Theme – Our Languages Matter


The importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages will be the focus of national celebrations marking NAIDOC Week 2017.

The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.

Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.

We were delighted to have the Honourable Linda Burney MP, our local Federal Member of Parliament and distinguished Aboriginal leader, be here at Bethany to celebrate with us. Our Aboriginal students led the assembly with a welcome to country and special dancing. It was very special to hear Ms Burney speak of her passion for her Wiradjuri language, a language which is in danger of extinction because her forebears were forbidden to speak it.



She shared the story of how she is keeping her language alive in the names she called her children. Her son is named Binni Dironbirong. His name comes from the fact that Binni means ‘the strength’, like the shaft of a spear. And ‘Dironbirong’ is that red colour you get some evenings in the setting sun. And his name came about because on the evening that she met my father – my Aboriginal father – for the first time, she was eight months pregnant, and there was an amazing red sunset. Her son’s name recalls the emotion of meeting her Aboriginal father for the first time.

Her daughter’s name is Willerui Ngurumbi Karramarra. Willerui means “very sweet”, like bush honey. And Ngurumbi means ‘winter’, and Karramarra means ‘water’. She was born in August in this incredible, incredible rainstorm. So her name describes what was happening at the time that she was born.

We are privileged that Linda shared this very personal story with us and hope to keep learning about Aboriginal languages and dialects. It is certainly a challenge our young indigenous girls can set themselves.


Aboriginal Thanksgiving Prayer

God of Holy Dreaming, Great Creator Spirit, from the dawn of creation you have given your children the good things of Mother Earth.

You spoke and the gum tree grew.

In the vast desert and the dense forest, and in the cities and at the water’s edge

creation sings your praise.

Your presence endures at the rock at the heart of our Land.

When Jesus hung on the tree you heard the cries of all your people

and became one with your wounded ones: the convicts, the hunted, the dispossessed.

The sunrise of your Son coloured the earth anew, and bathed it in glorious hope.

In Jesus we have been reconciled to you, to each other and to your whole creation.

Lead us on, Great Spirit, as we gather from the four corners of the earth;

enable us to walk together in trust from the hurt and shame of the past into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ. Amen.



HSC Trials and Stress

With Year 12 students having their HSC trials next week, and with the actual HSC Dance exams coming within two  weeks, good exam preparation skills are important if you want to ace your exams! Following are some general & important tips on what you can do to help yourself through this stressful period

Don’t let the stress get to you

As students approach the end of year 12, their stress levels approach seemingly unbearable levels. But as a student in year 12, it’s important not to lose perspective. If you are currently in year 12, I would like to remind you of some bare facts about your current situation:

  1. You will survive this, as did all previous year 12 students.You will get through your exams, regardless of whether you did wonderfully or badly, and your life will continue. Whether you move onto university (which most of you will) or other paths, there’s a whole lifetime of activities, challenges and experiences waiting for you. This leads onto the next point:
  2. No matter what you may think, you are overestimating the significance of the HSC.Think about it this way: after the first 2 weeks of university, no-one would be talking about what ATAR score you achieved. This probably would end after the first few days! Your ATAR would be so insignificant and inconsequential to your university life and career into the future that when you look back, you would laugh at how stressed and how seriously you took your HSC. Even highly successful students who manage to achieve a 99+ ATAR would find that their amazing achievement becomes inconsequential when we look at the bigger picture of their entire lives ahead. This leads onto the next fact:
  3. Don’t stress if you can’t get the ATAR you need.Say you need an ATAR of 95+ for your dream course, but from the way things are heading, your chances aren’t too promising. This is no reason to stop trying altogether, or to lose hope either. You should still try your absolute best to maximise your ATAR, but also you should be aware that transferring into your dream course (or your dream university) once you finish your HSC is generally much less competitive than gaining a place outright through getting a high ATAR score.With all that said, it is important to put in your best efforts in preparing for your exams, because your ATAR will count towards determining whether you get a university transfer.


