Podcast interview with St James College, Brisbane Principal, Ann Rebgetz about the Brisbane Olympics and education.
The Brisbane 2032 Olympics are nearly nine years out, but preparation is well underway. This means lots of opportunities now and well into the future.
St James College, Brisbane Principal, Ann Rebgetz sat down with Join the Adventure® for a podcast chat to discuss how education is preparing school students for the Brisbane Olympics.
Principal Rebgetz outlined how the college is taking steps to ensure its students are exposed to diverse cultures, academic pathways, and industries to prepare them for future career pathways associated with the Olympics and broader.
“St James College is a very diverse co-educational college and we’re excited this year to start in Year 5 and we go from Year 5 to Year 12,” Principal Rebgetz explained in the podcast.
“We’re based in the city, so there is a lot of opportunity for our students in terms of the connections and pathways with the industry.
“And we really nurture that because in terms of the future, we know now that many of our Year 5 students will end up in positions and work fields that haven’t even been invented yet.
“We’re changing at such a rate and that is why it’s so crucial to be looking ahead and to have partnerships that place us at the lead in terms of knowing what is happening in industry and what is happening in future career pathways.”
Principal Rebgetz went on to explain the diverse needs arising out of the Brisbane Olympics: “…it’s not just the sporting side of things and the accommodation and tourism, it’s also the cultural side where every culture in the world is represented.
“So, the entertainment in terms of that, that flows from that is also very, very harmonic in terms of bringing society together and promoting the relationships that we want to see happen throughout the world.”
The college reflects the diversity expected in Brisbane during the Brisbane Olympics.
“And at St James College, we have about over 70 different nationalities, but with that, we have the number of languages that go with that,” Principal Rebgetz stated.
“So, if you are in a class at this school, and that’s why starting in Year 5, you’re getting the advantage of all the specialist facilities and all of the specialist subjects.
“But on top of that, you’re getting the advantage of being in a class which reflects the cultural diversity of the world.”
Thank you very much for your company. I’m Andrew McCarthy-Wood. Now this is Join the Adventure, it’s a podcast. Join the Adventure is where you join in on the adventure of life community and experiences. And at the centre of all of that is education. Because if you are educated, you can enjoy life more, you can do more in life, you can be more productive and contribute to community far more and experiences. You will have far more opportunity when it comes to experiences all around the world and wherever you decided you want to be.
Now, today we are talking about the 2032 Olympics, and we work with a lot of schools in media communications and community engagement. And the principal of St James College in Brisbane, Ann Rebgetz, she was the first one that we noticed talking about getting ready, students now getting ready for the Olympics that are coming up in 2032. Now that’s nine years away from now. So, there’s a very good chance that even if there’s a student, they take students from Year 5 through to Year 12 now. If there’s a Year 5 student now, there’s a very good chance that they could be employed during the Olympics.
But the crazy thing is there’s jobs for the Olympics right now. In fact, I just had a really quick look this morning on seek.com and there were over 78 jobs going for the 2032 Olympics right now because we need engineers, we need market research people, we need people that look at the economics and all of those sorts of things. So there are so many jobs that are going to come out of this and when it comes to education being ready, it’s such an important thing. So, Ann Rebgetz, so good to have you with us today. How are you?
Very well, thanks Andrew. And it’s a pleasure to be here to be able to discuss these very exciting ventures that lay ahead for our students.
Yeah. And look, I said it, you have been the first and probably even the only principal that we’ve heard actively talking about, hey, the Olympics are coming. It’s predominantly coming to Brisbane. It’s a big thing and we are thinking about the students and what they need to be learning and engaged in now to be able to take advantage of that. Can you just tell us about your thinking around that?
Yes, Andrew. Well, St James College is a very diverse co-educational college and we’re excited this year to start in Year 5 and we go from Year 5 to Year 12. We’re based in the city, so there is a lot of opportunity for our students in terms of the connections and pathways with the industry. And we really nurture that because in terms of the future, we know now that many of our Year 5 students will end up in positions and work fields that haven’t even been invented yet. We’re changing at such a rate and that is why it’s so crucial to be looking ahead and to have partnerships that place us at the lead in terms of knowing what is happening in industry and what is happening in future career pathways.
