December 3, 2021

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Principal's Message

Advent Prayer

Notices From The Deputy Principal

Improving Air Quality and Ventilation in Classrooms

2021 Successful Grant Applications

VCAL Transition

Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge

Library News

Principal's Message

Season of Advent

The season of advent is upon us, as we farewell students for another year.  The Responsorial Psalm for the first week of Advent is based on Psalm 25, “which was written after the Babylonian Exile and is a psalm of hope and trust in God.  It describes God as a teacher who shows the way to justice and righteousness.  God does not admonish those who fail but treats them with love and kindness.”  It is a beautiful reminder of how we are loved in God’s eyes, and the ways we can carve out our own unique path to God.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths,

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my saviour, and for you I wait all the day.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way.  He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.  The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him, and his covenant, for their instruction.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Farewell Assembly

Our closing College assembly was a joyful celebration not only because of the achievements of so many of our students, but because we were gathered together for the first time in what feels like a very long time.  While online video and live-streamed assemblies fill in a gap, they cannot capture the spirit of community and celebration that comes when we are together.  I have included an excerpt of my closing address to the students:

At the end of each year I ask you to take the best of who we are with you as we go our separate ways for a few weeks – it is about love, justice, compassion and hope being an integral part of who we are, not just when we are here, but more importantly when we are apart.

As we look forward to a well-earned break, I want to share with you a few practical ways of keeping the values alive.

We all have choices and all of us have the opportunity to think through our choices before we act and react.  We need to intentionally practice that skill of pausing to think before we make a response.  We need to understand that once we have made a choice the consequence is out of our hands.  Our choices have consequences – sometimes good, sometimes neutral, sometimes problematic and we have to accept that.  One of my favourite authors, Stephen Covey, writes, “Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response”.

So, what happens if we have to deal with the unintentional consequences of a response – well, we all need grace.  Mistakes are inevitable and we need to forgive ourselves and others for mistakes we make as part of our human condition and focus on positive change.  Remember, in this community, our mistakes don’t define us, and we do not become our mistakes, but we expect them and then we use our mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth.

Finally, we need one another.  If this pandemic has taught us anything it is how important we are to each other, what it truly means to be connected and to be part of a community – because life is just not the same when we are apart from one another.

Farewell to Departing Students and Staff Members

We wish all our departing students every success as they embark on their new journeys.  My prayer for all of them is that the story of the generous, courageous, bold and innovative Sisters of Charity remains a part of their lives into the future.

It is always with sadness that we farewell departing staff members.  Each person contributes more to this school than just the job they do. They bring their whole selves to their work with young people and with their colleagues, and we are always enriched by the gifts that are generously given and shared.

We offer farewell and best wishes to:

  • Mrs Mara Luciani after more than 20 years of service
  • Mr Seth Seiderman after 18 years of service
  • Ms Cherie Beckingham after more than 14 years of service
  • Ms Ayesha Mehta after 9 years of service
  • Mr Frank Rowland after 5 years of service
  • Ms Camille King after 4 years of service
  • Mrs Jo Marazita after 17 months of service
  • Mrs Kelly Milne after 1 year of service

And to the staff members who were with us on various short-term contracts:

  • Mr Louy Saade
  • Ms Zoe Quirk
  • Ms Sarah Singarella
  • Mrs Jayne O’Connell
  • Ms Rochelle Scholtes
  • Mr Leo Twomey

There is one other very special retirement that I would like to recognise.  Mr Greg Bertuna has given 45 years of service to education, most of that within the Catholic system.  Generations of young people have been influenced, encouraged and supported by Mr Bertuna throughout his career.  He has held a significant number of leadership positions across many areas of school life in various schools, including two stints at St Columba’s College.  His contribution to the various school communities, lucky enough to have him, has been immeasurable.  We offer Mr Bertuna our blessings and gratitude as he embarks on the next stages of life’s journey.