Don’t procrastinate

This sounds pretty obvious, but procrastination is probably the single biggest problem facing the majority of students. Most students are definitely smart enough to get the high ATAR score they want or need. But the biggest obstacle to most is procrastination. Students need to understand that they need to take things seriously (but not to the point of stressing out: see tip 1) and do the things they need to do. Generally, this means a few things:

  1. Start now!If you know you need to study for a certain exam that is x days away, start now! It is in our human nature to make up excuses like “I will start tomorrow” or “I will start after this weekend” or “Today will definitely be my last day not studying”. Ask yourself this: do you accept the fact that eventually you will need to start? Well if yes, why not now?
  2. Plan ahead. Budgeting for time can be tricky when we have mere weeks or days before a major exam like the trials or the actual HSC. We suggest it is highly important to budget for the time you have left. You should ask yourself: how many days do I have in total? How many days do I NEED for exam A? What about exam B? Budget your time according to what you think your strengths and weaknesses are. If you are weak in English, spend more time on that, rather than your other subjects. However, never totally neglect any subject. Good time budgeting leads on from the first point of starting now, because once you map out how you can spend the days you have left before your big exam(s), you may realise you need to start right now!


Study smart!

Effective study comes differently for different students: it mainly comes down to personal preference. Some study techniques which work for one student may not work as well for another, but the tip here is to find out what techniques and resources work best for you, and incorporate them in your study.

The obvious way to study is to sit down and read the textbook (for sciences), do many practice exercises and past papers (for maths) and write many practice essays (for English). This works very well on its own, if you can stick to a plan and self-study. However, not all can self-study as effectively as they need to. Below are some suggestions on ways you can improve your self-study:

  1. Use your friends to your advantage. Pick a few friends who are motivated to do well in their exams. Keep in touch with them throughout your study period. Discuss topics in subjects you both do, asking each other questions and making sure your knowledge of each subject is sound and complete.
  2. Use the syllabus to your advantage. Some subjects (like Chemistry, Physics and Biology, as well as some social sciences like Economics) are heavily syllabus-based. A good study technique is to write brief summary notes for each dot-point, going through the entire HSC syllabus yourself before your exams. This is the most complete method of revising those subjects, as exam questions can only be set according to what is contained within the syllabus. 3.
  3. Use teachers to your advantage.Teachers play a bigger role in some subjects more than others. For example, in English, we recommend writing practice essays to cover the broad topics like the main themes in your Area of Study, or module text. Write as many as you can, and have them marked! Ask for feedback from your teachers. Good teachers would be happy to help their students, especially nearing big exams.


Good luck to all students!


Academic Assemblies Week 1

 My address to the College community is included in this newsletter. A full list of awardees is also included.

“As each of you launches into the second half of 2017, I just want to share a couple of my favourite quotes with you today. The first was penned by Australian surgeon and war hero, Edward (Weary) Dunlop. He said: “It is only when you are at full stretch that you can reach your full potential.”

I would encourage each and every one of you to commit yourselves to giving this semester your full effort. If you think you know where your limits are, push yourself beyond them. When you feel like you’ve put all your effort into a task, give it just that little bit more. The more you stretch yourself, the more you challenge yourself, the more your capacity to perform well will increase.

As I was signing the certificates last week, I could picture each girl in my mind and came to the conclusion that each of these young women had work out some good study habits that were really working for them; helping them keep focused in tough times. And- as a result – their work has improved and in many, many cases, they outperformed other students with more natural, innate ability. How can each one of us acquire the kinds of habits and routines that will help us reach our potential? Over the last vacation break, I read the excellent book, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg – It is a great popular science read, with an interesting array of anecdotes balanced with some interesting neuroscience. When preparing for today’s assembly the powerful message of the book came rushing back to my mind. The message of the book is ultimately empowering – put very simply, our brains work by forming habits to save energy and be able to learn new things. We can master those habits, if we understand how habit forming works. Self-control, resilience, grit – whatever you want to call it – we can master it. What students need is teaching how to go about controlling their habits and developing greater self-control.

Do you have a strong degree of self-control and mastery over your study habits? Once you have rated yourself, ask yourself: can you resist the ping of your phone, iPad or laptop when you receive an email or a tweet? Does that subtle daily urge sound familiar? When I speak to students about their working habits, they universally agree that they were always engaging with some media based communication – texting, their phone, or Facebook chat etc.; as well as listening to music, and/or television, whilst they attempted to complete their homework. The main reason they worked in their room was to be able to procrastinate in peace, rather than creative a productive cue for a good working habit!

