Celebrating the Feast Day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The sisters who founded – and continue as directors – of St Rita’s College are members of the Society of Australian Congregations of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM) and today we join in celebrating with them the Feast Day.

  • For information about the history of the Society, please click here.
  • For details of the Mission and Ministries that the Sisters are actively involved in, please click here.
  • Click on the image below to read about the Presentation story.

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Alumna Vanessa Barillaro (2006) – life on Australia’s northern-most island…

Sr Elvera Sesta has received the following account of Vanessa’s life, teaching in the Torres Strait:

After finishing Year 12 at St Rita’s College, I studied  a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) at QUT, graduating in 2010. In 2011 I made the difficult yet very rewarding decision to move from Brisbane to Saibai Island in the Torres Strait Islands.

Saibai Island is the most northern island in Australia and borders the Papua New Guinea coastline (Saibai is located 3.73 kilometres from the Western Province villages and is therefore one of the most remote locations in Queensland). I was incredibly lucky to have been able to spend two amazing years living and teaching in such a culturally diverse community where I taught a Prep/Year 1 class and a Pre-Prep/Prep class.

On Saibai Island, as the Pre-Prep teacher, it was incredible to see my students learn English for the first time. This was a challenge, as my young students of 3 and 4 years of age, spoke no English prior to beginning school; however, they did fluently speak 4 other languages – Torres Strait Creole, KKY (Top Western Torres Strait Islander Language), PNG Kiwai, PNG Creole and KKY. Saibai Island is a mud island formed from the sediment of the PNG rivers and sits 1 metre above sea level. There is a definite worry with global warming; however, when I spoke to the community about the issue, there is no one who will move from the island to relocate. Saibai Island is a community of 300 people, with 110 students at the school and a teaching staff of 7, five of whom are non-Indigenous. On Saibai, we had a culture afternoon every Friday for an hour, to give the students the opportunity to learn games, stories, dance, language, traditional cooking and hunting. The language fluency is amazing and all the students are so willing to learn English. There is a real valuing of education.

At the end of 2012, once I had completed my two years compulsory remote service for Education Queensland, I made the decision to continue living remote and I moved to Yam Island, which is in the central Torres Strait Island group, for 2013 (and for 2014). Yam Island is 2 square kilometres in area and we have a community of 300 people. Yam Island, which is a sandy coral cay, is very different to Saibai. Yam Island is beautiful, and a very easy place to live and work. On Yam Island, we have 55 students and a teaching staff of 4, two of us being non-Indigenous. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the opportunity of living in, with amazing people who I count as my closest friends. Teaching Year 3 and 4 has challenged my teaching and provided me with a new skill set which I will endeavour to use next year, as I have been given the opportunity to teach the 5 /6 /7 class and prepare students at our campus for their transition to high school.

Similarities of both islands are that they are both fly-in, fly-out communities with 2 service flights per day; we have one corner store, a health centre and we get our fresh food supplies via a barge once a week.

My most memorable experiences on both Saibai Island and Yam Island, have been the ways that the communities have made me feel welcome. I have witnessed community events, and have been given the opportunity to learn traditional dancing and language with community members.

To any of the current St Rita’s students considering a teaching career: I recommend them taking the opportunity to teach in a remote area. I have been a part of Mabo Day, NAIDOC Celebrations, 1st Shaving, 1st Birthdays and the 1st haircut, Easter Celebrations, Coming of the Light and seen to a sadder extent funerals. I am fortunate enough to be witnessing a tombstone opening in December to celebrate the lives of some important members of the Yam Island community.

Au Esoau, Koeyma Eso, Many Thanks!
Vanessa Barillaro
Year 3/4 Teacher
Tagai State College (Iama Ngurpay Lag)

Annabel Pike (08) awarded 2013 Graduate Nurse of the Year

We are delighted to learn that Annabel Pike, who graduated from the College in 2008, has received the 2013 Australian Graduate Nurse of the Year award.

Annabel writes:

“Last week I was awarded 2013 Australian Graduate Nurse of The Year and would just like to say, thank you.
The ethics and manner in which I conduct myself as a nurse, are partly attributed to my time and the education I received at St Rita’s.
I fondly remember and speak of my time at St Rita’s, and wouldn’t part with those memories for anything.”

Former Principal, Sr Elvera Sesta PBVM, recalls:

“From her days at the College Annabel always gave of her best. She was noted for her concern for others. I am not surprised that she has been given this very prestigious and well-deserved award.”