McAuley News

Term 2, Issue 6 - 26 June 2020


Sr Sophie McGrath rsm - Principal 1974 - 1977

You would have read of the recent passing of Sr Sophie McGrath in my letter last week. Sr Sophie was a remarkable and inspirational woman, far ahead of her time as an educator and a feminist. 

Whilst at Catherine McAuley Westmead, Sr Sophie developed a curriculum based on the integration of subjects, rather than the lineal organisation of the curriculum we use now. This represented an alignment between education and real life experiences: the popular rhetoric of educators today. As an historian and theologian, Sr Sophie’s body of work encompassed the story of women, including Catholic women, in Australia. Her work and influence will long be remembered. Her family talked about her loving, fun-loving and intelligent disposition. She was a woman who was greatly admired by her family, her congregation and her colleagues.

The Parents and Friends Association arranged, on behalf of all parents, a special wreath to convey their sympathy and condolences to the Sisters of Mercy Parramatta congregation. In an expression of thanks, Sr Mary Louise Petro, Congregational Leader, wrote the following words. 

Dear Andrew and all the members of the Catherine McAuley Parents and Friends.

Thank you for the magnificent wreath of flowers that arrived from you today.  We are most appreciative of your thoughtfulness and kindness.  

Sr Sophie was a remarkable woman who enjoyed sharing her gifts with the Catherine McAuley community.

Blessings on all your wonderful work.

Sr Mary-Louise and Sisters

The Study of the Arts

This week the government made an announcement about a review of university tuition fees from 2021. The plan is to steer more young university entrants into the STEM fields.

The premise is that Australia needs more professionals educated in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), and indeed, we do. Study in these disciplines teaches us to be innovative problem-solvers, and helps us in our quest to live more healthy, sustainable, efficient lives. It embraces creativity and originality, and invites us to think intelligently about our futures. 

However, the substantial increase in university tuition fees for arts subjects is disappointing. The purpose of increasing fees in this area is to deter students from participating in studying religion, philosophy, literature, art, music, history, theatre. The arts teach us to be tolerant and to develop an ethical perspective on contemporary thinking and practices. They teach us to be critically literate: to perceive ‘fake news’, to promote robust discussion on futures and policies.

There seems to be an implication that students of the arts are not ‘job ready’, however many very successful adults are graduates of arts programs.

Therefore, we are surely in a much better position as a nation and a society when we have a variety of thinkers in our community. I propose that we do not privilege one strand of thinking over another, but that we embrace both, and encourage our children to participate in both, according to their skill and interest.

Remembering the value of the arts during the holidays

In the interests of keeping the arts relevant, and as the holiday period is approaching, I suggest the following novels for your daughters, recommended and reviewed by CMW English teacher, Ms Tyszkiewicz. Two novels are from the modern literary canon, and one from the young adult literary canon, a collection of works that remain relevant and cutting edge, even over time and changing contexts. I invite your daughters to read and be challenged and inspired by the ideas they convey.

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This selection is based on the current contextual climate; recognising the importance of family and health amidst financial complexity. Additionally, as the narrative explores the life of a family of young women, it is even more poignant for the students being young women of the future. Protagonist Jo March is an avid supporter of the arts, being a writer, performer and teacher. Additionally, she has strong moral and familial values. Many contemporary women consider this character, Jo March, to be the quintessential feminist. Please read an excerpt here.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Again, the choice for this text is based upon the confronting news we face as evidenced in the media. The current racially motivated news is gaining more and more traction day by day. Young people are wanting to discuss and learn about racial justice and injustice. One way they can do this is through reading novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird. The text covers racism, discrimination, justice and friendship. Told through the eyes of a 6-year old girl, the narrative recognises prejudice from a young age and challenges young people to confront it. An excerpt for this novel can be found here.

  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak 

This novel explores the life of a young orphaned protagonist, Leisel Meminger, during WWII. Adopted by an older German couple who are hiding a young Jewish man in their basement, Leisel is exposed to anti-Semitic and Nazi-fascist views. Leisel is illiterate and is taught to read by her adoptive father and thus comes to appreciate literature, especially with the help of the town mayor's wife and the hidden Jewish man. As a result, Leisel comes to transcend the bigotry surrounding her through her education and love of literacy, helping support those around her. The excerpt for this Australian title can be found here.

