Edmund Rice Education Australia


9 The VaucluseRichmondVictoria3121Australia View Map



SIC Codes:


NAICS Codes:



+61 3 9426 3200


+61 3 9426 3222


We are challenged by 'The Catholic School in the Third Millennium' document when it warned that exclusion of the poor on account of their inability to pay fees "leads to a selection according to means which deprives the Catholic school of one of its distinguishing features, which is to be a school for all'. Some argue that, with important exceptions, EREA is made up of schools that serve the middle class of Australian society; that our schools have become comfortable and attractive to those who may primarily seek, in Carmel Leavey's words, our 'fruits but not our roots'. In a society that increasingly sees education as a commodity that can be bought, our schools risk being used as vehicles for socio-differentiation and elitism, we may have become schools of choice for those people who aspire to exclusive, private education. We have just undertaken a piece of research which pretty clearly says that many of our EREA schools are not affordable to the average Australian. Several are perceived to be 'exclusive'. Materially poor families are almost certainly underrepresented. In many of our schools, this exclusion on account of capacity to pay extends to many middle income families as well. In response to this situation, we have instigated a system-wide investigation of affordability. We have challenged each of our school communities to pass the lens of affordability over every decision which may affect a school's capacity to be inclusive. Fee increase levels, expensive add-ons on top of tuition, enrolment bonds and the design of capital projects are among the things that we are asking our communities to scrutinize through this lens. Clearly, there is much work to do. Some time ago, I was with my family at an outdoor restaurant in Lima, Peru. We had just finished the meal and were in the process of paying the bill, when a young girl who had been watching us eat from a distance came and sat on the ground beside our table. With this young girl, who would have been about 19 or 20 years old, was a baby; it could have been her own child, or possibly could have been her little brother or sister. When you eat in this restaurant, you are served a little bowl of corn as an appetizer; it's kind of like in Australia where we get a bowl of peanuts before you choose your meal. At the end of the meal, as we were about to leave the restaurant, the young girl who was sitting on the ground asked if she could have the leftover bowls of corn that were on our table. To my great shame I found two or three half empty bowls of corn and handed them down to this young girl and her baby, to eat. A couple of minutes later, the girl noticed that some of our soft drink bottles weren't empty; that some of our party had left a little in some of the bottles; and she asked if she could have these bottles so that she could have a drink. This was too much for me, and I asked the waitress to bring a fresh soft drink so that the girl and her baby could drink. We left the restaurant that day, but the image of that young girl haunted me and continues to do so. I profess to be a Christian; a follower of Jesus, the great 'includer' of people. The 'scandal' of Jesus' ministry was that he didn't hand out food; he didn't hand down bowls to people - he sat down at the table with them. He invited them to the table! I was deeply ashamed that I'd missed out on this opportunity to invite this young girl to the table. I went back to the restaurant each day at lunchtime; not for the food, but hoping for the opportunity to find that young girl and her baby and invite her to the table. As followers of Jesus we should never be satisfied by giving to the poor from our excess.

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