McAuley News

Term 1, Issue 2 - 28 February 2020


Lent: A time for self-improvement and a better world

This week saw the beginning of Lent, the important liturgical season leading to Easter and the resurrection: a time of hope and salvation, and a time that reminds us of the love God has for us and the love we are asked to have for one another.

In Pope Francis’ address to the audience in St Peter’s on Ash Wednesday, he implored people to ‘... give up useless words, chatter, rumours, gossip and talk and speak directly to the Lord.’ 

It is challenging for us to consider how we might prepare ourselves for this culmination of the church year. We remember, as young children, being told to give up lollies and keep our rooms tidy without being asked. The challenge to us as adults though is to use the opportunity of Lent to show love to others, and to teach our children to do the same.

Perhaps some family time this week might be spent talking about how this can be achieved and how the world, including our own micro-worlds, might be improved through the words we speak and the love we show to one another.

New Curriculum in Religious Education Parent Evening

Yesterday I sent a letter to all families advising of a parent workshop evening in which we have the opportunity to explore the new curriculum in Religious Education being implemented in Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta schools from this year. The workshop is taking place on 17 March 2020 in the Morley Centre.

The curriculum represents contemporary theological perspectives, igniting the words of our bishop, Bishop Vincent Long OFM. Theologian Professor Anthony Maher will facilitate the evening.

We encourage your attendance at this event. It will be an opportunity to fully understand the intentions of the new curriculum and the learning in which your children will participate at school.

RSVPs should be given by 12 March 2020 using the following link.

Open Night 2020

The Catherine McAuley Westmead Open Evening is being held on Wednesday, beginning at 4pm and concluding at 7pm.

The Open Evening is a highlight for staff and students of Catherine McAuley Westmead. It is a chance for us to extend our Mercy hospitality and to share with the wider community the wonderful school we have. We are grateful to both staff and students who are on hand to welcome visitors.

Please let your friends and family know that they are welcome to attend at any stage of the evening. The format, as usual, is unstructured, with performances and visual displays available at all times.

Mary Refalo


The Learning Challenge

Catherine McAuley Westmead is committed to challenging all students to assist them in developing strategies that will see them develop and grow as learners. Students will be finding themselves faced with challenges that will often see them in the 'learning pit'.

So what is the learning pit?  It is a model (see below) that provides learners with a language to think and talk about learning. The learning pit is not just for students but can also be used with adults as we all continue to learn throughout our lives. The learning pit process can assist in building resilience, wisdom and self-efficacy in those engaged in the learning struggle. Please take some time to ask your daughters if they have found themselves in the learning pit and what strategies did they use to get out of it. 

Ms Silvana Rossetti 
Assistant Principal (Learning and Teaching)

FROM THE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL (Pastoral Care/Administration)

Study Skills Seminar

This week Dr Prue Salter from Enhanced Learning Educational Services ( ran a study skills session with Year 9 and 11.  The sessions focused on helping students identify changes and improvements they could make to their approach to their studies in order to maximise their results and reduce their stress.

Year 9 looked at the steps to being an effective learner and evaluated how they were going with each step. The main areas covered with Year 11 were working effectively in the evenings and dealing with distractions, managing time efficiently, planning for assessments, making brain-friendly study notes on a regular basis and using a wide variety of active study techniques to suit individual learning styles.

Parents are encouraged to review the handout from the session with students and discuss the main areas identified where changes need to be made. Parents can also find extra study skills tips on the following website:  All secondary students and parents at our school also have access to a great study skills website to help students develop their skills. Go to and enter the username: mcauley and the password: 189results. There are lots of useful handouts on the THINGS TO PRINT page on this site and students can work through the units where they need additional help.

Username: mcauley     Password: 189results

eSafety Commissioner - Online Safety

TikTok is an app used by the majority of young people for creating and sharing short videos. It is important for young people and their parents to have a thorough understanding of the benefits and risks associated with how young people use TikTok. Click here for information from the eSafety Commissioner.

There are a number of other apps used extensively by young people that parents may want accurate information about. These apps include Instagram, Snapchat, Call of Duty, Houseparty and Episode. Information about the advantages and risks of the most commonly used apps can be accessed via the following link.