So, our school is a gateway school in a number of areas, and one of them is tourism and hospitality. So, that means that we can keep up to date by industry in terms of what is happening. So, for our students, we know that there are 37 Olympic venues going to be happening and many of those venues and where the changes will be, will be happening in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, and other regional parts of Queensland. So, to prepare for all that, we need a huge range of people to work in those industries to actually build the stadiums, but also when the actual Olympics are on to be able to operate and make sure that we service the clientele from all over the world. I mean, to start with, we have over 12,000 athletes competing. That’s just all those people coming in without all of the support people that come in, without all of the spectators coming in.
And as we know, for those of you who experienced the Sydney Olympics, it was an incredible buzz. And it’s not just the sporting side of things and the accommodation and tourism, it’s also the cultural side where every culture in the world is represented. So, the entertainment in terms of that, that flows from that is also very, very harmonic in terms of bringing society together and promoting the relationships that we want to see happen throughout the world.
Yeah. That’s very interesting what you just said there, and you came to the end of that talk on relationships and we’re seeing the rise of artificial intelligence and it’s so fast right now. One of the things that it has been able to do quite well for some time is it can translate languages. So, you can hold a mobile phone up, talk into it, it’ll translate, deliver the message, but where we haven’t seen it break any ground yet, and it probably won’t, is really understand culture and interacting.
Now for the listener to really understand St James College, we are looking at Brisbane when the Olympics themselves are on looking like a world city with every faith, every denomination, every culture, all here in the one city. How is a student now coming through St James College with the experience that they have on a daily basis, how’s that going to help them really perform and deliver and be a contributor to the Olympics when there are so many different people to communicate within, not just in their own language but in their own way?
Andrew, that is a good question. And at St James College, we have about over 70 different nationalities, but with that, we have the number of languages that go with that. So if you are in a class at this school, and that’s why starting in Year 5, you’re getting the advantage of all the specialist facilities and all of the specialist subjects. But on top of that, you’re getting the advantage of being in a class which reflects the cultural diversity of the world.
So in your class, you could have students from 10 different backgrounds speaking 20 different languages. Many of them speak two or three different languages. And in terms of that, you are learning not just about languages, but about the culture. So, we try to promote and acknowledge cultural identity in the celebration of the cultures, of the backgrounds of our students. So, we do this in many ways. It could be through food, it could be through dance, creative expression, visual arts, many different ways so that our students then constantly have the added edge of becoming global citizens, working in a global school that for many other students they have to go on an immersion to experience that, our school is an immersion every day of the week.
You say like this school, St James College is an immersion every day of the week. Do you think that that will always remain unique or do you think St James College is just ahead of the curve and you’re going to see more and more the world itself become truly global where you don’t necessarily stay if you are of a particular race or religion, you don’t particularly stay in the corner of the world where you’re known for that, you actually traverse the world as if it’s your own backyard or playground?
Well, I think COVID pandemic really emphasised that true technology the world has become a much smaller place because you can see, communicate, and know what’s going on throughout the world very easily so that people now are living in Australia, but working in London or living in the United States and working in Australia. So, there are many situations where through technology we’ve become a much smaller world. But in terms of that, it’s imperative that we follow through in terms of relationships between each other and that the more our students become aware of cultural understanding, of the cultural stories of people, and I suppose the humanity of people. And because we’re an Edmund Rice Catholic College, that’s very important for us as well in terms of our ethos of what we call our touchstones, to make sure that all students are accepted, that all are able to achieve their potential, but also all can contribute to a society that becomes a much more accepting diverse society.
When Brisbane definitely becomes a more diverse society, at least for during the 2032 Olympics, and I think Sydney was definitely an example of that. The Olympics don’t just come and go, they change a place forever. On a smaller scale, we saw that with Expo 88 in Brisbane. Yeah. Southbank physically change, but the culture of the city changed as well. With the participation in the 2032 Olympics of the students of St James, if you are around Brisbane and you are taking it in and you are recognising some of the students you’ve seen through the years come through St James, what do you want to see? What do you expect of the students that have gone through here?