Christmas Blessings

We end the year in gratitude for the bountiful goodness in our lives.  We look forward to the birth of Jesus, with anticipation and in hope, as we celebrate God’s gift to humanity, in the form of a new born baby.

Joy and blessings to you and your families this Christmas season.  I look forward to welcoming you all back for a very special 2022, as we celebrate the College’s 125th anniversary.

Advent Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do and seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day,

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.

To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!’


– Henri J.M. Nouwen

Notices From The Deputy Principal

Orientation Day for incoming Year 7 students & the Peer Support Leaders 

The role of the Peer Support Leader has been reinstated at St Columba’s College and the 20 students who have been selected to take on this role showed exceptional leadership for their first significant assignment.

They were able to provide wonderful service to the teachers on this day, and most importantly, to the newest members of our community, the 2022 Year 7 students.

The feedback we received from teachers about the support provided by the Peer Support Leaders was overwhelmingly positive. Here are some examples:

  • The PSL was proactive, ready to engage, and very approachable with the new students. They took the time to connect with and speak with the students.
  • They spoke confidently and contributed to the activities set in a meaningful way.
  • They noticed when students were upset and spoke with them to reassure them. The PSLs led the scavenger hunt confidently
  • The way they farewelled every student as they left the college was beautiful.
  • I loved seeing the blazer, hair tied back neatly, lots of smiling and happy faces. It was really helpful not having to pick up the students myself, which made it all flow.
  • The Year 7 students felt very comfortable asking the PSL questions.

Thank you to all the PSLs for their hard work on this day. The will continue to support the Year 7 Transition on Wednesday 2 February.

Principal for a Day – Madison Camburn (include photos)

On 10 November, I was the Principal for a day, observing the responsibilities and activities undertaken by Ms Grima. On this eye-opening day, I got a real insight into the significance of collaborative teamwork and the extensive thinking and planning that needs to go into any school event or activity.

Shadowing Ms Grima meant that I attended a variety of meetings and learned so much about all the work that goes on behind the scenes.

The day commenced with a discussion about the agenda for the day with Ms Grima and Ms Almeida. I knew I was in for a long day but I was prepared and excited to undertake the duties with great enthusiasm and professionalism. The next part of my day was a school tour with Mr Finger who is the Business Manager and manages the business and finances of the school. We spoke about enhancements and improvements that can be done to some of the school facilities. We also went to the STEM lab and saw the flat sheets of plastic that were made from the bottle caps that students have been bringing to school as part of our precious plastics relationship with Monash University. I then attended a meeting with Ms Zanic to discuss application and exit processes for girls at St Columba’s College. I was very surprised to hear about how long and thorough the application and transition process is for incoming students and the importance of the exit process, where Ms Grima meets with all families who leave St Columba’s College.  Then it was off to morning tea in the staff lounge.

After recess, I attended Ms Bajada’s Cyclical meeting. Ms Mcdonald also attends this meeting and the three College leaders discuss improvements and enhancements to current teacher and student learning programs. I learned about a new term that was being discussed – self efficacy, which means the belief in your own ability to control your own behavior, emotions, and motivations. Next was a Mission, Governance and Formation meeting with Ms Fleeton, Sister of Charity, Sr Annette Cunliffe and Anne Young where we discussed formation matters related to the College Board.

After that, I had the opportunity to speak with Ms Grima about some of my ideas for improvements to the school. We talked about the College’s Learning Instructional model as well as learning techniques that benefit students’ education.

Next was a lunch meeting with the Faith and Mission Team to discuss the Catholic values of the College and how to develop students’ awareness and understanding of these values.

To wrap up the day, Mr Bonavia, Ms McDonald, Ms Grima and I had a meeting to discuss students’ subject changes and clashes between sporting events and school activities. The College’s calendar is quite complex and the Leadership Team began working on next year’s calendar back in April of this year.

Overall, having the opportunity to be Principal for a Day has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the duties and significant responsibilities of a Principal. I discovered that a principal is not the only person who “runs” the school; a Principal is assisted by many other members of the college staff who help them in making decisions and following up on situations.

