The University of Sydney’s College communities have been prompted over the past few years to open their eyes to their respective cultures. For Sancta, this journey of review has not been about damage control, but rather about refinement and amplification.
Sancta has always lived out a different story; a story of consistently high academic performance, female empowerment, safety and support for all. We’ve not traditionally been great at telling that story – an effect of our tendency towards humility and ‘quiet achievement’.
I believe it is time for the Sancta community to be more vocal about what makes us special, and what makes us different. Students are, time and time again, the best at articulating this: “I got a different feeling when I visited Sancta for the first time – no pretention, no intimidation… I already felt at home”.
“Sancta was my second choice when I applied to colleges. I look back now and realise that missing out on my first choice and thus ending up at Sancta, was the best thing that could have happened to me”.
“Sancta girls look out for each other. We rise above the petty stuff”.
“Sancta’s Postgraduate men become champions of respect for women simply by being here – they are entering a community with values too strong to be misrepresented”.
Beyond being a safe and supportive place for women and men — consistently for 92 years — we have always been an organisation that seeks to give opportunities and voices to those without them.
Our pioneering leaders – the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart – advocated for countless young women to secure scholarship support that would grant them access to a University of Sydney education — support which led to some of the first graduating female doctors in Australia.
For many decades, our students visited the mothers and children of St Anthony’s Home in Croydon to provide food, clothes and support, and our ‘Wisdom Forums’ have become an institution in themselves, inspiring a culture of debate and action around social issues.
Our alumni are generously decorated with social impact heroines across countless fields including disabled rights advocacy, human rights, charity, education and more. In the past ten years alone, more than six Sancta alumnae and past staff have been appointed membership to the Order of Australia for their contributions to society.
This unrelenting tradition of social action has been steadfastly maintained by today’s Sancta residents. Our students are fast to act when an environmental disaster affects regional Australia, scrambling to generate awareness and support wherever they can, producing events and campaigns so polished that one wonders where they find the time to also land themselves on Deans’ lists. They volunteer on Sydney’s streets, engaging with the city’s forgotten citizens, serving food and helping with laundry. We see it in our Postgraduate community’s commitment to champion a mature culture centred around respect not only for women but for diversity in general. We even see it in the way our student leaders engage with their neighbours to organise activities, compete, and resolve disputes.
When I think about the immense contribution that every single Sancta student manages to make in one academic year, I truly wish that I were placed to recognise them all through scholarship support.
Furthermore, I think about the thousands of young women and men for whom the Sancta experience is simply too far out of reach. I wish I could make Sancta accessible to more of them, enabling us to further amplify our role as an empowerment machine for a greater society.
2019 is about celebrating Sancta – we are a community that knows who we are, and we hold our heads high when we look back on our story from 1926 to today.
View this story, and more in SANCTA MAGAZINE