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Presentation College Windsor: A once great school that lost its strategic vision

A chance to blossom in adversity

My heart goes out to the students who face the overwhelming reality that they will need to find a new school. At the end of year 11, my family moved to Melbourne, meaning I had to finish my final year of study in a completely new environment. For me, that was Presentation College Windsor. I still remember my first day, feeling like a year 7 student on a day I was meant to embody confidence and control. The overwhelming discomfort I felt as I sat in a choir rehearsal to celebrate the school’s 140-year anniversary, a far cry from the sports-focused co-ed school in my country home town. The daunting realisation that I was behind in maths methods and my English essays were not as strong as I hoped.

But as I persevered, I noticed a transformation. My grades improved, my discomfort eased, my confidence increased, and I finally began to enjoy my final year. In fact, when I consider the incredible friendships and experiences from this year, the thought of not moving schools is more distressing. I was so fortunate that PCW was the school I was welcomed into so warmly. To the current students, you too have been able to experience the generosity and strength of this incredible school, and this experience is something you will always carry with you. I have no doubt that every one of you will be able to blossom in the face of this same challenge.

Dannielle McKinnon, Windsor

Why were we kept in the dark?

I am the parent of a student at Presentation College Windsor and one who completed VCE there in 2017. When the Presentation Sisters came out from Ireland 146 years ago it was to start up a Catholic girls’ school in what was then a poor area of Melbourne. Their mission was education, not money. It seems the school has forgotten this and moved away from their beliefs. Presentation charges higher fees than competing inner-city Catholic girls’ schools and does not offer benefits such as sibling discounts, thus losing potential students. Why did the school introduce compulsory building levies when they knew it was in danger of closing? The school has been able to find $1 million, along with a $1 million government grant, to renovate the Nagle building, which will now not be used by students. Why wasn’t this money used to help save the school?

No mention was made to parents of falling enrolments and the dangers of closing, which we are now being told have been hanging over the school for a number of years. Where were the information sessions? Where was the opportunity for parents to have involvement and a say in what was going on? You cannot blame parents for not wanting to send their daughters to Presentation for one last year next year. But where are approximately 300 students going to find places for 2020 this late in the year?

Adam Laffey, Yarraville

Remember the state schools as well

So much coverage of the closure of Presentation College Windsor. Radio and print media featuring the story. Will we see the same attention given to the closure of the next government school? We love our local schools as well. When government schools close, community facilities for a range of activities are lost.

Jenni King, Camberwell

FORUM

The untouchables

With all the facilities at its disposal, I can’t believe that the government wasn’t abundantly aware of the shadowy side of Crown casino’s relationship with politicians and Chinese gambling high rollers. Then, as usually is the case, a media investigation “blows the lid” and the government scrambles to limit damage. So, we now have an investigation that appears to quarantine the very representatives that require scrutiny.

Jaroslaw Kotiw, Strathfieldsaye

Disgraceful values

Nothing illustrates the rotten core values of our conservative, Christian government better than the revelation our “border protectors” fast-tracked the visas of Chinese (and other?) gamblers coming here to chuck away money. Lots of it apparently. Contrast this with the treatment of refugees on Manus and Nauru in their efforts to get the visas they need to rebuild a meaningful life. Appalling.

Anne Austin, Flinders

True community spirit

Kelly Warren and her family are to be applauded and thanked for their initiative in providing free food and other essentials to those in need, many who no doubt are on Newstart and other benefits and struggle to survive (“Charity ‘angel’ ordered to shut up shop”, 31/7). The City of Casey should be ashamed at giving her notice to stop distributing from her garage after complaints presumably from those living close by about noise, traffic and the “visual impact”.

Does “visual impact” mean out of sight and out of mind? Like the federal government’s repeated rejections of demands to increase Newstart, the growing gap between those on low incomes and benefits is a blight on our community. Kelly Warren’s attitude to those in need, despite those who have abused her hospitality, is an example of community spirit that could be enhanced if those who are critical of her actions joined her in a constructive way.