I want to thank Ms Grima for giving me the opportunity to experience a day in her life as our Principal.

Madison Camburn, Year 9

Celebration of Excellence Awards Assembly

The College’s Celebration of Excellence Awards Assembly took place on 24 November. It was an opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate students for their many and varied achievements throughout this tumultuous year.

It was unfortunate and disappointing that we were not able to have parents or guardians and staff attend the assemblies but we look forward to our evening celebration in 2022.

Congratulations, once again, to students on their outstanding achievements:

Moonee Valley Climate Change Writing Competition

Congratulations to Tiana Ciavarella, Year 7, for winning the Moonee Valley Climate Change Writing Competition. Students were asked to share their experiences of climate change and creative solutions to solve the issue. Tiana won the Secondary Schools, her story can be read here.

PAM Accounts – Parents of Year 12 Students

We will be farewelling some families who have had a Year 12 daughter here in 2021. This may be their last daughter journeying through secondary education or they may have a younger daughter who will become a member of the St Columba’s College community in the future. To those of you who will be moving on, a warm thank you for allowing us to partner with you in the nurturing of your daughters.

Please note that on Friday January 28 2022, your PAM account for your Year 12 daughter will be suspended. You may wish to download and save your daughter’s reports, for instance, prior to this date. Year 12 students have also been advised that their G-Suite accounts will be suspended at this time too. Your daughters will also receive a reminder email in January to ensure they are able to save any important documentation that they require.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Finally, may knowing Jesus bring you peace to bless each day, hope for each tomorrow and joy in every season. I hope you and your family enjoys a restful break and I look forward to working with you next year.

Improving Air Quality and Ventilation in Classrooms

St Columba’s College has undertaken a rigorous process to improve the air quality and ventilation in all areas of the College’s indoor facilities including teaching spaces, staff offices and other meeting places.

The College decided it needed to establish a strategic plan to identify areas that require improvement and how best to address these concerns. The key aspects of this plan are as follows:

  1. Improve air ventilation by opening more windows and leaving doors open (status – completed)
  2. Placing notices in all areas advising staff if the air-conditioning unit(s) in each area were accessing fresh air or if they were recirculating air within the room (status – completed)
  3. Undertake a full site audit of all indoor areas identifying current ventilation weaknesses and access to fresh air capabilities (status – completed)
  4. Install in targeted areas air quality monitors to obtain data on the air quality when the area is in use. The data includes CO2 levels, organic pollutants, fine particle matter, relative humidity and temperature (status – in progress)
  5. Mapping of the College with this data (status – awaiting data from point 4 – December)
  6. Determining which of the following strategies would improve the air quality of the areas that require improvement:
    – Increase ventilation via natural / passive management
    – Purification and filtration technologies
    – Disinfection with ultra violet light technologies (status – awaiting finalisation of point 5 – December)
  7. Purchase and installation of required equipment identified in point 6 – January / February 2022.

In the meantime, St Columba’s College is eligible for approximately 30 Samsung air purifiers from the Victorian State Government, 3 of which have been delivered to date. The remaining units are expected in Term 1, 2022.

Finally, the College has successfully applied for the $25,000 Victorian Government School Shade Sails grant which will partially fund a new shade structure to be located in the learning courtyard to provide shade for the existing outdoor learning classroom. The new shade structure will enable this outdoor learning classroom to be used more often in place of an indoor classroom as well as more shade for the students during non-class times.

2021 Successful Grant Applications

During 2021 the College has been actively preparing and submitting numerous grant applications for various purposes.

Below are details of three of the successful grant applications.