There was a researcher at Duke University a couple of years ago who tried to figure out how many of our daily actions were habits. And what she found is that about 40 to 45 percent of the decisions we make each day are actually habits, not really decisions. And without that, we would go nuts. For example, if you had to concentrate on how you brushed your teeth every single time you did it, if you had to concentrate on how to get to school every morning, if when you walked into the canteen and it was a major decision to figure out what to have for lunch that day, we wouldn’t have time to invent anything. That’s the magic of habits is that because our brain stops working around that behaviour, it frees up mental activity for other things.

How do habits get laid down in the first place? Well, what happens is that you get exposed to a cue, you do something, and it delivers a reward. And your brain starts to learn an association between that cue and that behaviour and the reward.

For example we all begin eating because they’re hungry and because we want that satisfaction. And then you start eating automatically, even though you’re not hungry, even though you don’t even necessarily like what you’re munching on. What we know is that once your brain starts to associate certain behaviour with a reward, whether that reward exists or not, you experience the enjoyment of the reward.

Understanding that we have developed strong habits but can replace them with new ones is crucial in persisting with changing the working habits of students. We must first work upon old cues. Perhaps the old cue is to go to your bedroom; the old reward is some time on Facebook– but the new routine would include switching off their computer and phone, perhaps instead playing some music (you could play different genres or bands for different subjects to add a further memory cue), before creating a new reward for yourself – such as after half and hour, giving yourself a small treat and a technological interlude for five mins (risky I know!). After a further hour they then reward themselves with a ten minute break and another small reward. Repeat…repeat….repeat. Build their resilience – develop the muscle that is their brain – resist falling back into old, bad habits.

Another key aspect to changing habits is for students to have a strong sense of long term rewards and, crucially, to be able to visualise those rewards and make them feel almost real on a daily basis. One great anecdote from the book is how the greatest ever swimmer, Michael Phelps, went from an impulsive and compulsive teen to a driven, focused athlete. His coach taught Michael to visualise the perfect race (typical in sporting psychology), which he termed mentally ‘putting in the video’ [the video of the perfect race]. Every morning and night he would be encouraged to visualise the perfect race, imitating this process when he competed in the pool. His near-absolute focus on success made him drive towards that ultimate goal of perfection – other factors no doubt helped, but forming strong working habits were key. So many students who under-perform in school simply don’t have any career aspirations – this happens year on year. Too often, if they do not have aspirations, no school work will feel like it offers a real reward to them and they cannot get an intrinsic reward from the effort either.  You must endeavour to make these long term rewards feel real by ensuring that you have a vision for your own future success.

In conclusion, don’t get to the end of this year and be left wishing you’d done more. Analyse everything you do, old habits, old cues and old rewards. Create a new habit with new cues and new rewards. Stretch yourself and challenge yourself with your school work, your sports, your music, your community service and social justice activities this semester and you’ll see results that you never thought possible.

Just because you’ve never achieved a certain grade on an assignment or an exam before, doesn’t mean it can’t happen this semester. Dream big, aim high and then work hard to achieve your goals this semester. Anyone who has achieved anything significant in their lives hasn’t waited for other people to tell them what to do, they’ve motivated themselves and pushed themselves beyond what most people consider normal and the results when someone does that are generally amazing.

So my encouragement to every one of you this semester is to set big goals, challenge yourself to achieve more than you’ve ever achieved before and then work ridiculously hard to make it happen.

Congratulations again to today’s award winners and also to all of the teachers, support staff and parents who provide such wonderful support to your students.

I hope that later this year that I’ll hear stories from some of you about how you’ve achieved more than you ever imagined this semester.”

 To view full list of Awardees, click here  Academic Awards

Community Prayers

  • Please keep Mrs Doherty (Receptionist) and her husband John in your prayers after the recent loss of Mr Doherty Senior.
  • We are all praying for Ms Mai’s daughter Milan who is currently being treated for a serious medical condition at Prince of Wales Children’s Hopsital. Milan is a very brave little girl and our prayers will help in keeping the family’s spirits up.


Our mantra:

“Girls can do anything.
Bethany girls can do everything!*
(*except divide by zero)”
Vicki Lavorato