I had the privilege of meeting with education leaders, staff and students from our Catholic schools in and around Alice Springs last week as part of a high-level education delegation led by the Minister for Education Jason Clare MP, looking at the unique challenges facing central Australian schools.

We were joined by the chair of the government’s expert panel advising on the National School Reform Agreement, Dr Lisa O’Brien AM; Department of Education deputy secretary, Schools, Meg Brighton, and Catholic Education Northern Territory director, Paul Greaves.

The delegation toured a number of schools in the area, including Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic College (OLSH), and participated in discussions addressing how the Central Australian On Country Learning funding could be used by schools.

It was an invaluable opportunity for the Minister and education leaders to not only visit one of our local Catholic schools, but to also speak with our Catholic education leaders on how to best support student learning and wellbeing in our remote schools.

My thanks go to OLSH principal Paul Melloy, staff, and students for their informative and engaging tour of OLSH. It is evident OLHS fosters a strong community, a collaborative learning environment and strives to make education accessible and impactful for all.

The On Country Learning measure commits $40 million from 2023 – 2025 to support improved attendance and engagement at the 46 schools in the Central Australia region that are operating below the 100 per cent Schooling Resource Standard (SRS).

Catholic education has three schools in the Alice Springs district, OLSH, St Joseph’s Catholic Flexible Learning Centre and Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School. This additional funding will provide a boost to our schools in Central Australia which have significant challenges around disadvantage, attendance, wellbeing and other factors that impact greatly on student learning outcomes, particularly for our First Nations students.

It will support these schools operating below the SRS and we look forward to the future bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments to bring our schools up to 100 per cent of the SRS over the long term.

This week, I begin my journey to Lisbon, Portugal to attend World Youth Day (WYD), attending the evening Vigil on Saturday and the Missioning Mass on Sunday, which will be celebrated by Pope Francis, before heading on to Fatima with a group led by Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Danny Meagher.

I have been hearing and reading about the wonderful encounters experienced by pilgrims from across our schools and dioceses who began their journey to WYD some weeks ago. I look forward to catching up with them in Portugal and feel honoured to have the opportunity to take part in this incredible faith event.

Jacinta Collins
National Catholic education executive director

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic College Alice Springs students with principal Paul Melloy, National Catholic education executive director Jacinta Collins and Catholic Education Northern Territory director, Paul Greaves.