From The Principal – We Celebrate Our Boarders

Santa Maria College opened its doors 80 years ago with the primary goal of providing an education for rural students. 60 boarders and 13 day students attended the College in its first year. Mercedes College did not offer boarding, and at the time there was significant demand from country families to provide an education for girls. Today as we celebrate the final day of National Boarding Week we are grateful to the Sisters of Mercy for their vision and for the 148 students who are part of our very special Boarding Community.

Where do our boarders come from?

Our boarders come from remote and regional areas of Western Australia, from farms, towns or tiny communities and we have two students from overseas. Many of our boarders have limited choices in continuing their education in their local area; therefore boarding provides many opportunities for these students.

What was boarding like in the early days and what has changed?

Boarding has changed significantly over the years. Girls used to sleep in dormitories and even on the balconies of the McAuley Building (our Administration Building). In 1981 this all changed when we opened our current boarding facilities. Thankfully the standard and choice of the meals have improved significantly, and the boarders now have access to outstanding sporting, recreation, and social opportunities. Technology has dramatically changed life for boarders in relation to how they are now able to stay connected with family and friends from home. Many of the Housemothers, since the opening of the College, were Sisters of Mercy while sadly today there are no Sisters.

Why are boarders such a significant part of our community?

Growing up in small country towns and being part of the community is a big part of survival in the bush. Everyone helps others, whether it be fighting a bushfire on someone else’s property or raising money for the local school. In these communities everyone supports each other. Our boarders bring this quality to our College community. They are always the first to volunteer and provide such a strong support network for each other. They are admirable in the way they demonstrate our Mercy value of service to others and their community.

Our Boarders are very down to earth and often love the outdoors and have a strong connection to the land and enjoy the vastness of open spaces. They often learn practical skills, such as driving vehicles earlier than city students and are given more responsibility at a younger age because on a farm everyone pitches in whether you are 4 or 14. The girls are independent problem solvers who have wonderful stories of resilience to share with our day students. Living in a community also means our boarders shows great patience, tolerance, and loyalty to others.

Sport is a big part of country communities where they often travel significant distances to play against teams in other towns. Many of our boarders are talented at sport and contribute significantly to our College teams. They are always willing to help with coaching, umpiring and the many other duties associated with sporting teams.

This week we acknowledge the importance of our Boarding Community, our students and their families and all that they bring to our College. We also acknowledge the incredible work done by our Housemothers in caring for our boarding girls.

Jennifer Oaten, Principal

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