Well, we try to create confident students, confident learners so that then they have the skills to be able to step out into any pathway that they wish to pursue for the future. It’s not about jobs anymore, it’s about skills because your skills need to be transferrable skills because we really don’t know, as I said earlier, what the jobs are going to be. And even if you’re in a job, even as a teacher or in the health profession, the rate of change with technology is massive. So, if you don’t have that skill to be able to adapt to change and learn the technology because it hasn’t been invented yet, that that’s going to be a deficit. So, we really focus on what we are giving them in that digital passport to take them forward, to be able to be the contributing citizen, to be able to be confident and have a go and take the risk, be creative in their approach.
So, with our students going forward, being multilingual for example, that’s going to be a skill in great demand. And for the Olympics, it’s a very obvious one, but it is still a very obvious one in our society now. How many times do we have problems because people, it’s learning English, but they may not fully understand and then there can be a misinterpretation. So, for our students to become confident and multilingual is taking them with their edge that they have, ahead of perhaps other peers in other schools.
I’m really curious to see what you have to say about this because you don’t need to look too far when there’s any news that there’s some level of conflict around the world. There always is, and some of it’s escalating at the moment. Some of it’s some shifting sideways and whatever else. Now, this last weekend I went to the National Multicultural Festival down in Canberra and it had record crowds, 230,000 plus attended the National Multicultural Festival. Now they had every culture that had every race that had… you talked earlier about experiencing others food. So, they had food, drink, entertainment, everything there, such a relaxed atmosphere.
And even right down to we had the conversation as we’re coming back from it, the licensing was so relaxed. We used to, in Queensland particularly when you go to buy an alcoholic drink, you usually got a whole heap of rules around where you can drink it, where you can’t drink it, and all of that sort of stuff. The whole is Civic, the centre of Canberra, it was just open slaughter now, did not see one, not even… So, no conflict but it didn’t even look like there would be any conflict. Everybody was happy to see each other. They were all interacting with each other. There were all of these cultures that you can flick on the news at six o’clock at night and you’d think that they’re ready to go to war with each other. When it comes to education. Is that the very thing that could actually solve world peace?
Well, education is a keystone of that. And obviously in our college we call it liberating education as one of our touchstones along with inclusivity, justice and solidarity and gospel spirituality and all of those touchstones are interconnected. You can be educated, but you also need to have the heart, you need to have the ethos to go with that because people can use education even in the wrong way. But a true liberating education is around liberating people in terms of humanity. So, I think you have to go back to what are the problems we have in society? Well, the biggest problem is bridging the equity gap. And that’s another area that we really work hard on at St James to ensure that all students, not just a select group of students, that all students have the right to an education and all students deserve the best. Not just a small group of students.
We know in Australia, in terms of our indigenous population, that the gap there is still a big gap. We have a strong contingent of indigenous students at our school who are achieving enormous goals. So again, that comes back to how do you bridge the equity gap? And the equity gap will be bridged by people having the access to education, but also being able to provide those step ups that they need because the fence is so high, and if you come from a high socioeconomic background, you are able to get over that fence. But if you don’t and you have to bridge that equity gap, you need steps put before the fence to help you actually get over the fence.
So that’s what we do at St James’s. We provide those steps, we pride ourselves on the provision of those steps and to achieve the outcomes, like two of our students have just won scholarships to the University of Queensland and the University of Swinburne in Melbourne. And both those students have a very challenging background coming to Australia as refugees. So, in terms of that, we really blossom from taking students on the pathways that are needed with the support needed to gain outcomes that they didn’t dream that they could actually achieve.
For somebody listening to this, and maybe they’ve clicked on this because they saw the 2032 Olympics, they’re thinking, yeah, their child… they’re probably going to be old enough to be doing something with this and they want to learn a bit about it. They’re middle class, they’re say like out at Mitchelton or something like that. Why St James College? What is it getting immersed, like you mentioned, this is an immersion without having to physically go away to another immersion. Why would they consider that strategically as an education pathway solution provider to their child?
To consider our school would be taking a step in the skills and academic pathways because we have a range of tourism and hospitality subjects. We have creative art subjects where examples of that in practice would be our Cultural Night, our cultural performances where our groups are hired out to perform because they’re so good. We have a Blossoming Trade Training Centre, which has diversity in terms of metal, wood, furnishings. We have a Health Hub, we have childcare certificates. So, in terms of the different areas, and that’s inclusive of being a high technology, high science, high STEM related practices throughout the school. The students have the opportunity to partake in all of those programs and then to step in as well with having the multilingual, the multicultural experience and to have that experiential learning every single day that they’re in the school that they’re acquiring overall, the skillset that will be in demand.