Ray Cleary, Camberwell

Council must step up

Come on, Casey council, help Kelly Warren, not hinder her. How about the use of one of your sports club rooms which are not used during the day or another underused building? The cost to set this up would be minimal and would take the stress off her neighbourhood and provide easy parking etc.

Chris Simpson, Frankston South

Bring home reality

I think we should actually congratulate Barnaby Joyce. At least he has recognised what he didn’t understand before. Unfortunately, so many Coalition MPs have not got a clue how real people live. I have written a letter to every Coalition MP pointing out the absurdity of Dick Smith receiving $500,000 in excess franking credits ($19,230 a fortnight) while Newstart recipients earn about $575 a fortnight. I have rung many of their staffers to press the point. They have no empathy and tell me I am just a leftie. It is sad that politicians who claim to govern for all of us can’t imagine life away from their green leafy suburbs. I encourage readers to ring Coalition offices and try to have a debate. Maybe, just maybe, we might start illuminating them about how the other 80 per cent live.

John Rome, Mount Lawley

Not so super for workers

Unusually, I think Ross Gittins has got it wrong (“The Complications of super”, Comment, 31/7). He says economists believe employer superannuation contributions substitute for higher wages that would otherwise be paid. The current contribution rate of 9.5 per cent has been unchanged since 2014, during which period wage increases have struggled to keep up with the cost of living, so why should a further freeze result in higher wages growth?

The experience of the past decade suggests businesses withhold wage increases for one simple reason – because they can. Unless the relative bargaining strength of employers and workers changes, for example by lower unemployment or greater unionisation, this situation will continue. There will be nothing “optional” about a powerless employee being “asked” to forgo superannuation entitlements in return for a negligible pay rise of, say, 10¢ an hour, unless it is the “option” of losing their job or some of their hours.

David Francis, Ivanhoe

Centrelink policy failure

The travesty of robo-debt collecting by Centrelink continues ( “Robo-debt scheme ramped up using Medicare records”, 31/7). We are now hearing stories of young people who have been on Austudy through their student years being hounded by robo-debt telling them there is a discrepancy in their payments from years earlier when they were students. Without a full list of all their payslips and transactions from years earlier they have to roll over and pay up regardless of whether there was actually an overpayment. The algorithm lies. It is based on averages and has no way of dealing appropriately with a casualised student workforce. Yet another example of appalling Centrelink policy.

Cathy Humphreys, North Melbourne

Ulterior motives?

I seem to remember the big sell about the government wanting us to store all our medical data online was that it would be easier in an emergency, or when changing doctors, that our complete medical history was available.

It appears the government had an ulterior motive. It can now match Centrelink documents with Medicare documents to check on perceived fraud. No wonder so many people opted out, saying they did not trust the government on security grounds and on grounds that their records could be used in a manner other than designated. I, for one, was fooled and allowed my records to be available online. On current information it appears I was too trusting.

Alan Inchley, Frankston

Encroaching on privacy

Julia Thornton is spot on (“Facial recognition a step too far”, Comment, 30/7). But it’s not just governments. On Monday, my financial adviser’s CBD parent company wanted me to provide personal information, and have my photograph taken on an electronic device, for a simple consultation in a downstairs meeting room. I declined, partly because there was no corporate privacy policy statement or other indication of where the information would be stored, but mostly on principle. After some phone calls, the meeting, sensibly, went ahead anyway, because they already had the information and didn’t need the photo.

Danny O’Neill, Ashburton

Ban for grown-ups

Your photo of six frontbenchers and the Opposition Leader all transfixed by their mobile phones while sitting in Parliament was deeply disturbing (“Dial it down: MPs may ban phones, Dixers”, 31/7). What do we pay them for? To spend their time tweeting? We all know what trouble that can cause. And adults are supposedly more responsible with mobile phone use than children in classrooms? Heaven help us. A ban cannot come soon enough.

Joy Hayman, Blackburn North

Parental advice trap

Wendy Tuohy’s article is a valuable corrective to those who might give too much weight to one educator’s extended opinion piece on modern parenting (“Stop blaming our parenting”, Comment, 31/7). John Marsden’s views are honest, interesting and, for some, provocative. Nothing more, nothing less. Over 60 years ago, Dr Benjamin Spock, the famous US paediatrician, was both sanctified and vilified for his “permissive parenting” advice.