The eSafety Commissioner website is an invaluable source of information about maintaining online safety and security. The website can be accessed at:

Year 7 Vaccination Program

Year 7 students, and some Year 8 students, requiring 2nd dose catch-up, are taking part in the government HPV vaccine program. The first clinic is on Thursday, 19th March. All Year 7 students have been given a vaccination form and extra vaccination forms can be collected from the Front Office.

Ms Debbie Grigson
Assistant Principal (Pastoral Care/Administration)


In the Church’s liturgical year, we have begun the Season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. On Wednesday, 26th February we gathered as a school community to commence our Lenten journey with our Ash Wednesday Liturgy. Earlier in the morning during Mass at Sacred Heart Church, Rev Fr Walter Fogarty, Coordinating Pastor of Westmead Catholic Community, blessed the ashes. These ashes were brought to school by Maria, Raia and Miss Kate Hogan who represented Catherine McAuley at the Parish Mass. During the Liturgy the ashes were distributed by our Year 12 Student Leaders.

Maria was assisted by the Year 10 Liturgy Leaders in leading the Liturgy. Our musicians, Ms Kate Picone, Mrs Marianne Nakhoul, Mrs Elizabeth Lowrencev and the Liturgy Choir provided beautiful hymns for the Liturgy. Shaine and her team of experts competently assisted with the ICT requirements. 

At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Project Compassion was launched. For over fifty years, Project Compassion has raised money that has transformed lives both in Australia and beyond. Jemma, Raia and Miss Hogan represented Catherine McAuley at the Diocesan Schools Launch for Project Compassion which was held at St Paul’s Catholic College, Greystanes. The theme for this year’s Project Compassion is ‘Let’s Go Further, Together’. 

Project Compassion will be one of the Catholic charities that we will support in Term one. We will also support the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) who have a presence on our Westmead site. JRS are currently supporting eighty families and they reply upon the generosity of their donors as they do not receive any government assistance. The JRS caseworkers are very appreciative of the food and toiletry items that have been donated by Catherine McAuley Westmead and look forward to our ongoing support.

In the evening Holli, Josette, Maria and Ava joined Ms Mary Refalo,  Miss Kate Hogan, Mr Daniel Nguyen and myself at St Patrick’s Cathedral for Mass and the Diocesan Launch of Project Compassion. The principal celebrant was Very Rev Peter G Williams VG EV. During his homily, Fr Peter made the observation that while Parramatta may be smaller in size than other places in Australia, that over a long period of time the support for Project Compassion has not been miniscule. He attributed his observation to the fact that many people who live in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta have experienced and understand true hardship.

Fr Peter spoke about getting ready for Easter, getting right with God. Almsgiving is one way of preparing for Jesus’ Resurrection. During Lent, we fast and we also focus on our prayer life. During the Season of Lent, as Catholics we have many devotional practices which can assist us in getting right with God. Before Easter, there will be Stations of the Cross, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Lenten Prayer Groups. You may consider attending a week day Mass. There is much that we can do. As we commence our Lenten journey, we can draw hope and encouragement from Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2020:  

This year the Lord grants us, once again, a favourable time to prepare to celebrate with renewed hearts the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life. We must continually return to this mystery in mind and heart, for it will continue to grow within us in the measure that we are open to its spiritual power and respond with freedom and generosity.

Ms Genevieve Banks
Religious Education Coordinator

Project Compassion

Around 2.8 million children in the Philippines do not go to school.

We begin Project Compassion learning about the story of Shirley. Shirley was struggling to support her family and keep her children in school. She faced regular discrimination and disadvantage, limiting her family’s access to food, education, employment and healthcare.

With Caritas Australia’s support, Shirley trained to become an indigenous health worker. She has learnt to supplement her income and is able to feed her family. The program has also empowered Shirley to send her children to school.

Let’s Go Further, Together! Please support the Project Compassion:

Lifted Leaders Forum

The Year 12 Student Leadership Team attended the ‘Lifted Leaders Forum’, hosted by the Diocese of Parramatta, on Wednesday 12th February. During the day, Bishop Vincent spoke about the theme of sustainability and care for creation. Students were called on to disrupt the 'status quo' and 'be something greater.' 

Student leaders from across the Diocese had to work collaboratively to come up with initiatives related to the theme that could be implemented in their communities. Keep an eye out for these initiatives coming soon. 

