27 August 2020

Senior Winter Sleepout

Article by Ms Alicia Deak

Senior Winter Sleepout

On Thursday 20th August, 12 senior students participated in the Senior Winter Sleepout to support and raise awareness for homelessness in Australia. This event is usually held on site at Saint Ignatius College, however due to our current circumstances the afterschool and evening program was run via Zoom and students slept out in their backyards.

The evening commenced with an acknowledgement to country followed by prayer. Each students light a candle, to represent the presence of Christ, our desire to let our own light shine and our commitment to assist others in doing so too. The introductory session explored our context and why Saint Ignatius College values experiences that form our students to be men and women for others.

As hands on service was not possible, students watched an episode of the SBS documentary Filthy Rich and Homeless to gain an insight into the lives of those who experience homeless. Students were asked to reflect deeply on homelessness as not simply an injustice that we ‘see’ in our world, but as an injustice that involves the lives of vulnerable people who have dignity, should be treated with respect, and who we are called to love and serve.

In groups, students researched different aspects of homelessness, including the impact of COVID-19 on homelessness in Australia. Each group presented their research to deepen our shared understanding of homelessness, so that we are able to better ‘judge’ this injustice and reflect on how we can best act and respond to this issue.

While we were unable to share a simple meal together, students ate a bowl of soup and a bread roll for dinner.

With the virtual fire crackling away in the background, we made the most of this opportunity to learn, discuss, reflect, problem solve and think critically about homelessness in Australia. We discussed the need for more people in our community to become aware of the reality and issues surrounding homelessness. We reflected on why Australia turns a blind eye to homelessness and the idea that “that which you walk past you accept” (Greg O’Kelly SJ). 

Our senior students acknowledged that as students formed in the Ignatian and Jesuit tradition, they have a responsibility to not walk past homelessness and to encourage other students to do the same. Finally, we reflected on how their commitment to act has been inspired by a personal encounter and experience with this injustice, which they hope to be able to provide to younger students in our school community.

Our senior students are looking forward to sharing and facilitating a similar experience for students from Years 7-10 who will be invited (this week) to register for the Junior Winter Sleepout, which will be held on Thursday 10th September.

I am grateful for the support of Jarryd Atkinson (Youth Ministry Facilitator) who assisted in the organisation of the event and for the support of Mr Paul Lewis and Ms Andrea Dart who joined the Zoom throughout the evening.

Alicia Deak  Justice and Service Coordinator