history centred on the core values of Saint John Bosco and Salesian spirituality. The main reason the local parish and the Salesians came together in 1965 and why we are here today in 2016 is of course because of you the students. The stories from the past I will listen to with deep respect and honour. Together, as a St Joseph’s College Community, we create new stories from this day forward and these will be told to new generations in the future. The stories told tomorrow will be echoes from a life each one of you creates today. As we embark with much enthusiasm on this next stage of the journey together, we aim to uphold the core values at every moment and in every circumstance.

Each of us stands on the shoulders of the great people who have gone before us – I’d particularly like to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of all past Principals including our own Father Jim Acreman and Mr John Fazzino, Acting Principal in 2015. I pay tribute to Mr Vincent Feeney for his leadership of St Joseph’s College for the past 16 years and for his stewardship of the charism of St John Bosco and the Salesians. Much of what you enjoy to today at this wonderful school is due to men like Mr Feeney, Mr Fazzino and Father Jim Acreman.

It is in this spirit that I begin my conversation with you this morning – a conversation that will continue over time.

The first day of school will be remembered for many things including the persistent rain but, more importantly, it is fitting that we celebrated our first day of the new school year particularly given our 2016 Strenna (our direction) which is “With Jesus let us adventure in the Spirit together”. St Joseph’s College is known for its adventurous nature, its spirt and its outreach to others. A former student said to me, “St Joseph’s taught me to grab hold of life and make a difference!” This is what I hope for you, that you take up the many opportunities you will have presented to you by our staff to dream the great dream and to adventure in the spirit with Jesus, St John Bosco and St Joseph as your guides; to bring light to those in need, to offer them hope in times of sadness and despair. This was indeed the dream of the pioneering Salesians who have been part of this great school from the beginning, the dream of our past pupils and the dream of each of you here today.

The Salesians are alive in the great dream. Their presence and their prayers and support are with us always as we journey forward. We are a school that prepares for life. Our motto is ‘Agite Quae Didicistis’ meaning “put into practice those things you have learned” so it is not enough to learn. We must act – we must be men and women of action. When we truly belong to a community, we are in relationships with others that bring joy to all. I challenge you to ensure that all who enter our gates do so with a growing confidence and purpose each day. Each of you can and must make a difference.

What does it mean to be a student of St Joseph’s College? I know there will be inspiring conversations about this. I’m appreciative of the efforts each year level will make in deciding on some actions you will take through your homeroom for the 2016 year. Your goals and actions need to be in important areas: your learning, your expression of your faith, your contribution to community, your relationships with others and your support of those in need.

One of the great writers of the 19th century, Lewis Carroll, said “One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” This is as true in the 21st century as it was back in those days some 100 years before St Joseph’s College opened its doors.

I am going to ask you think about a question as you look at these pictures – perhaps one image captures your imagination more than another. One of the thoughts that I have about these images is that anything in life that is achieved, is achieved because of commitment, desire, enthusiasm, and perseverance. To be part of St Joseph’s College is to be a part of a positive and creative learning environment.

How will you stretch yourself to be a better version of who you are today? What sacrifices will you make to realise your dreams? How will you make your contribution to St Joseph’s College one that will bring to life the dreams of those both within the college and amongst those who need our support beyond our gates?

Another outstanding Lewis Carroll novel is Alice in Wonderland but for today we shall take some poetic licence and call his novel Alexander in Wonderland to fit in with all the young men before me.

A famous line reads:

“Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Like Alexander, I encourage you to dream big, believe anything is possible because it is. The path you are on, like Alexander, will be filled with surprises that will both delight and challenge you – there will be times of immense and times of sadness – but please remember you have many people along the way to help and guide you.

Our Year 12s have less than 10 months before they will leave the grounds of St Joseph’s College to embark on their post-secondary school lives and as I meet them over the course of this first term, I know I will be listening for the passion in their voices, the dedication in their hearts and the enthusiasm in their stride. They have an important year ahead as all students have– where the decisions about how hard you study, your level of commitment and how many sacrifices you will choose to make – will impact the direction of your lives.

When I think about each student at this College, I am called to turn my attention to the person I imagine will one day graduate from St Joseph’s College – a young man hope-filled and with the promise of the fullness of life.

When a young man enters the gates of St Joseph’s College, we may well imagine his final day.

Is his expression radiating zeal and passion?
Is his heart filled with compassion?
Is his orientation towards others?
Is his mind alive with a love of learning?
Is his spirit enlivened with hope?
Is his dreaming urging him to do more and be more?
Is his future blooming with endless possibilities?
Is his nature as gentle and purposeful as the breeze?

As he takes his final steps beyond the gates, does he pause, turn to glance back and know he always have a home at St Joseph’s?

Is he now now indeed an accomplished graduate of St Joseph’s?

It will always be true that the quality of the relationships that exist within and between staff, students and parents make all the difference to the quality of experience at St Joseph’s College.

What sort of young men do you wish to be? What opportunities will you create for yourselves and others?

We occupy a beautiful place at the foot of the Dandenongs and we are also part of a global community with important responsibilities within it.

We are a community of outreach and learning striving to make a difference in this world.

Our eyes must turn in the direction of those in need.

Our response will give life to others as we live out our Gospel values.

I am reminded of the opening line by an Australian novelist Richard Flanagan in his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North, “Why at the beginning of things is there always light?” The mass we celebrate on St Joseph’s Day is the light that guides us into the future. In Matthew’s Gospel in the Beatitudes we hear: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Our challenge is to ensure that the light at the beginning of our school year continues to brighten over the days and months ahead.

One thing is for sure…we (you and me) are in each other’s lives and we will grow together. I take my first steps as Principal alongside each Year 7 who also is taking his first St Joseph’s steps. We will make mistakes and we will learn from these, we will experience success and we will be grateful, we will take up the challenge to be the dreamers of the great dreams and know that we are called to be God’s light in this world – with Jesus let us adventure in the spirit together.

I wish you well for the year ahead. I look forward to meeting each one of you and taking great delight in watching you grow and develop into accomplished graduates of St Joseph’s.

God Bless our community, God bless each one of you.

St John Bosco – Pray for us.

Thank you.