March 12, 2024

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Principal's Message

Notices from the Deputy Principal


Justice Corner

NEUROSPICY TIPS AND TRICKS: #4 Executive Functioning Tips

2025 St Columba's USA STEAM Tour

The Endless Fascination of Pi

Sophia Library Holiday Opening Hours

Important Dates

Principal's Message

Parenting Resources

I hope that you were able to take advantage of the online Justin Coulson workshop on 27 February. There were some key take-aways for me as a parent, even though I am now a parent to adult children. 

  • In this age of digital hyper-connectivity, the mental health and wellbeing issues for our girls are on the rise. The connectivity they need is in person love and acknowledgement from at least one significant adult in their lives. 
  • What they need to hear, especially when they “mess-up” is “I love you…no matter what”.
  • The key elements in trying to get mental health and wellbeing back on track include: connection, physical activity, purpose, sleep, nutrition and hobbies.
  • When emotions are running high, intelligence is low – it is never a good time to make decisions, or engage in conversations which have the capacity to easily get off-track.

In his presentation, I heard Justin acknowledge the difficult work of parenting in this new age, and that as adults we will make mistakes, as we do our very best to love our children into adulthood.

We are fortunate to host Justin in person on 30 May at the College. I encourage you to consider attending as we work together to support the overall development of our young people.

Sports News

Congratulations to all those who participated enthusiastically and passionately on behalf of their House on Multi-Sport Day. There was a great sense of engagement and fun on the day. Thanks to Ms Shellie Murton for her organisation of this great College event, and to all the staff for their support and encouragement of students in each of the competitions.

On the back of last year’s hugely successful co-curricular sports program, we begin the year with a great outcome in the Catholic Girls Sport Association of Victoria’s (CGSAV) first inter-school carnival of the year, Swimming. Our enthusiastic band of swimmers secured wins in the Junior, Intermediate and Senior divisions of the competition. A special mention to Emily Tulloch of Year 10, for breaking a CGSAV record.

We look forward to the Athletics Carnival which will run (weather permitting) on 21 March. These whole of community events are compulsory, and attendance by all students is expected. We will issue reminder letters where there is a consistent pattern of students choosing to absent themselves from whole of community events, including College Assemblies and Masses.

International Women’s Day

A huge thank you to our Deputy Principal, Brigitte McDonald, whose meticulous planning ensures that we celebrate this great event in a way that honours the women who are, and have been, our raison d’etre – our students. The great ideas and presentations of the Senior Student Executive woven throughout the assembly, supported the message of our wonderful keynote speaker, 1985 Alumna, Joanne Gerstner-Stevens, to trust yourself, pursue your ambitions, and take a chance, even if you don’t think you’re ready.

On the morning of the assembly, the news had broken of the arrest of the young man, in connection with the murder of Samantha Murphy. It was poignant to hear about the roles that women have held over time, contributing to the social, economic, political, scientific and religious landscape, especially at this time when women continue to feel unsafe engaging in everyday activities that they shouldn’t have to think twice about.

I came across this essay, which provides a great backdrop for the importance of the work we do in giving girls’ their voices. This paragraph is the conclusion to the essay.

I am back in girls’ schools because I have come to see them as lab schools: educational experiments in freeing democracy from patriarchy. What this means is that the fight for relationship is a battle worth fighting and an inescapable part of girls’ education. To educate girls, it is necessary first to join their healthy resistance and strengthen their courage to not make what is a bad bargain: the bargain of silence that women make with patriarchy. And then to take up the challenge of discovering how to be present and live in deep connection, both with oneself and with others, especially in the face of conflict and disagreement.

Happy International Women’s Day.


This past week was the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and the half-way mark of our Lenten journey. It is meant to be a time to focus on the call to Give, Fast and Pray. My own reflections have me coming up short all the time – I tend to let my busyness override the need to focus on what gives me sustenance for my faith journey. Nevertheless, I keep trying.

I offer the following, from another resource that supports my own reflections, as a way of re-connecting to the Lenten promises we made to ourselves. The reflections are based on excerpts from the readings of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him my not perish but may have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

  • What does this text mean to you?
  • Does it change the way you want to live your life?

