Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Staines Memorial College
I'm delighted to rise this evening to speak about a memorable day I had on 3 November this year at Staines Memorial College in Redbank Plains, where I opened some new facilities: a student amenities block and four primary general learning areas. The coalition government provided $950,000 in funding through the Capital Grants Program. That's a program where the coalition government supports schools on a needs basis. This is a school in one of the areas in South-East Queensland, the western corridor, which is growing at an exponential rate. This is a school where 31 per cent of the students come from a non-English-speaking background. I'm a passionate believer in our system of education, where we have both private and public schools and both receive support from the federal government. Staines Memorial College in Redbank Plains is a non-denominational Christian college and is part of the Christian Community Ministries school network. It is a great educational institution and I pay tribute to the whole school community: the Christian Community Ministries leadership, the teachers, the parents and the students. Its values are: relationships, respect and responsibility.
I'll speak more about my day at the school and all the fun I had there on 3 November, but first I want to make some comments in relation to the name of the school, Staines Memorial College. Before attending the school I did some research on how the school came by its name. The school is named in honour of Mr Graham Staines and his sons, Philip and Timothy. Mr Graham Staines worked in India for 30 years as a missionary. He and his wife, Gladys, his sons, Philip and Timothy, and his daughter, Esther, lived in India and helped people suffering from leprosy in Odisha province. Graham and his two sons were murdered on 23 January 1999 in the Indian province of Odisha by religious extremists. They were literally burned alive in their car—an awful, awful evil act. On 11 March 1999 in this place, Senator Brian Harradine moved a motion of condolence in relation to Graham Staines and his sons, Philip and Timothy. After this awful event, Graham's widow, Gladys, and daughter, Esther, kept working in their community in India to help people suffering from leprosy. Gladys Staines received one of India's highest civilian honours for her social work helping people with leprosy after her husband and two sons, Philip and Timothy, were killed in those tragic circumstances. She was an absolute inspiration.
On 3 November, I had the honour of attending this school, the Staines Memorial College in Redbank Plains, to open these new facilities. As I sometimes do here, I'll read the run sheet to give you a feel for the nature of the event. After our arrival there was an opening prayer by Deputy Principal Adam Marsh, and this was followed by a wonderful rendition of the national anthem by the junior choir of the Staines Memorial College. Primary Captain Soraya Okini and Primary Captain Dante Monteporte then gave a welcome to all the guests, and they spoke tremendously well. I really do congratulate them on their presentations. The then Acting Principal, Mr Nick Makin, spoke to those who'd gathered. I'm delighted to say that Mr Makin has now been appointed Principal. At the time I attended the school he was waiting to be interviewed for that permanent position, and I'm absolutely delighted that Mr Makin was appointed.
There were then some student responses to the Acting Principal's address, and these were absolutely delightful. I was blown away by how articulate these young students were. They were Sofia Amos, from year 5; Peter Jose, year 5; Abigail Robinson, year 1; and Jasper Algate, year 1. It was hard to believe that they were year 1 students. They were articulate, they'd thought about what they were going to say, and they presented their remarks extremely well. They would not be out of place in this place.
We then had the lower primary choir give a rendition of a beautiful musical composition called 'Our Beautiful World'. I note that it was composed by the music teacher, Miss Naomi Murphy, and written for 2020.
A dedication of the buildings was then made by Mr Norton Sands, the Executive Principal. Mr Sands afterwards told me how, when he had first walked across the site where the memorial college has been built, the grass was shoulder high. Now there's a great school there providing education to over 500 students—just tremendous.
A senator then gave a speech—but you've heard many of those before, so we'll skip straight over that—and there was then a closing prayer from the Deputy Principal, Melissa Coluccio.
We had an opportunity to tour the facilities, and it was really then that I gained an appreciation of what a wonderful place this is. Think about it: 31 per cent of the students come from non-English-speaking backgrounds. There was a great atmosphere in the school. I'll make three reflections. First, the standards: I went into the grade 5 classroom, and on the door there was a guide to the meaning of words like 'alliteration' and 'hyperbole'. I was so impressed that they were learning that. They don't have to enter politics and come to the Senate to know about hyperbole; they are learning it in grade 5. It's a tremendous thing. Then there was the atmosphere. The students were so polite, courteous and well-behaved. I give credit to all of you, Grade 5. And then I want to talk about the culture of the school and how they include the parents of some of the students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in the school community. One example that was given to me is that they celebrate the birthday of each of the students. A teacher sat down with a mother who came from a non-English-speaking background and wasn't sure what she should do to celebrate. They came up with the idea that she would cook some cupcakes and bring them to the school. That was a significant event—for that lady to be included in the school community in that way.
That comes back to the three values I spoke about, which Staines Memorial College is representative of: relationships, respect and responsibility. I pay tribute to the leadership of the school, I pay tribute to the teaching staff—indeed all of the staff; the school has beautiful grounds—and I pay tribute to the students and their parents. I say to you, Mr Acting Deputy President: the school community bring honour to the Staines name. They bring honour to Mr Graham Staines and his two sons, Philip and Timothy, who lost their lives in that tragic incident in India back in 1999.