In practice, as he admitted later in life, he personally raised his own sons in an overly formal way. Nevertheless, he was pleased to have contributed to a move away from the non-affectionate rigidity of early 20th-century parenting. “Trusting your instincts” as a parent became his public mantra. “Moral panics” around child-raising styles have, as Tuohy’s article points out, always been with us. Common sense, scepticism about meddlesome proselytisers and love will always be the best antidotes to such fear-mongering.

Jon McMillan, Mount Eliza

Wasted opportunity

Surely now is the time for Premier Daniel Andrews to bring in bottle and can deposits and establish a chain of deposit collection points. It would have to be far cheaper than finding emergency landfill sites and putting out the fires that flare up from the activities of fraudulent operators his regulators have failed to regulate. You would have to think the plastic recyclers would applaud the “clean” waste they receive from this process. And why shouldn’t the people who sell batteries and razors not be expected to provide return bins for these products once they’re spent? These obvious and simple efficiencies in the waste management of our lifestyle can’t be that difficult to imagine and enact.

John Mosig, Kew

Audience deserves better

The recent production of Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre London was not performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company but by the Globe’s own company (Letters, 30/7). Its present artistic director seems hellbent on colour-blind and gender-fluid casting. Henry V, played by a diminutive black female actor, wooing Katherine of France, played by an extremely tall bloke in a dress, exemplified political correctness taken to absurdity.

Having seen Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero in The Tempest at the Globe many years ago, I have no problem with cross-gender casting, if the actors can act. The Globe’s current Henry compensated her lack of physical presence by shouting her way through the role. The Globe’s current practice of dumbing down Shakespeare for the masses via burlesque, hyper-activity and inept verse speaking was adopted shamelessly by the recent pop-up Globe company from New Zealand. The Bard deserves better. So does Melbourne.

Ross Campbell, Carlton

But wait, there’s more

Your Target puzzle rules state “No plurals ending in ‘s'”. Yet your solution (31/7) does not include words such as “hones” or “shines”. These are not plurals of nouns but present tenses of verbs so should be allowed. And your answers did not include “shit”, which is in my Australian dictionary and frequently used by my grandchildren.

David Hogg, North Warrandyte

AND ANOTHER THING . . .

It appears that mobile phones are more important than being an MP (“Dial it down: MPs may ban phones, Dixers”, 31/7).

Elizabeth Meredith, Surrey Hills

Crown casino

It was John Howard who once said, “we will decide who comes to this country”. His legacy lives on, especially if you are a wealthy high roller.

Pat Agostino, St Kilda West

I do not understand the paranoia regarding Chinese high rollers visiting Crown. The house always wins. The winnings ultimately generate higher tax revenue.

David Thomson, St Kilda

Seems like trusting the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation to regulate the betting sector is something of a gamble (“Premier stands by watchdog”, 31/7).

Joe Wilder, Caulfield North

Looking for a well-paid job with limited accountability? Become a government regulator.

Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick

Evidently the high rollers from China have more protection than our wombats.

Pamela Dempster, South Yarra

Barnaby Joyce

If Barnaby Joyce can’t live on $211,000, let alone the income from his assets, he is clearly incapable of ever administering a government department with a multibillion-dollar budget.

Jan Kendall, Mount Martha

Hey, Barnaby, if you’re that hard up, why don’t you sell another story to the tabloids?

John Howes, Rowville

Regarding Barnaby Joyce, (much more than) enough already. Please.

Tony Healy, Balwyn North

Other matters

Many thanks to Daryl Johnson (Letters, 31/7) for using the word “deracinated”. It now replaces my favourite word “defenestrate”.

Jon O’Neill, Waurn Ponds

When I was sending telepathic messages asking you to restore the Sudoku grid to its previous form, I didn’t mean you to go quite so overboard (Sudoku 4435, 31/7).

Mary Lyon, Camperdown

*Sign up to editor Alex Lavelle’s exclusive weekly newsletter at: www.theage.com.au/editornote.

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