God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ… (Eph 2: 4)

  • What does this text mean to you?
  • Does it change the way you want to live your life?

Notices from the Deputy Principal


Our staff and students are excited about our involvement in the Dogs Connect Program. Dogs Connect is an organisation that helps introduce wellbeing dogs into settings such as schools, hospitals, aged care and justice communities. They will work with our community to design a long term, sustainable program to integrate our dog. We aim to achieve as many mental health benefits as possible:

Positive Impacts of having a wellbeing dog at school

When connection is built authentically between human and animal we see reduced anxiety, lowered heart rates, increased social and emotional development and more.

School attendance

Students experience a greater willingness to be active in the school environment when there is a school dog. Schools we have helped said their attendance rates improved as children looked forward to seeing the dog and interacting with them.

Building empathy

Students can see the impact of their actions on their wellbeing dog. This helps them understand how behaviour impacts people around them. As a result, children learn to be more empathetic and understanding.

Engaging and connecting

A dog in school gives students a shared interest with other members of the school community. This helps them interact and build connections that they may have struggled to do otherwise.

Our pup, Millie was born on 27 October 2023. She is a beautiful, calm and very clever dog.

We are excited to be beginning working with a wellbeing dog around your children next term. Prior to commencing, we ask you to provide any information that may be relevant to your child and our program via this google form. We are aware of the range of considerations that we need to make so that our work is inclusive and successful.

If you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the College.


Last Friday, the College community celebrated International Women’s Day. The Student Executive team worked hard to create an enjoyable and informative event.

At our assembly, we were privileged to have alumna, Joanne Gerstner-Stevens speak to us about her journey at St. Columba’s and her inspirational career as a Forensic Scientist working for Victoria Police. Joanne holds the Degree of Bachelor of Science with a double major in Chemistry and has been employed within the Victoria Police Forensic Services Department since 1990 where she is the Assistant Director of the Laboratory Operations – Analytical Services Division. In this role she leads and manages a range of forensic disciplines within the Chemical & Physical Sciences Group, Digital Sciences Group and Drug Sciences Group.

Prior to this, Joanne worked in a variety of capacities including forensic practitioner with extensive experience and specialities in the fields of illicit substances, blood alcohol, drugs in blood and urine, and forensic drug intelligence. She has been a  Unit Leader and a Group Manager. During this time, she regularly provided expert evidence in all these fields in the Magistrates’, County and Supreme Courts.

She played a key role in the creation, development, and delivery of the Forensic Drug Intelligence Capability Project expanding the Department’s drug analysis services and intelligence capability. She represents Victoria Police on state, and national working groups, committees, boards, and strategic projects. She has provided advice as a Subject Matter Expert to Road Policing Command on roadside drug testing and is currently a member of the Drug Strategy Working Group and sponsor of the Forensic Services Department’s Green Committee.

It was a pleasure to invite our alumnae guests to morning tea.

At lunchtime students participated in a ‘Dress to Impress’ House Challenge. House teams created outfits using only newspapers and 1 roll of sticky tape, as a creative and sustainable way to repurpose materials collected by our Library staff. Each team designed and crafted a wearable dress on a House member. At the completion of the task, the designs were judged and the winners were:

In 3rd place                  O’Brien

In 2nd place                  de Lacy

In 1st place                   Cater


This year we will trial the Columba’s Coaches working with Year 7 & 8 students who are struggling with their numeracy acquisition.

Our four Columba’s Coaches commenced working with students on Monday 4 March after school at Study Club in the Library. Students, whose data indicates some challenges in this area, will be targeted to attend Study Club to work with our CC’s. Parents who feel their child could benefit from this additional support are asked to encourage their child to attend Study Club.

           Sarah Truccolo                   Emma Cihangar                    Stella Vu               Charlize Van De Griendt

PARENT EDUCATION PROGRAM: Carrots & Sticks – Dr Justin Coulson

We are incredibly fortunate because we will be hosting Dr Justin Coulson at St. Columba’s College on Thursday 30 May – be sure to save this date so that you can meet Justin in person. St. Columba’s has joined with Ave Maria to provide this event for our parents. The session will run from 7:00pm – 8:30pm in the Theatrette at St. Columba’s College.

