Kindergarten students and their families made history when they turned up for their first day of classes at St Anthony of Padua Catholic College Austral.
The new school opened on Monday with 43 students. The day marks the beginning of what will become a thirteen-year learning journey for many as the school develops to include more than 2,000 students in grades up to Year 12.
After they dropped off their children for their first primary school lessons, parents and extended family members enjoyed morning tea to celebrate the milestone. Students began to familiarise themselves with a different environment and routines to preschool and home.
Principal Lea De Angelis said the new students would become role models for future grades, and praised the strong sense of community already visible at the school.
Mrs De Angelis knew all students by name before their first day and said the relationships already built through family picnic days, orientation and other events had helped to make the transition to the new primary school easier for both parents and students.
“We wanted to create a school community that people really wanted to be part of,” Mrs De Angelis said. “You could see that on the faces of parents and children on their first day, so we couldn’t be happier.
“Parents have had a number of opportunities to meet each other and many have already made good friends. Most of our parents are first time parents to school so they’re excited and a bit anxious too. This is a great unknown for them being a new school, so it’s about walking the journey with them.”
It’s a pretty exciting day for everyone and for the growth of this area.
– Fr Bob Hayes
Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White said he was delighted to see the school open in the growing south west Sydney suburb.
“There’s a very strong commitment of the whole school and parish team to making the school a place of real welcome, where families can get to know each other in a growing area,” he said.
“I’m very proud that Sydney Catholic Schools had the vision and foresight to build the school ahead of major population growth, so that when families arrive at Austral they have a community here to welcome them.
“For the first time at Sydney Catholic Schools we are building a school that will take people from three or four years of age with the planned preschool right through to graduation day at the end of Year 12. Our association with families will extend over 15 years of their child’s life. That’s a wonderful partnership opportunity.”
The comprehensive college will have a gifted and talented program, a selective stream for highly capable students and access to vocational education among the opportunities for all students. A market garden, café and preschool are also planned for the site.
Lea is an amazing principal. She is very receptive to parents and that was another driving force.
– Nicole Hext
Parish Priest Fr Bob Hayes said the school was built in response to community interest.
“The parish has been looking for this for the past 20 years so it’s a pretty exciting day for everyone and for the growth of this area,” he said. “The architects have done a great design. It looks terrific, like a university.”
St Anthony of Padua was a natural choice for Nicole Hext, whose connection to the parish was part of her decision to send her daughter Charlotte, 5, to the school.
“This was the first choice for us,” she said.
“Lea is an amazing principal. She is very receptive to parents and that was another driving force. It is also really nice to have had the prior relationship to Fr Bob through church.
“I saw him help build St Francis Xavier [primary school in Lurnea] from the ground up. When I went to school there, there was a huge community focus. I still recall the carols, discos, youth group and other things we used to have. It was very welcoming.”
I’m very proud that Sydney Catholic Schools had the vision and foresight to build the school ahead of major population growth.
– Dr Dan White
Having Charlotte belong to a similarly welcoming community was one of Nicole’s wishes for her daughter’s time at school, and to see her grow into the best person she can be.
“I just want Charlotte to achieve her potential,” she said.
“I don’t want her to have to feel she has to be a brain surgeon. I want her to be the best that she can possibly be for the person she is.
“She woke up at 5am and said ‘It’s time for school! She was very excited about the first day. It was the first time that she has woken up early for anything.”
– First published on 1 February 2017