Committed to the common good

Most of you will be aware that CBC Fremantle was featured on this week's Compass programme which aired on the ABC. The adage 'it takes a village to raise a child' certainly was reflected by the stories told by the boys and their parents. I have received messages of congratulations from all over Australia and from as far away as Africa. Total strangers, educators, chaplains, Christian Brothers, former staff, former students, parents of Old Boys and current students and parent of boys who have not yet begun their journey at CBC have all joined the chorus of viewers who have sent their positive reviews. The programme uncovered former friends and colleagues I hadn't heard from in years, in one instance, for more than 45 years. It would be easy to just sit back and bask in the glory of what is, by any measure, a beautiful community. However, two messages I received this week have dismissed any hubris that I may have developed from the Compass programme.

Last Sunday morning my daughter Rosie called me. Rosie generally calls me for two reasons. The first I will keep confidential, but the second I'm happy to share. Rosie is fiercely loyal and protective of her father. Whenever she hears me, or CBC, being criticised, she moves to DEFCON 4. She called me to say that a friend had heard from a friend that her son, who is in Year 8, spends time in the library at break times because he fears being bullied in the 'quadrangle'. I asked Rosie to pass my number on to her friend, and for her friend to pass it on further to the mother of the child. I also emailed our College Pastoral Board and asked that they start making enquiries, but it is rather like finding a needle in a haystack, and I haven't since heard from the parent to shed any light on her son's plight. The thought that it may be happening is deeply troubling.

During the week, a recently graduated Old Boy also gave a different version of the CBC Journey as depicted on the ABC. On social media he indicated that, as a same-sex attracted young man, he felt isolation and, at times, was made to feel unworthy during his time at the College. This saddens me profoundly because every human is created in the image of God and such situations should never arise. These two instances remind me that we can't take for granted that every boy in our school is automatically enjoying a positive journey and a smooth transition to adulthood.

During adolescence, boys will naturally seek to form a hierarchy. The easiest way, and the way most modelled in today's society, is with a put-down of others. This will happen in every school. What I commit to all parents at CBC is that when we are aware of negative hierarchical behaviour, it will be addressed. To the extent that the address pleases the parent is not an exact science, but it will be addressed. The problem with the situation Rosie pointed out is, that as far as I know, no-one has communicated the issue, and if they have, it has not been resolved satisfactorily.

I make a fantastic pizza, and the secret is in the base. The ingredients of all dough are standard, but the way they combine is the key to success. The point I am trying to make is that successful dough is not just about the ingredients, it is about the way they combine. Too much salt kills the yeast, as does water that is too warm. Having committed teachers, parents and students is not enough to ensure a successful journey. They need a relationship, and the basis of all relationships is communication. The College cannot address any problem by ESP or crystal ball gazing. We need to have the issue articulated as soon as it is evident and then work together towards a common goal. If a solution is not forthcoming at a particular level, it needs to go to the next and so on and so forth. If it is unresolved once it reaches me, there are options beyond the school to assist and all these options should be pursued. The frustration I have experienced over the years is that parents and students sometimes don't want to air issues for fear the situation will get worse. This is a flawed mindset. How can you juxtapose the paying of nearly $10, 000 per year to ensure your son's happiness and safety, but then lack the trust in the same school to deal with any bullying issue or other problem that arises?

The entire staff at CBC, teaching and non-teaching, want every boy's journey at the College to be a positive and successful one. On occasion, as humans, we all make mistakes. When that happens, the quality of our relationships, the quality of our communication and the guidance provided by Christ's example will overcome. The reality of this week's Compass documentary may be that the overwhelming majority of boys have a great journey at CBC Fremantle. Our work is not done until we can say the same for every boy.

Domenic Burgio