The session is called Carrots & Sticks – Better ways to build boundaries with your kids

Punishment and reward are the foundation of discipline for most parents. Parents would prefer not to yell, threaten, use time-out, smack, or generally get the kids in trouble… but what else is there? And when it comes to rewards, they’re a pain to administer. All those stickers and gold stars. Plus, why should we have to bribe kids to pick up their mess or be nice to their siblings?

The typical toolkit for parental discipline needs an update. Fortunately, smart science is pointing the way to positive parenting solutions for every parent. Join Dr Justin Coulson for this provocative presentation as he slays several sacred cows of the parenting world.

You’ll discover:

  • Why punishment is unhelpful in raising thoughtful and considerate kids
  • The reasons time-out needs to stay in the naughty corner and never come out again
  • The challenges with praise and why it can hurt children’s development and growth
  • The most powerful parenting strategies to help guide your children successfully

Please view this video from Dr Justin: St. Columba’s & Ave Maria Colleges | 30 May 2024

Shortly, we will provide a link for you to register your attendance at this Parent Workshop.



Every parent in our community is a member of the PEC and we welcome your involvement. Here are the PEC meeting dates and events planned for 2024:            

  • 12 March
  • Friday 22 March                            Year 7 Meet & Greet (Use link to RSVP)
  • 23 April
  • 14 May
  • Tuesday 21 May                           Male Mentor Night
  • 16 July
  • Saturday 31 August                      Trivia Night
  • 20 August
  • 17 September
  • 15 October
  • Friday 15 November                     Yr 7 Parents’ Welcome
  • 19 November

Yr 7 Meet & Greet

We are excited to meet our Yr 7 parents again at the Meet & Greet on 22 March. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet the parents of your child’s friends and potential friends and an opportunity to talk about the experiences of your child’s transition. Knowing other parents who are traveling the same journey can provide a good support network. On top of all that, there will be some lovely food and drinks provided. We strongly recommend this evening to you.

If you have any questions or feedback for the PEC, please contact us at


Gracious God, on this International Women’s Day, we give thanks for the countless women throughout history whose faith, courage, and compassion have made the world a better place.

We remember with deep gratitude the Venerable Mary Aikenhead, foundress of the Religious Sisters of Charity. Her vision of serving those most in need with love and tenderness continues to inspire us today.

We honor the bravery of the first five Sisters of Charity who left the shores of Ireland to venture to the unknown land of Australia in 1838. Though the journey was long and difficult, they persevered with steadfast faith.

Once in Australia, these pioneering women embodied Christ’s compassion as they ministered to female prisoners, orphans, and established schools to educate the young. Through their generosity of spirit, they planted seeds of hope that blossomed into a legacy we cherish.

On this special day, we give thanks for women of faith like the Sisters of Charity whose lives were anchored in You. May we follow their example by embracing the courage to face challenges, the tenacity to persevere, and hearts overflowing with love for all Your people.

We are grateful for the continued work of the Sisters of Charity and all women who uplift the dignity of the human person through education, healthcare, social services and other ministries of mercy. Bless and strengthen them in their noble efforts.

May the students in our schools be inspired by the witness of women like the Venerable Mary Aikenhead and her first followers. As we continue the mission they began long ago, may a new generation of young women grow in faith, compassion and commitment to creating a more just and loving world.

We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Merciful Savior. Amen.

Justice Corner

To showcase our Everyday Heroes in our own community we will interview someone for each Iona issue to highlight how blessed we are to belong to a community inspired by the life of Mary Aikenhead. We aspire to carry on her legacy of service to the poor and vulnerable and alleviating poverty in all its forms in society today. 

Our first Everyday Hero is Jennifer Tran. Jennifer donated her money from her New Year Red Envelope to Project Compassion. For Vietnamese at Lunar New Year, it’s tradition to give the gift of a bright, beautiful red envelope, known li xi (lucky money) to your friends and family. These envelopes are filled with money and symbolize good wishes for luck, health, happiness and prosperity in the Lunar New Year.