  1. $1,000,000 2021-22 Round 3 Non-Government Schools Capital Grant (Victoria State Government). This grant will greatly assist with the funding of the College’s new STEAM Building (including 5 new science labs, 6 new visual arts studios, 2 new food technology classrooms, new canteen, 2 new maker spaces) and a new sports court – to be completed in 2024.
  2. $25,000 School Shade Sail Grant (Victoria State Government). This grant will significantly fund a new 8m by 8m shade structure in the Learning Courtyard over the existing outdoor classroom furniture – to be completed by April 2022.
  3. $5,000 Stronger Communities Grant -Round 7 (Commonwealth Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications). This grant will provide funding towards the setup of the College’s new Heritage Discovery Centre where the College’s archival history will be displayed for the College and local community – to be completed in the latter part of 2022.

VCAL Transition

During our transition program the Year 11 and 12 VCAL students have been fortunate enough to participate in a number of applied learning experiences. These opportunities enable our students to further develop their employability skills and enhance their personal development skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, leadership and decision making. 

Students completed courses in First Aid, Coffee Making and Safe Food Handling where they were able to gain a number of accredited Unit of Competency in the following areas; 

First Aid Qualification

HLTAID001 Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation

HLTAID002 Provide basic emergency life support

HLTAID003 Provide First Aid

Barista and Safe Food Handling Qualification

SITHFAB005 Prepare and Serve Espresso Coffee

SITXFSA001 Use Hygienic Practices for Food Safety

To further develop their teamwork skills and leadership skills they participated in an incursion facilitated by yLead which focused on  empowering young people to live positively and be active leaders. They also participated in a Spanish Cooking Class at the Gourmet Kitchen, Moonee Ponds where they were able to have a shared lunch feasting on the delicious food they made. 

The VCAL students ended their transition with a visit from a number of representatives from Embracia Aged Care in Avondale Heights. Next year as part of the 125th Celebrations, the VCAL students will work closely with the residents from Embracia Aged Care where they will get to know the residents and work on a joint project together. 

Below are students excerpts of students experience of transition; 

Over the past two weeks both Julia and myself and the rest of the students have been exposed to a variety of activities and new qualifications. The opportunities included taking part in a Barista course, First Aid training and Leadership training. These experiences have enabled us to gain certificates we can put in our resumes and have given us skills which will help us gain a part time job. This transition has given us the ability to learn new skills including communication by helping each other out, collaboration by working in new teams and creativity by spending time building on what we want. We have formed new friendships and have become closer as a combined class of Year 11 and 12 students. 

Julia Tran and Madeline Kuras

I joined VCAL because I wanted to be able to have more opportunities regarding having multiple certificates and having the experience to be able to go off into the workforce every Friday. During the transition program, I have enjoyed participating in various courses that have allowed me to receive certificates to help me in life with getting a job or helping someone in general. I especially enjoyed making the coffee in the Barista bus and learning about Safe Food Handling practices. I was able to learn new skills and be able to have a broadened understanding of next year’s subjects and curriculum. I enjoyed learning and engaging in the First Aid training and learning how to perform CPR and how to help an individual if they are having an asthma attack or if an individual has been hurt badly. These practical skills have been a refreshing experience after lockdown. These qualifications are functional for the real world. 

Giselle Giacomo


Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge

The Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge is an engineering competition undertaken by hundreds of students across Victoria, from Year 1 to 12. Students design and construct their own vehicle, be it a car or boat, powered only by the sun and learn real skills in design, engineering, troubleshooting, sustainability and teamwork. 

The best designs compete in the Australian International Model Solar Challenge (AIMSC), against the greatest from across Australia and Taiwan. Due to Covid, the physical competition was not held this year. In its place, students were asked to create a video submission of their solar car. Students from across year 7 to 10 worked during lockdown to learn about the design and engineering of a model solar car, assembling and testing their car during this time. 

Throughout this project we worked with engineer Ms Kelsey Rowe the College’s CSIRO STEM Professional and Mr Frank Rowland (STEAM Lab Assistant). I would like to acknowledge the students who worked on this project: Tiana Ciavarella, Sophia D’Aspromonte, Isla Quick, Siena Sands, Amelia Umberti, Daniella Vella, Charlotte Leighton and Loretta Peszek. I am thrilled to announce that Year 7 student Siena Sands has won the Secondary Division of the Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge for her video submission. Congratulations Siena!   