Miss Rebecca Reynolds 
Science and Mathematics Teacher


Support the St Vincent de Paul Bushfire Appeal

In celebration of Catholic Schools Week the theme this year is Learn, Serve, Lead and Succeed. In light of that we will continue fundraising for the Bushfire Appeal.  

Please support those affected by the bushfires by purchasing a bag. The proceeds received will be going towards the St Vincent de Paul bushfire appeal and your contribution has the power to help those affected by the bushfires. We would like to thank Yamonna and Arabelle for creating such spectacular designs. 

We dare you to get on board with this initiative! 

Bags are only $10 and will be available for purchase around Mercy Square, Coolock Court and Dobson Green during lunchtime, they will also be available for purchase at Open Night on the 4th of March and in the Morley Centre on International Women’s Day on the 6th of March at lunchtime. 

We have the power to make an extraordinary change for those who need it most. 

Thank you! 

Holli Smith and Josette Khater
School Captains

Year 12 Students Volunteer at Ronald McDonald House

Our school has had an association with Ronald McDonald House for many years now and each year a number of senior students spend time volunteering at the House. 

This year the school has three teams of Year 12 students who will be volunteering each week as part of the ‘Heroes Hideout’ program. The students will be offering a range of educational and recreational activities for children and their siblings staying at the House. 

During Week 3 the students attended an orientation program to familiarise themselves with the program.

A message from Student Social Justice Leaders Ava Buric and Jemma Abdiilla

Hello McAuley! Thursday 20th February was the United Nations World Day of Social Justice and we just want to ask you a couple of questions: 

Have you ever not been catered for at an event in terms of special seating or dietary requirements? Have you ever felt unsafe walking alone? Have you ever been given judgemental stares because of appearance? 

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it is unfair. And sometimes people tell us “life is unfair, deal with it”. However, the United Nations tells us we shouldn’t just deal with it. No one should feel oppressed and small. Rather, we should speak out. 

Click on the link above to continue reading this social justice message from our Student Social Justice Leaders.


Blessing and Commissioning of New School Principal at Opening School Mass

Ms Mary Refalo, the 11th Principal in the history of Catherine McAuley Westmead, was commissioned at the Opening School Mass held on Friday, 14th February 2020. 

Ms Refalo was commissioned in front of the whole school community and invited guests including representatives from the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta and past Principal Ms Teash Richmond. 

The Mass was celebrated by Fr Walter Fogarty, Coordinating Pastor for the Catholic Education Precinct Westmead. During the commissioning Ms Refalo was presented with a bible symbolising the importance of scripture within the Catherine McAuley community and our two school captains presented her with a Catherine McAuley candle which had been lit from the school candle, a symbol of taking the light of Christ into the world as Ms Refalo continues her journey at Catherine McAuley. 

Our immediate former Principal, Ms Richmond, presented Ms Refalo with the Irish Crystal from the House of Catherine McAuley, symbolising the passing on of the Catherine McAuley story and tradition and Sr Maria Lawton, Vicar of Sisters of Mercy Parramatta, presented a cross.

Student Leaders Receive Their Badge of Office

At the conclusion of the Opening School Mass the Student Representative Council, Mercy in Action Group Leaders, House Leaders and Liturgy Leaders were commissioned and received their badges of office. Catherine McAuley has a strong tradition of fostering leadership and the school strives to provide opportunities for students to develop their confidence, courage and skills in innovation and  leadership.

In addition, new students and staff joining the school for the 2020 school year were welcomed and the Year 7 students were presented with their bibles. All new members joined together into a ‘Circle of Mercy’ as the school community prayed for God’s blessing on their work and studies ahead. 

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS - Additional photos from the Opening School Mass can be viewed via the School Facebook Page.

Year 7 Parent Welcome Evening

We welcomed Year 7 parents to McAuley at the Year 7 Parent Welcome Evening on Friday, 7th February. It was wonderful to see so many families attend. Despite the rain many students took the opportunity to show their families around the school before they gathered in the Morley Centre to be welcomed by the School Leadership Team.