Professional Learning Days

This term we conclude with our Staff Formation Day. The focus of this day is for staff to increase their familiarity with the New Curriculum in Religious Education, a curriculum not only for the classroom, but for contemporary Catholic living. We look forward to the company and leadership of the following colleagues and friends:

  • Dr Anthony Maher, theologian

  • Fr Walter, Parish Priest

  • Sr Mary-Louise Petro rsm Sister of Mercy

  • Sr Maria Lawton rsm Sister of Mercy

  • Teaching Educators Bruce Carr and Tanya Melkie, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta

  • Gary Borg, Coordinator, Westmead Catholic Community

You may recognise Dr Anthony’s Maher’s name. We had planned to hold a parent and community session in Term 1 that was to be run by Dr Maher. We needed to postpone that event, but as COVID restrictions ease, we will reschedule it and let you know the details.

The first day of Term 3 is also a professional learning day for teachers, focussing on visible learning, a term coined by educational theorist John Hattie. CMW teachers will present and facilitate a number of sessions on this day, including sessions on the success of a variety of interventions we have put in place in 2020.

Semester One Reports: Years 7 - 11

Semester reports for students in Years 7-11 are being distributed to students on Monday afternoon. The reports are a reflection of learning in a diverse and unusual environment. You will receive a letter with your daughter's report inviting you to participate in online video interviews with her teachers if you feel you need to speak to them about her progress. The online environment will not allow us to hold as many interviews as usual but please nominate to be involved if you need to.

Mary Refalo


Learning How To Learn

As we continue to resume life 'before pandemic',  like many other workforce sectors, educators are also reflecting on the changes that were made out of necessity and whether these changes are worth keeping when moving forward.

Speaking to students about their experience of online learning, I found out what was common for most: they developed a greater understanding of themselves as learners and their preferences for learning. For many students, they were able to articulate areas in which they needed to develop as well as areas in which they were themselves pleasantly surprised at how well they succeeded in these areas.

Many students enjoyed the ability to access work online and work at their own pace. They also developed an interest in wanting to know more about how one can learn effectively. Cousera is a free online platform that offers a variety of courses that allows one to work at his/her own pace. ‘Learning How To Learn’ is a course that might be of interest not only to your daughter but to you as a parent/carer as well. It is run in 4 modules and covers the following topics;

  • What is Learning?
  • Chunking
  • Procrastination and Memory
  • Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential

You can find out more about this course here.

Global Teen Medical Summit

As members of the Alliance of Girls Schools Australasia, our students are invited to take part in an exciting  student learning opportunity.  California Association for STEAM Education (CASE) partner, The Houston Health Museum, will host a Global Teen Medical Summit. CASE students in Years 9-12 are invited to participate in a 5-day virtual camp,  13-17 July 2020. They will join students from around the world online. At this camp, participants will explore innovation in medicine and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with a focus on pandemics.  Students will have the opportunity to take part in a virtual hackathon, work side-by-side with professionals who create life-saving technology, explore the challenges of a pandemic across industries, and leave with an innovation that could potentially change the world.  The classes for this year’s summit are free as they will all be held virtually. Please note, this summit is being held in America and so will run to American time. If you would like to know more about this summit and how to register for this opportunity you can access information here.

Tell Them From Me

During Term 3,  we will be inviting students, teachers and parents to provide feedback on their experience of our school using an online survey. The surveys are an important part of our whole school evaluation and planning process.

We will be inviting you to complete the Tell Them From Me (TTFM) Partners in Learning survey. As we value the role of parents and carers within our school community we would greatly appreciate your feedback. The information you provide will be used to maintain our commitment to working together in partnership to further improve student learning and wellbeing at Catherine McAuley Westmead. 

The survey is anonymous and will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. Early Term 3, a link to the survey will be sent out via the Skoolbag app as well as emailed to all parents. 

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday.

Ms Silvana Rossetti
Assistant Principal (Learning and Teaching)

FROM THE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL (Pastoral Care/Administration)

Year 11 and 12 Students Studying in the Library

On the Staff Professional Learning Days, Friday, 3rd July and Monday, 20th July, Year 11 and 12 students have been offered the opportunity to study in the library. Students have been informed they will not have access to teachers or any other classrooms but this does provide an opportunity to work in space with limited distractions. As this is voluntary, students are able to wear casual clothing and will sign in at the library.

eSafety Commission Advice: Balance Your Time Online

‘Going to school’ online from home hasn’t been all that bad. We might have had that little bit of extra time to sleep in or even found ourselves being more productive. And even though we’re slowly heading back to the school grounds, we’re probably going to have to continue doing some kind of virtual learning.  

We are also likely to use similar tech tools and platforms in our workplaces as we get older. That means now is the time to get good at managing time online, so it doesn’t take over our lives completely.

