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Cultural safety and mateship the key to lifelong connection with SBC

St Brendan’s College has educated thousands of young men who have gone on to successful lives and careers in their chosen path, but for one of these SBC Old Boys, Dean Jarrett, St Brendan’s was the impetus for a career and journey of lifelong learning, and a place recognised as one of cultural safety and mateship.

Since graduating from St Brendan’s in 1982, Mr Jarrett has forged a remarkable career; having studied and lectured in Australia and overseas, gaining his master’s degree then working towards his PhD completion in December 2018; has established himself as a successful business person and consultant, and is now a Lecturer, Indigenous Business at the University of Technology Sydney.

Mr Jarrett will also join the St Brendan’s College Board in 2019 and looks forward to bringing his knowledge and various experiences; as an Old Boy, as a parent of the College, as an educator and as an Indigenous representative, to support the St Brendan’s College community.

His work today is a long way from his life as a young boy growing up between northern New South Wales and Duaringa in central Queensland, where Mr Jarrett’s father worked mostly as a labourer on railway gangs, the local council and in sawmills.

“The local priest had built a good relationship with the community in Duaringa, and he talked to Mum and Dad about us boys going to St Brendan’s: my brother Malcolm was already there, then my brother Stanley came after me, then a gap and my younger brother Michael later on,” Mr Jarrett said.

“When I got there, the first couple of weeks were hard, but it helped having the Duaringa and Woorabinda lads there,” said Mr Jarrett.

“Coming from Duaringa we could roam around a bit and had a little  freedom, but when I arrived at St Brendan’s it was quite regimented: the bell rang, and you couldn’t talk; the bell rang, and we were up and into the shower; the bell rang, and we ate,” he said.

However, it didn’t take long for Mr Jarrett to settle into the ways of the College.

“St Brendan’s College taught me about having good reliable support people and networks around; good Christian and lay teachers that dedicated themselves to helping us out.

“They wanted to ensure as much as they could, to give us a hand through academics, sport and pastoral care.”

‘Cultural safety’ is a phrase Mr Jarrett uses, and in part due to the support of his Indigenous culture during his time at the College, Mr Jarrett made the choice while living and working in northern New South Wales years after he left, to send his son Djaan to St Brendan’s College and his daughter Jaleel to St Ursula’s.

“When I was at St Brendan’s we would go on retreats with other Indigenous students from Catholic schools around Queensland, and it was a good mix of western academia and our culture,” he said. 

“I felt culturally safe to express my Aboriginality and when my son and nephews were there, this continued; they had their dance troupes and their culture was supported.”

Asked about memories from his time at the College, mateship was top of mind.

“It really, truly is lifelong friendships you gain.  You mightn’t see the mates for a while, but you pick up a yarn like it was yesterday,” he said.

“The diversity of people at the College; people who came from properties, from cities, the Aboriginal boys, boys from the Torres Strait, PNG, the mix of backgrounds, experiences and cultures, and over time we blended as SBC crew and that became an important part of our identity,” he said. 

“The thing that stuck in my head, is that you cry the first week when you go to St Brendan’s because you don’t want to be there, and then you cry during the last week because you don’t want to leave.”

Mr Jarrett’s support for the College over decades has meant his children have established connections with many of the sons and daughters of those he went to school with in the 1980’s.

This is one of the experiences he hopes to bring to the St Brendan’s College Board, in addition to his knowledge working with community organisations, corporate and government organisations to implement culturally safe programs, and to develop and embed Indigenous content across, economics, marketing, finance and other degrees at the University of Technology in Sydney.  

“I want to look at what we can do at St Brendan’s to embed Indigenous content across the curriculum; to see what they already do and see how it would look and feel for teachers and students,” Mr Jarrett said.

Asked about his future, Mr Jarrett said: “I want to continue to work with Indigenous business; on things that can empower communities in terms of economic development; to work with corporate entities and government departments to help them engage better with the Indigenous business sector and communities.”

Principal of St Brendan’s College, Mr Robert Corboy, said the College looked forward to welcoming Mr Jarrett to the Board in 2019.

“From his days as a Year 8 boarder from Duaringa it has been a varied and successful journey for Mr Jarrett, and the St Brendan’s College community congratulates him on his success and looks forward to learning from his career and life journey for the betterment of the College community,” Mr Corboy said.

“Today our Indigenous Program is one we are proud of, and we are also proud that our students continue to come together from all over rural and regional Queensland, the Torres Strait and beyond: to learn from each other and extend their knowledge and understanding, becoming St Brendan’s men with a strong sense of belonging, and a brotherhood that often stays with them for life.”

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