Australasian Mercy Secondary Schools Student Conference
The fifth biennial Australasian Mercy Secondary Schools Student Conference honoured the foundation of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia and the faith and courage of Ursula Frayne who brought her order’s spirit of Mercy to the shores of the Swan River. The conference provided an experience in heritage and celebrated the growth of Mercy across Australasia. The story of Ursula and her companions was shared as a powerful example of resilience, tenacity and determination to be Mercy for others and encouraged students to animate Mercy into the future by responding to local and global needs just as those who had gone before them.
Santa Maria College alongside Mercedes College, St Brigid’s College, Mercy College, Aranmore College and Ursula Frayne College, welcomed students from Mercy Schools across Australia and Papua New Guinea to share in a rewarding Mercy experience. This year’s conference saw a range of speakers from the Sisters of Mercy, alumni from Australian Mercy schools, artists & performers and social media compassion advocates.
The last week in September marked the beginning of the conference on the cusp of the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy. As delegates settled into their new home –the Santa Maria College Boarding School, Perth welcomed delegates with warm weather, blue skies and a glistening Swan River. Students from Australian Mercy schools were very keen to meet their international Mercy companions from PNG and Saturday afternoon was spent getting to know other delegates.
The Conference was opened by the Principal of Mercedes College, Kerrie Fraser, followed by a moving Acknowledgement of Country by Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse, who sang their way into everyone’s hearts with gracious storytelling of the first people of this land. Students were asked to bring foundation stones from their local communities to honour the humble beginnings of each of their Mercy Colleges across Australia and PNG. These stories were shared in the ‘Heritage Marketplace’ and passionately illustrated the flourishing of Mercy.
Throughout the conference, students were invited to engage and reflect interactively through the Flipgrid App. Students were able to share their knowledge about the conference theme and began to hear stories other students brought with them. Students quickly realised what a committed and passionate group they were a part of.
A highlight of the conference was sailing up the Swan River to Perth by ferry. Delegates followed in the footsteps of Ursula Frayne and her companions. On arrival in the city, they explored on foot how the Mercy story grew in Perth via an engaging game of the ‘Amazing Race of Mercy’. The time spent in the city provided students with an opportunity to visit Mercedes College, the oldest continuing girls’ school in Australia, located at Victoria Square, the original foundation site, a place of significance in our Mercy story.
Kerrie Fraser expressed her gratitude to Santa Maria College for hosting the conference and acknowledged the wonderful contribution made by the planning committee from the representative Mercy Schools of WA. “We have done so many exciting things throughout this short period – hearing from the Mercy Sisters on hospitality and forgiveness, to an engaging session with YouTube influencer Brett Stanford from How Ridiculous on pushing boundaries and self-improvement, to the inspirational sharing from past students of Mercy Colleges on how invaluable living the Mercy values have become in their daily lives”.
Patience Hahambu, who travelled from Papua New Guinea, regarded the experience an amazing adventure she will never forget. “This conference experience has exceeded all my expectations – the topics discussed were inspiring and very relatable – and the students, staff and presenters I’ve met have been so warm and welcoming to me, I definitely plan to come back to Perth,” she added.
Our Lady of Mercy College student Jessica Berti said she has “been inspired to share the lessons learned during the conference with family and friends back home in Victoria.”
The conference allowed delegates to recognise that we are at a significant time in the ongoing story of Mercy and provided an opportunity for delegates to reflect on their role in the Mercy educational endeavour, mindful of the evolving growth of our community and dedicated to a strong sense of unity with like-minded students in Mercy Schools across Australia, New Zealand and PNG.
Emma Nofal, Executive Officer AMSSA Student Conference