The meaning of Lent


We are well into Term 1, and last week, with Ash Wednesday, we began Lent. Easter chocolate bunnies, bilbies and eggs have been in the shops for weeks, as have hot cross buns. It’s a reminder of how disconnected these items have become from their original symbolism. It’s all about consumerism, not Christian symbolism.

It is our challenge to reclaim the meaning of what Lent is all about. Rather than consumption, it’s about fasting, prayer and looking after those in need. And the end point is that we should more deeply understand the Easter event that is the centre of our Christian faith, and be more deeply committed to living the life of love and mercy to which Christ calls us. Archbishop Hart's message for Lent provides some suggestions to assist us in this.

Royal Commission

Three weeks of hearings into the Catholic Church by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse ended today.

The history of abuse in our Church has been shameful. There is no excuse for what has occurred. It is cold comfort to learn that, according to evidence tendered before the Commission, ‘the vast majority of claims alleged abuse that started in the period 1950 to 1989’.

That is why it is crucial that the community understands and can be confident in the child protection regime that operates in Catholic education in Victoria today.

On Thursday last week, I participated in a panel conducted by the Commission, along with other education leaders from Western Australia and Queensland. As I told the Commission, Catholic Education Melbourne used the state parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations to become a leader in child safety. We acted to ensure that we had rigorous child-safe standards in place before the Inquiry submitted its report.

An enormous amount of work has gone into ensuring that our schools are child-safe, and school have shown their strong commitment to have the new child-safe standards understood and implemented across the school community.

Like all schools, Catholic schools are accountable to the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority. As part of this process, all school authorities – including parish priests – understand they must abide by the policies, processes and obligations of these legislated standards and that they have direct accountability for managing child safety.

We all know that no governance model is perfect. That, however, does not stop us from continuing to do everything we can to guarantee the safety of the children in our care, going beyond compliance and striving for the highest governance standards we can.

Gonski misremembered

The Gonski Report has become much-mythologised since it was handed down five years ago, to such an extent that when one of the authors, Ken Boston, gave a much-reported speech on education policy last week, the mythology appears to have clouded his own memories of the recommendations of the original paper.

Contrary to Dr Boston’s claims, the report did not propose a ‘sector-blind’ funding model. It effectively recommended two models – one for government and one for non-government schools.

It ignored the fact that many government schools raise significant amounts of money from parents or sources such as overseas students and failed to explain why government selective schools – which exclusively educate high-performing students, most of whom come from affluent families – should continue to receive full public funding.

And in his speech Dr Boston failed to acknowledge the contribution low-fee non-government schools – such as those in the Catholic sector – make in assisting disadvantaged students.

Parent letter

My annual letter to parents arrived in schools last week. The letter, spelling out the priorities, highlights and achievements of Catholic Education Melbourne, is also available under Publications and Policies.