When Jennifer was asked why she donated her money from her li xi she said she wanted to help people less fortunate than her who are more in need of the money. Jennifer believes Project Compassion is important as she has heard many stories about how Project Compassion has helped people in the third world countries who dont have enough food or access to clean water or shelter.

A special thank you to all our families who have already generously donated to Project Compassion. Project Compassion raises funds for people living in some of the most vulnerable communities across the world. You can donate through Project Compassion donation boxes at school or online by visiting

NEUROSPICY TIPS AND TRICKS: #4 Executive Functioning Tips

What is Executive Functioning?

Think of executive functioning skills, like the brain’s CEO. These skills help us plan, stay on track, get organised, and reach our goals. The brain’s CEO, or prefrontal cortex, located in the front of our brain, is in charge of our thoughts, actions, and feelings. So, to do well in learning and growing, we need strong executive functioning skills to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Apps that can support Executive Functioning 

There are an abundance of apps that can boost kids (and adults!) brainpower and support executive functioning. Diana Petschauer, M.Ed, ATP, and Laurie McIntosh, MS, OTR/L, ATP   made a tech toolkit for teachers and students. Below, 6 of the 13, free and paid apps to improve focus, attention, organisation, confidence, and independence:

Google KeepGoogle Keep is a tool for scheduling and organising tasks that syncs across all devices.
Share, collaborate, organise and label lists and reminders by topic. Step-by-step checklists help students that have a hard time with sequencing. Create to-do lists, schedule reminders, and organise class assignments, all in one central location
Visual TimerAssists with time management. Users can select how long they would like to focus and schedule alerts for breaks.


Options for text-to-speech, colour masking and highlighting, remove distractions button to remove ads and video from a web page, pull text into an outline with automatic attribution, and graphic organisers for organisation.
Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers


Editable, digital graphic organisers students can download, save, and share.
Co:WriterSpecialised topic-focused word prediction helps writers unstick ideas. Recognizing even the most creative phonetic spelling and speech-to-text and editing help keeps struggling writers on track.
360 Thinking Time Tracker


Visual app for productivity. A colour-coded clock breaks down tasks into categories: yellow for get ready, green for do, and red for stop. Especially helpful for learners who struggle with transitions.

2025 St Columba's USA STEAM Tour

In March / April 2025, St Columba’s College, in conjunction with Immersive Education, will be running a Science and Technology tour of the United States. This 11 day tour will involve a 6 Day Aerospace camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and a 2 Day STEM Youth Camp to Disneyland, California. The tour is open to students studying Years 10 – 12 in 2025, with an interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
For all interested families, the college will be running a Parent Information Night on Monday, 25th March at the college. This information night will begin at 7:30pm, and run for 1 hour, and involve presentations from St Columba’s staff and Immersive Education staff. Please find attached a flyer for the Information night and tour.
Please indicate your interest in attending by completing the following form: Expression of Interest Form

The Endless Fascination of Pi

The Endless Fascination of Pi

Pi, often represented by the symbol π, is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. What makes it truly fascinating is the fact that its decimal representation never repeats and goes on infinitely without settling into a recognizable pattern. For those who were paying attention in maths class, this is referred to as an irrational number.

Pi has a rich history, with its first recorded approximation dating back to ancient Egypt around 2550 BC. The Babylonians and Greeks also made significant contributions to understanding pi, laying the groundwork for future mathematicians.

To celebrate Pi Day which is approaching March 14th, the maths department has planned an exciting week full of activities (please see SEQTA notices for details).

For families look for a challenging evening activity, gather anyone who knows anything about pi and enjoy solving the following brainteaser together:

Find the area shaded in blue.

Send your answers to

Sophia Library Holiday Opening Hours

The Sophia Library will be open the following days of the school holidays from 10am – 2pm
Wednesday 3rd April – Friday 5th April
Monday 8th April – Friday 12th April

Important Dates

Wednesday 13 March – Cross Country

Thursday 14 March – Year 10 Ancient History Excursion and FIONTAR Excursions

Thursday 21 March – College Inter-House Athletics Carnival

Friday 22 March – Puffing Billy Engineering Workshop and Year 7 Meet and Greet

Monday 25 March – Year 7 Immunisations

Tuesday 26 March – Easter Liturgy