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Clare Turner (1995) Talks About Immersion Experiences

Clare Turner (1995) Talks About Immersion Experiences

Where do you work and what is your role?

I am Faculty Leader of Humanities at St Monica’s College, Epping. St Monica’s College is a regional, co-educational Catholic College in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. The College is founded in the tradition of the Good Samaritan Sisters and inspired by St Monica. We have a student population of close to 2000 from Years 7-12. We embrace its rich cultural diversity, where students and staff come from many different cultural and religious backgrounds.

Prior to taking on my new role this year at the College, I was Coordinator of Values Education, where there was a focus on promoting the values of the College. My role also saw me overseeing our College’s Interfaith partnership with a local Islamic College and I established the immersion experiences to Western Australia and the Philippines for staff and students.

 Tell us about your school and why you felt an immersion program was important.

St Monica’s College has always had a strong ministry focus and in 2015, the Social Justice coordinator and I explored opportunities for our students to engage in an experience which would take them out of the northern suburbs of Melbourne and out of their comfort zone.

In these experiences, they learn the importance of living simply and walking humbly in their journey through life. It is impossible to go on these trips without feeling a sense of wonder and awe at the cultures and people that you encounter and interact with along the way.

I have been fortunate to travel back to Western Australia on Immersion twice; travel with Good Samaritan Education to the Philippines and lead our first group of students on an immersion to the Philippines.

Australian immersions are important for staff and students to experience the reality in our own back yard. They allow us to learn about the injustices within our society and about engaging in conversations with our families and friends about Indigenous Australians. They are able to break down stereotypes and myths and develop an understanding of the divide in Australian society, which can then be used in learning and in awareness-raising.

Clare (centre) is pictured here with Indigenous Elder Elaine Walley and Sister Anna Warlow

What were the positive outcomes of the experiences?

Immersion experiences can have a profound impact on young people’s lives. This impact can be personal or spiritual, but it has also seen our students commit themselves to work with Indigenous Australians whether that be within education or in midwifery or speech pathology.

Our students who have travelled to Western Australia in 2016 and 2018 were enriched and challenged by the experiences. They gained insights into the lives and struggles of those in the rural and remote places in Western Australia.

Our students were instrumental in nominating Catherine Jones for a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council Award (NATSICC) for her work at Cue Primary School and in the Cue/Mt Magnet Parish and it was an honour that same year that Elaine Walley and a member of the Mt Magnet Parish also received for their service to their community and living out the gospel values of the Church. 

How did your education at Santa Maria impact your life in terms of values, experiences, and insights?

Retrospectively, I look back at my time at Santa Maria College fondly. It was here that I grew a great love of learning and wanted to be a teacher. I was inspired by Mr O’Mara, Mrs Morcombe and others.

The values that I learnt at Santa Maria, are ones that have been reflective of my own upbringing and my life as an adult. Hospitality, compassion, justice and service – these values are so rich and important in my day to day life: at home, at work and within the community. A journey to serve, to lead, and develop strong faith.

My parents let me choose where I would go to high school and it was a tough decision for them to let me go to boarding school. I chose Santa, not only because it was a Catholic school, but there was something about the school that I loved. To this day I don’t know whether the story of Catherine McAuley resonated with me or it was within me that Santa was the right fit.

Santa girls were encouraged to be giving of themselves, serve others, and be inclusive; this has stood with me. My teachers and boarding house mothers were role models, who lived the Catholic Faith in their interactions, their teaching, listening to my rambling, and their constant advice and reassurance.

Many times in my life, I have been able to leave the comforts of my own garden; albeit hesitant, scared or excited and experience someone else’s garden – a new town, a strange place, a new experience, a new job or role, or with students on immersion experiences, which has changed me and my place in the world. 

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