Student Reflection - Japan Study Trip 2020

During January 16 Japanese language students, accompanied by teachers Ms Reynolds and Miss Brincat, spent 12 days on a cultural exchange in Japan. Student Hannah Hamilton has written the below report:

During our time in Japan we learnt much about the Japanese culture and lifestyle and tried many new things. Our trip was broken into three sections - time spent in Kyoto, time spent with a host family and time spent in Tokyo.

In Kyoto we visited many religious and cultural sites including shrines, castles and temples. We stayed in a traditional Japanese style hotel called a ‘ryokan’ where we were able to  experience what it was like to sleep on tatami mats and futons and eat a traditional Japanese breakfast. 

The second part of the trip was a five day homestay and school visit. Over these five days we were able to experience what it was really like to go to school and live in another country. We attended classes with our host sisters, did club activities and participated in flower arranging and a traditional tea ceremony. We were able to use this time to practise our language skills and learn how different life is in another country. 

The final part of our trip was a visit to Tokyo. We visited tourist sites like Harajuuku, Shibuya, the Tokyo Skytree and the Tokyo Imperial Palace. 

Overall the trip was an eye opening experience for all who attended and gave us an understanding as to what it would be like to live in another country, especially one that doesn’t speak English. We improved our Japanese language skills and learnt how to apply what was learnt in the classroom to practical situations. We also learnt valuable life skills such as how to keep and spend money, how to look after important belongings like passports and navigation in a foreign area. We would like to thank Miss Brincat and Ms Reynolds for taking time out of their holidays to take us on this memorable trip.

Hannah H.
Year 11

Year 7 Peer Support

Every Thursday afternoon the Year 7 students and a selected group of Year 10 students are coming together to participate in Peer Support. 

Peer Support helps Year 7 students ease into school life at Catherine McAuley and allows them to develop new friendships and learn about working together as a team.  In their Peer Support groups the students are participating in many fun and interesting activities which have been organised by the Year 10 Peer Support Leaders.

Year 9 Students Study Culture in New Elective Subject ‘International Studies’

Year 9 students this year have had the opportunity to study a new course called ‘International Studies’. This new elective course is the study of culture. Students look at many different elements of culture such as gender, sport, food, traditions and celebrations. 

Ms Stephanie Dito is the teacher for the new course and says that the students are really engaged and have found it exciting to learn about how different cultures express their traditions and beliefs. Students are also enjoying the opportunity to delve deeper into their own cultures as well. 

Over the past few weeks the Year 9 International Studies students have been looking at the different layers to a culture. Students worked in groups to create their own cultural icebergs - the visible parts of culture that we can see and the invisible parts that shape our behaviours and beliefs.

Ms Stephanie Dito
HSIE Teacher


Year 12 Biology Investigate a Hypothetical Crime Scene

As part of their study of Heredity Yr 12 Biology students have used gel electrophoresis to determine ‘Whose DNA Was Left Behind’ at a hypothetical crime scene by comparing it to DNA obtained from four suspects. Using their newly acquired DNA fingerprinting skills, students successfully identified the criminal.

Students also explored the inheritance patterns of sickle cell anemia by analysing the DNA bands on a gel to determine whether the offspring of a hypothetical couple would have the disease.

Students recorded a time lapse of the gel electrophoresis run and then viewed the sickle cell anemia results using a transilluminator (shown in the photo with purple DNA bands and gel).

Ms Sangeeta Raja
Science Teacher

AROUND THE CLASSROOMS - Additional photos from 'Around the Classrooms' are regularly posted on the School Facebook Page.

PDSSSC Basketball Gala Day

Catherine McAuley played in the PDSSSC Open Basketball Gala Day this week which saw players from Years 7 through to 12 play in a one day competition at Penrith. The gala day took place on Monday, 24th February and our students played with pride and integrity in all five of their games. 

McAuley won four games by a margin no less than 30 points and lost one game by 2 points on the buzzer. The team that we lost to ended up winning the competition. It was a great effort by all players and we are looking forward to taking on the other school in basketball in the future.

