From the Assistant Principals
Posted: 04-Sep-2019

Damascus Student Leadership

Not only does the start of Spring signify the end of a fairly miserable Ballarat winter, it also signifies the planning and subsequent elections of our 2020 Year 12 student leaders. Last Friday all Year 11 students were involved in two planning sessions aimed at promoting the benefits of taking on leadership roles at Damascus College. While I was not privy to the workshops that were held in House areas, I was an eager participator and observer of the open session directed by 4 of our current Year 12 leaders.

School Captains Milly Frost and Matthew Snibson, were able to articulate the many rewards that they have gained in taking on leadership roles in the school. Matt spoke of his initial fear of speaking in public recognising that he was low in confidence in this aspect of the role. However after nearly 12 months in the position Matt was able to engage an audience of around 160 students and staff in an eloquent reflection of his leadership experience. For Matt, the greatest reward was a feeling of giving something back to the school that had supported him in the previous 5 years. Matt felt that ‘the position of school captain has provided me with some wonderful opportunities for personal growth’.

Similarly Milly had never really identified with herself as a leader. Her experience in leadership up to Year 12 was quite limited yet when the opportunity presented itself last year she felt an urge to apply noting that she wanted her Year 12 experience to be one that she would remember in opening up possibilities for new experiences.

I too congratulate the work of Mackenzie Yandell and Daisy Jessup who reflected on the opportunities that House Captains had provided them with. Both highlighted the excitement and pride that comes from leading your House, particularly at school sports when the energy of healthy competition is heightened.

Over the next few weeks announcements will be made of our 2020 school leaders. We encourage parents/ guardians to discuss these possibilities with your sons/daughters.

Written by Mr. Andrew Robertson - Assistant Principal Student Wellbeing

Casual Day for Catholic Mission

Catholic Mission is the international mission agency of the Catholic Church in Australia. Compelled by the message, life and love of Jesus Christ, Catholic Mission forms Australians for mission and raises funds for mission—in Australia and around the world. Catholic Mission operates in over 160 countries to support initiatives in 1,100 dioceses, including remote Australia. Grassroots needs are identified by local Catholics, to give people the opportunity for a full, enriched life—physically and spiritually—regardless of race, stigma, religion or gender.

Mission in action happens right now and for generations, to help people immediately, longer term and eternally. We engage in mission when we proclaim our faith through our words, actions and lives.

As Pope Francis says in his World Mission Day message

The Church is on mission in the world. Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God’s own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of the divine life that we share. Charity … impels us to go forth to the ends of the earth (cf. Mic 5:4; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:18). A Church that presses forward to the farthest frontiers requires a constant and ongoing missionary conversion.

This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love.

From the Vatican, 9 June 2019, Solemnity of Pentecost

Annually, Damascus works with Catholic Mission to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people around the globe.

Our Sporting Colours Casual Day on the last day of term (Friday September 20th) is our major effort to support the work of Catholic Mission. We hope that you can be generous.

Visit for more information

Written by Mr. Tony Haintz - Acting Deputy Principal

The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. It produces our every thought, action, memory, feeling and experience of the world. It has an area that alerts us in less than a second of an impending mistake so we don’t repeat it. The average size is around 1.5 kg and is primarily made up of two overarching types of cells—called glia and neurons—and it contains many billions of each. Neurons are notable for their branch-like projections called axons, together, this complex network of cells gives rise to every aspect of our shared humanity. We could not breathe, play, love, or remember without the brain.

Coming out of Book Week and I wanted to share an incredible book that I have just finished reading and I hope that you get a chance to read. ‘Inventing Ourselves: the secret life of the teenage brain’ authored by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is a book that not only deals with brain development in general but also squarely focuses its crosshairs on the brain during the defining stage in human development- adolescence.

Blakemore, a professor in cognitive neuroscience at University College London and her team discovered through research that there are fundamental differences between the adult and adolescent brain, and typical teenage behaviour. The difference is caused by the transformations that take place during this formative period. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these physiological changes are most evident in the prefrontal cortex.

It is here that high-level cognitive functions, such as planning, inhibition of inappropriate behaviour, understanding others, and self-awareness, are focused. Manifestations of this stage of brain development include a propensity for risk-taking and seeking out new experiences, heightened self-consciousness, and susceptibility to the influence of others, particularly peers.

There could be a tendency of books of this type to be exhaustive in its use of scientific nomenclature and procedures, however, Blakemore makes the information accessible to anyone that is interested in the subject by not overusing neuroscience jargon and clearly defining all terms that are needed. The book explores sensitive aspects of teenage life that we can all relate to, for example:

1. The type of marketing and messages that teenagers are more likely to respond to based on the fact that they are less impacted by fear of adverse consequences than adults.
2. The research on how brains develop differently in people with different mental conditions like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc.
3. The effects of sleep deprivation on teenager’s brains.
4. Possible improvements that could be made to our educational system based on their specific developmental needs With implications for education, parenting, and treating mental health conditions

‘Inventing Ourselves’ acknowledges that adolescence is a period of vulnerability but also challenge us to nurture, acknowledge and celebrate the humanity that is growing within.

If you would like more information Sarah-Jane Blakemore check out her TED Talk (see link below) ‘The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain’ where she compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the growing and developing the brain.

For more information visit the below link:-

Written by Mr. Ashwin Pillai - Assistant Principal Learning and Teaching

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