Spending most of the day in front of a screen is easy, but too many uninterrupted hours on YouTube, Netflix or the latest games are probably not doing us any good.

Here are some tips to help you improve your online habits:

  • Make a plan — set daily tasks you would like to achieve including study, exercise, socialising and rest. This may help you maintain focus during the day.

  • Set routine breaks — if you are using a device for an hour or more, make sure you take a short break. This could include stretching or a short walk.

  • Turn off notifications for your social media or messaging apps on Apple and Android devices while studying.

  • Monitor or limit your phone use if you are constantly distracted. Many phones have settings that allow you to track how long you spend on apps and set daily usage limits.

  • Try limiting your gaming time if playing is beginning to affect your schoolwork or social life — organise some other activities with friends.

  • Turn your devices off or put them on airplane mode at least an hour before bedtime to ensure you have the best quality sleep.

For more information go to the eSafety Commission website 

Ms Debbie Grigson
Assistant Principal (Pastoral Care/Administration)


Earlier this week, New South Wales Education Standards (NESA) announced that students will be learning a new curriculum within four years. NESA states that “The new curriculum focuses on providing students with challenging learning material tailored to where they are at in their learning”. It could be said that the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) were ahead of the New South Wales State Government as they had already completed their review of Religious Education (RE) and developed the Draft New Curriculum. Next term CEDP Schools will be trialling the new learning cycles.

At Catherine McAuley Westmead using experiential learning through student inquiry, students in Stage Five (Year 10) will engage with the Learning Cycle, What is the relationship between sexuality, love and human flourishing? Please refer to this letter for further information. 

In preparation for this new learning, the Year 10 RE Team have been led by Ms Aneta Brennan and Mr Daniel Nguyen in their professional learning journey. Earlier this term Ms Genevieve Banks conducted some elective workshops for staff on their professional learning day about the Draft New Curriculum. On Friday, 3rd July all staff will participate in a professional learning day for the Draft New Curriculum. We are most fortunate that Professor Anthony Maher, Mr Gary Borg, Mr Bruce Carr and Mrs Tania Melki will be working with the staff. They will be ably assisted by Fr Walter Fogarty, Coordinating Pastor of Westmead Catholic Community and Sr Mary-Louise Petro, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta. It is an exciting time for the Diocese and the school and we look forward to the new learnings for both staff and students.

Ms Genevieve Banks
Religious Education Coordinator


Donations for the Parramatta Women’s Shelter

Ryan and Mercedes Houses would like to thank all students and their families who contributed to the fundraising for the Parramatta Women’s Shelter. This is a new shelter in Parramatta which assists women and children who have been victims of domestic violence. In addition to the fundraising stalls held throughout the week each Homeroom was also invited to donate money towards the purchase of gift cards and/or bring in certain items needed by the shelter.

Thank you for the generosity from Catherine McAuley families!!

Fundraising stalls included a Sweets & Baked Goods stall organised by Mercedes and a Hot Chocolate stall organised by Ryan. The student leaders also sold purple ribbons throughout the week for a gold coin donation.


Passing of Sr Dr Sophie McGrath rsm Former Principal 1974 - 1977

The school is very saddened to learn of the passing of Sr Dr Sophie McGrath rsm, former Principal from 1974 - 1977. Sr Sophie was the third Principal of Catherine McAuley and was appointed to this position after teaching and leading in a number of Mercy schools across the Sydney metropolitan area.

A great advocate for women, Sr Sophie was a founding member of the Golding Centre for Women’s History, Theology and Spirituality at the Australian Catholic University. Her university work as a researcher at ACU began in 1982 and she became a Research Fellow in 2000. The Golding Centre was established in 2003 and Sr Sophie has been the key contributor from the Strathfield campus. She has also mentored doctoral students. 

Sr Sophie is warmly remembered at Catherine McAuley Westmead for her contributions to girls’ education in the Parramatta area. The Sophie McGrath Building, known as the SM Building, originally built as classroom spaces but now the site of the staff study and common room, are named in Sr Sophie’s honour.

Sr Sophie recently reflected on her time as Principal in the school’s 50 years anniversary Book ‘A Book of Memories’ by writing, “The mosaic of my time at Catherine McAuley is dominantly made up of cooperative, generous teachers and developing young women with a wide range of talents, some more suited to the disciplined situation of school than others, and with usually interested and caring parents”.

We pray that Sr Sophie enjoys eternal life in the company of the many women about whom she researched and whose lives she shared with her audience. A funeral for Sr Sophie was held at the Sisters of Mercy Convent, Parramatta on Thursday this week.