Our sporting program we are very proud of because first of all, in the basketball area, we’ve actually won state championships in terms of our schools and did very well in the national championships as well. It’s a program where any of our students can join and it’s a program of excellence in terms of developing the skills. And many of our students from that program have gone on to study in different parts of the world, acquiring scholarships, et cetera, and to have opportunities that they didn’t think possible. But our sporting program is also very encompassing in the sense that we have futsal, we have soccer, we have rugby league, rugby union, girls and boys, and we have netball and basketball. But the netball also is girls and boys. We have an outdoor education campus at Maroon Dam where we offer many different aspects of outdoor education with mountain trekking, with canoeing, paddling, et cetera because we are on the dam there.
And in terms of our sporting program, we really look to encourage our students to participate in inter-school sport as well as other activities that we link into. So, an example of that, last week we had wheelchair basketball, so all of the students participated in wheelchair basketball. So even though we’re a school that’s in the middle of the city, we still have a massive sporting program. Other examples are forming partnerships. We have a partnership with Valleys for Rugby League. We also have a partnership with our indigenous students with Easts in terms of Rugby league. In addition to that, we have a rugby union partnership where we will be working with TAFE and Ballymore and the Queensland Reds, where our Year 10’s in an excellence program will get a Certificate III in Sport and Recreation.
So, we look for those opportunities to say what can we set up? And within that we also offer a Certificate III and a Certificate II in Sport Coaching, a Certificate III in Fitness. And that links to our Certificate II and III in Health Support. And we encourage lots of school-based traineeships in these areas as well, as well as employing our own school-based trainees within the school to assist our staff, which is rather different to many schools as well.
So, to be fair to say that a 2032 Olympics, you’re looking forward to watching St James alumni bring gold or keep gold home?
Well, that’s right, but what the government will be doing and the institutes of sport is looking for identifying talent because the talent now will be the athletes of the future. And that’s another huge benefit back to all of the students in Australia, that we can take those steps and encourage our students to participate in any of the programs that involve talent identification.
But they could be going through one of these pathways within a college without wanting to necessarily be an Olympian at all. They could be doing it because they want to become medical support staff or coaching or any of those things, couldn’t they?
Well, that’s right. They can be, and this year we’re hosting the Queensland Independent Secondary Schools Netball Carnival. And with that, our whole school in hosting it, which it’s the biggest independent secondary school’s carnival in Australia, and we’ll have over 80 schools involved and teams that are both boys’ and girls’ teams. And our school students will be involved in every aspect of that from the marketing to making sure the games go well, to assisting with the medics so that they get that hands-on experience of sports administration as well as sports participation. And that’s a great example of how we engage with community to give our students the opportunities in the real world of how you do and how you participate. And of course, that builds community. And by building community, you are nurturing the social contacts, which is so important for everyone’s future.
As a bit of a takeaway for say like a parent, that they’re in another part of the world. There is no way in the wide world that they’re going to be able to get their child to St James College. What’s a tip that you could suggest to them, say their child’s five, six years old and getting ready for this world that we’re going into, everything that you’ve been talking about, what could a parent like that seek out for their child so that they learn and have instilled in them to take on a global world?
Well, they need to have curious minds. They need to be creative; they need to be innovative. So, encouraging the child to ask questions, to give them the basic skills of literacy and numeracy. Obviously, those skills are still needed no matter what you’re doing. But in terms of schooling, they need to also have the social skills because working in teams is inherent in whatever you’re doing. If you cannot be a part of a team that is a problem and that’s a problem from a mental health point of view as well. So, every parent wants their child to be successful. Every parent wants their child to have good mental health. And the biggest protective factor in mental health is a social network.
So, in terms of teams and fostering team participation, no matter whether it’s a team that is playing a video game together, or a team that’s solving a problem or a team on the sporting fields, or a team that’s dancing together, it’s really imperative that the child develops that social skills at the same time as they’re learning academic skills. So overall, yes, just fostering that curiosity and fostering the care for others so that there is a social conscience and an awareness of social justice and an acceptance of difference and an acceptance of diversity.
Ann Rebgetz, thank you very much for your time.
Ann Rebgetz: Thank you, Andrew. Pleasure.