Ms Brooke Robson
Sports Coordinator


Monday, 2nd MarchLong Distance Swimming Carnival
Tuesday, 3rd March

Year 10 Geography Excursion

Year 12 Design & Technology Excursion

Wednesday, 4th March

4.00pm - 7.00pm School Open Afternoon / Evening

Years 11 and 12 Textiles & Design Excursion

Friday, 6th MarchPublic Speaking : Round 1
Tuesday, 10th MarchSchool Swimming Carnival
Friday, 13th March

Year 11 Design & Technology Excursion

Public Speaking : Zone Finals

Monday, 16th MarchYear 10 Science Excursion
Wednesday, 18th March

Year 8 Geography Excursion

PDSSSC Swimming Carnival

Thursday, 19th MarchYear 7 Vaccination Clinic


Career Mondays Returns!

Our careers guest speaker program starts up again in Week 6 and these events are an excellent way for students to learn about various careers and what tertiary institutions are offering. Career decision making is challenging, and the more our students know about different career paths, the more confident they can be about their career choice.

Attending Career Mondays is voluntary for students, and it is held on most Mondays throughout Terms 1 and 2, usually in the Forum. We start at 1:30pm and usually finish by 2pm to allow time for questions.

Our lineup of speakers this Term includes:

Week 6 - Speech therapy and Occupational Therapy - hear from two practising speech therapists and an occupational therapist from Westmead Hospital

Week 7 - The University of Sydney - learn about different courses,  faculties and the  opportunities on offer

Week 8 - Business Careers - finance, accounting and the list goes on. What is it like to work in business and what are employers looking for in the corporate world?

Week 9 -  Careers in Logistics - we may all love online shopping, but what roles are involved  in this industry that has such an international focus?

Week 10 - Dentistry and Oral Health - Hear how oral health involves many other occupations  apart from just Dentistry

Week 11 - Insurance industry - we all rely on it in times of crisis, and it's the second biggest

 industry in Australia but we may not realise the opportunities for corporate career progression in insurance.

Students are encouraged to come along, even if they have no idea what the career topic is about. Collect your ticket at the door to win our lucky door prize!

Mrs Amanda Chahine 
Careers Adviser


The Google vs Databases Debate

The ‘pros’ of Google are straight forward, it is easily accessible, intuitive to use and the searches are based on the ‘Natural Language’. So why then, do librarians push students to use databases?

Students who restrict their research to Google limit the amount of content they are able to access which in turn limits the quality of their work. The databases are accessed through a paid subscription (included in the resource fee). This fee ensures all the content is curated so that only accurate and reliable articles are displayed, as opposed to the filterless and ad revenue centred content which is put forth in a Google search. 

The higher quality articles returned in a database search also model sophisticated writing techniques and the use of technical language which research shows is vital to support student improvement. 

McAuley students can access the database collection through the library website.


School Fees

School fees have been issued and the due date for Term 1 is Wednesday, 18th March 2020. 

Skoolbag App

The Skoolbag App is the primary portal of communication with parents. A large number of parents have already downloaded the app and find it very easy to use.  The school uses Skoolbag to send reminders around events, key dates and other important news. This news is pushed straight to parents’ devices allowing for quick, easy and timely communication.

Skoolbag can be installed on any iOS (iPad or iPhone) or Android device so please download it as soon as possible. Remember to subscribe to your daughter’s Year Group so that you will receive messages relevant to her year.  Instructions on how to download the Skoolbag App are available via this link.

Dr Justin Coulson Workshop

Catherine McAuley parents are invited to join with parents from Mother Teresa Primary School for a workshop aimed to provide insights and strategies on positive ways to help children behave. Details from Mother Teresa are below. Telephone Mother Teresa Primary School if you require further information: 9687 5852.

On Tuesday, 24th March 2020 Dr Justin Coulson will be running a workshop for parents at 7pm. These workshops aim to provide insights and strategies on positive ways to help your child behave. This is a fantastic opportunity for all parents and carers to be a part of this informative and interactive workshop. Please feel free to invite along interested family and friends. 

“Dr Justin Coulson is one of very few people in Australia with a PhD in Positive Psychology - and the ONLY person in the country (and almost the world) whose PhD includes a careful look at the intersection of Positive Psychology and relationships, particularly in family life. One of Australia’s most respected and popular corporate and education keynote speakers, facilitators, authors, and researchers, he has spoken to and worked with tens of thousands of people aiming to improve relationships, meaning, and wellbeing in leadership, education and especially in family life. Addressing the issues that matter most, Justin uses his analytical and practical approach to address challenges facing today’s workplaces and educational institutes. “