Past competitors have found a passion in design and engineering and have gone on to study in the fields of sustainability, engineering and design at Deakin, RMIT, Monash and Swinburne Universities.

This is winner Siena Sands’ account of her experience of the Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge:

My name is Siena Sands and I am a Year 7 student at St Columba’s College.

This year I was given the opportunity to participate in a STEAM competition that the school entered: the Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge. It is a competition where students are required to use STEAM principles to build their own model car or boat that will move using solar power.

We started this project by meeting at school every Thursday morning at 8am.. Ms D’Amico, Kelsey, and Mr Rowland would introduce us to all of the elements of the car, and how the current, voltage and resistance all played a part in our car. Unfortunately, after a few weeks we began another lockdown so we needed to continue remotely. A bag was delivered to our house with materials that we would need for our project. 

After many weeks of consolidating our understanding of the car, we began the exciting part, constructing our car! With our hot glue guns and soldering irons, we wired and experimented with different gear combinations, with the virtual assistance of our wonderful teachers. Once we had completed the car, we created a video displaying our car and its speed and statistics, as well as our new understanding of the way that it functions. We also explored the variables and different things that made our cars unique. We could reflect on how we used our knowledge to make our care more successful.

This week I was ecstatic to find out that my entry won the secondary prize! I am very proud of my video, and of my fellow students’ – I think every other student’s entry was worthy of this award. 

I would like to thank our teachers – Ms D’Amico, Kelsey, and Mr Rowland – who have given us this opportunity and guided us through the process. It was a great learning experience outside the classroom, which has greatly extended my STEAM knowledge and has sparked an interest for me in the general field. It was also a great way to meet other students and I highly recommend participating.

Siena Sands

Library News

The Principal’s Reading Challenge has finished!
Thanks to all students who signed up for the Challenge – this was something new, and Library staff were thrilled to see the amount of enthusiasm for it! Naturally, as another tricky Covid-19 year, things didn’t QUITE go to plan, which would almost certainly have affected peoples’ ability to see the whole thing through. Hopefully next year, we’ll have fewer disruptions to deal with, so sign up (again) next year and see how you go!
Now, to the winners! You might recall that the plan was to have the House Group with the most students who completed the Challenge win the major prize of a pizza lunch.To make the lunch a little more substantial, we instead decided to award the prize to the House with the most students who completed it. That house was…DE LACY!

The students from de Lacy who successfully completed the inaugural Principal’s Reading Challenge were:Ava Curran
Isabella Curran
Arshpreet Kaur
Aiza Nasir
Kiran Nasir
Reyziah Pama

CONGRATULATIONS! As we’re fast running out of time in the school year, your pizza lunch will be organised for Term 1, 2022!

But it doesn’t end there! Everyone who completed the Challenge went into the draw for prizes – and these were selected by library placement student Grace Vandenham and Mr Farrugia – thanks to both for their assistance!

So, without further ado:

1st Prize: Reyziah Pama
2nd Prize: Natalia Di Carlo
3rd Prize: Hannah Cihangir
4th Prize: Ava Curran
5th Prize: Isla Quick
6th Prize: Sophia D’Aspromonte
7th Prize: Kiran Nasir
Thanks also to Mr Farrugia’s fiancée Claire, who made some beautiful bookmarks to go with our prizes. The following students who completed the Challenge will receive one of these handcrafted bookmarks:
Elena Kirkotsios
Arshpreet Kaur
Kathy Vo
Isabella Curran
Aiza Nasir
Charlotte Mollica
Jorja McCallum-Gaul
Amy Nguyen
Emily Ng
Maddison Papadatos
Isabella Adigrati

Well done to you all!

A Certificate of Achievement will be presented to you all at a Ceremony in Term 1, 2022 – but please come to the Library to collect your prize to tide you over in the meantime!

Thank you all once again for being involved!