McAuley Students Make Top 12 in Catholic Schools Public Speaking Competition

Congratulations to all students who took part in the CSDA (Catholic Schools Debating Association) Public Speaking Competition which concluded on Friday last week. This competition was moved to an online competition for the final rounds held on Friday, 12th June and the grand final on Friday, 19th June. McAuley had two students, Victoria C., Year 10 and Akansha N., Year 11 who successfully made it to the top 12.

Miss Sangeeta Raja, Debating and Public Speaking Coordinator, has written the following:

CSDA's first ever online public speaking competition was held on Friday, 12th June via Zoom. The following students made it through the first round and participated in the zone finals: Elisha Z. (Year 7), Grace R. (Year 8), Michelle A. (Year 9), Victoria C. and Darby H. (Year 10), Akansha N. (Year 11) and Brooke B. (Year 12). 

Public speaking via Zoom was certainly a strange experience however the students rose to the challenge and the adjudicators praised the students on how they took the competition to another level with the high quality of their presentations. Each of our students are to be commended for the way in which they conducted themselves and represented Catherine McAuley.

The CSDA Public Speaking Grand Final was held via Zoom on Friday, 19th June. Victoria C. and Akansha N. successfully made it to the top 12 and spoke brilliantly however did not place. Regardless, both girls were grateful for the opportunity and said they thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Well done to all students involved in public speaking this year.

Miss Sangeeta Raja
Debating and Public Speaking Coordinator

Students Reminded of the Mercy Value of Hospitality With Special Bookmarks

All students were given a bookmark last week to remind them both of the Mercy value of ‘Hospitality’ and to follow in Venerable Catherine McAuley’s words to ‘Strive to do ordinary things extraordinarily well”.

The bookmarks were designed by teachers Miss Lisa Allen and Mrs Marianne Nakhoul as part of their project for the Mercy Formation Program. This program sees two staff members from each of the six Mercy schools in Sydney (Mercy College, Chatswood; Monte Sant Angelo, North Sydney; Our Lady of Mercy College, Parramatta; Our Lady of Mercy College, Burraneer, Emmaus College, Kemps Creek and Catherine McAuley) participate after being nominated by their school principal. The staff involved chose a project to work on which will deepen staff understanding of the Mercy charism.

As part of the project undertaken by Miss Allen and Mrs Nakhoul they also designed tea cups and postcards to be gifted to Year 12 students as a graduation gift and to new staff members.

There are 6 Mercy values:

Mercy - Reach out to others in need and treat all with respect and reverence

Justice - Engage in action for social justice and celebrate our diversity and inclusiveness 

Excellence - Strive for our personal best in all we do

Integrity - Lead lives which integrate our personal beliefs and values with those of the school

Courage - Stand up for our beliefs by putting our values into practise

Hospitality - Create a community where all feel welcome

Year 12 Geography Virtual Field Trip

What does a Geography class do when you can't go out into the world to conduct your bring the world into the classroom of course!

On Thursday, 18th June the Year 12 Geography class attended a virtual field trip into the Green Square Urban Precinct to study this as an example of the changing urban face of Sydney. They had the opportunity to see visuals of the changes to this space over time, and also listen to and ask questions of an expert in the field. The Green Square Urban Precinct is located in Beaconsfield and Zetland as well as parts of Rosebery, Alexandria and Waterloo. It is transforming what was once an industrial heartland into a vibrant, sustainable and connected community.

While the virtual experience cannot replace actually being out in the field and having first hand experiences of our changing world, it definitely provided the students with further insights into this part of their HSC studies.

Mrs Gloria Noud
HSIE - Social Science Coordinator

Year 11 Design & Technology Students Design Their Own Fabrics

Year 11 Design and Technology students designed their own fabric print using Adobe Illustrator. Their designs were printed and the students then created a small textile item from the fabric. Each fabric design was to be inspired by a textile print designer and the students have made a variety of items from their fabrics including cushions, shorts, blankets and bags. 

Understanding the Holocaust Through Art for Year 9 Elective History Students

The school was very fortunate to have History and Social Sciences Teacher, Ms Stephanie Dito, awarded a Gandel Holocaust Studies Scholarship late last year which gave her the opportunity to travel to Israel for three weeks during the Christmas holidays to study the Holocaust and how to teach it. Ms Dito has planned a number of lessons based upon what she learnt and recently took Ms Sally McCaul’s Year 9 Elective History class to help them understand the Holocaust through art.

Ms Dito says the students really enjoyed using artworks to help them understand the very complex experiences of the Holocaust and the students came to appreicate how art was used as a way to not only resist the Nazis but also as a form of expression of experiences and as a form of escapism. 

Year 9 Elective History student Mia B. wrote the following reflection:

During Week 6, Ms Dito took over our class to teach us about the Holocaust. We looked at Terezin, a ghetto from WW2 and looked at videos, artworks and a poem from this ghetto. I enjoyed it as we looked at different sources. It helped me understand the Holocaust in a different way as I saw a more creative side of the Holocaust and how a lot of Jews used escapism in art and writing. 

The Gandel Holocaust Studies Scholarship is run by Gandel Philanthropy, one of Australia’s largest independent family philanthropic funds. Over the Christmas holidays they sent a group of 30 teachers from across Australia for an intensive course to study the Holocaust.


Year 7 Visual Arts Collaborative Artwork

Year 7 Visual Arts students of Ms Lane have been investigating modern art movements and learning about interesting ways to create portraits. Last week the students in 7VA6 created this collaborative artwork based on a portrait of Catherine McAuley. Beautiful work!

Year 7 French Studying a Language Unit on Animals

Until Covid most people had probably never heard of a pangolin...Year 7 French students are currently studying a unit on animals in French and have been singing a traditional African children’s song about a pangolin. View highlights of the students singing their song.

Year 9 Visual Arts Students Express Life During Social Isolation Restrictions

As part of their ‘Urban World’ unit of work Year 9 Visual Arts students are experimenting with a range of drawing media to make postcard size artworks to capture and express what life was like living in suburbia during the recent social isolation restrictions. 

Selected artworks are from Mrs Finnerty’s 9VA2 class.

Year 10 Design & Technology Packaging Design Task

Year 10 Design & Technology students of Miss Catto have just completed an assessment task where they were to pretend they work for a marketing consultancy and had to re-design the packaging of a particular existing cosmetic product for their client. Students were able to choose the product for the packaging re-design with the aim being to increase sales. 

Students created their designs using Adobe Illustrator, printed it to scale and were then to use suitable materials to form the structure for their chosen product’s packaging. 

There are many more ‘Around the Classes’ which can be viewed on the school’s Facebook Page and Instagram Page. Search on both platforms for ‘Catherine McAuey Westmead’.


Keep up with Career News

As Catherine McAuley currently has subscriptions to online careers resources, if students and parents have not yet joined, you are missing out! All students and parents are welcome, and it is never too early to access this information and be ready for the next stage of your daughter’s future.

These sites provide details on events, spotlights on various career areas and important information on industry trends and study areas that are worth knowing about.

The sites are:

Click on ‘Find your school’ and enter our school code: CATH19

Fill in your details to access the full site and also select your options for career news.

Click on ‘I’m new’ at the top right corner. Enter our school name, and sign up using your school  the password: westmead

All students will benefit from receiving these events and articles, and are encouraged to attend careers events of an evening or on weekends, and the upcoming school holidays are also an excellent time to explore careers with family and friends.

Online Webinar - EY Ready to Launch Careers Event for Parents

EY are running an online webinar for secondary school Career Advisors, teachers and parents.

This event will share with parents, teachers and Careers Advisors, EY’s purpose as an organisation, how we are navigating disruption and what we believe are some of the key skills that the next generation of talent should seek to develop. We’ll introduce our opportunities for university students so you understand what their next steps could look like and we’ll open up for a Q&A so you can get answers to some of the key questions you’ve been considering in relation to your children’s and student's futures.

This webinar will take place on Tuesday, 11th August at 5.30pm

You can find out more about EY here and here.

Mrs Amanda Chahine 
Careers Adviser


Friday, 3rd July

Pupil Free Day Staff Spirituality Day End of Term 2

Monday, 20th JulyTerm 3 Begins
Pupil Free Day
Staff Professional Development Day
Tuesday, 21st JulyStudents commence Term 3
Wednesday, 22nd JulyYear 11 2021 Subject Selection Market and Parent Information Evening, commencing 4:30pm, (online format)
Tuesday, 28th JulyYear 12 Visual Arts In-school Activity
Monday, 3rd AugustParent / Student / Teacher Meetings, 3:30pm - 6:30pm (online or phone)
Tuesday, 4th AugustParents and Friends Meeting, 6pm for a 6:30pm start (meeting location to be confirmed)



Catherine McAuley Parent Business Directory

A reminder that the school has a Catherine McAuley Parent Business Directory. This directory is a collection of parent owned businesses and is something you might want to consulate when you are next looking for a particular item or service.

If you would like to be included in the directory please fill out this form.