Part social-worker, part nurse, part SuperWoman could be an apt description of Majella Catholic Primary School’s dynamic Administrative Assistant, Joanne Boyd.
Her role in the reception area means that she is often the ‘face’ of the school for families, visitors and community members – a vital role for any school, but perhaps more so at Majella.
One of the challenges faced by the school is engaging families in their children’s education and in the life of the school. Over 70% of students at Majella come from African refugee backgrounds. Many of their families have little understanding of the Australian school system, which can appear complex and impenetrable, and are extremely hesitant to engage with the school.
Joanne has worked tirelessly at Majella to bridge the divide. ‘One of the great things Joanne has managed to do is build up incredible trust with the families,’ said Principal Lina Bertolini. ‘They feel her genuine warmth and willingness to help and so they come to her when they have a problem or form they don’t understand. They know they can rely on her to help them navigate life here, whether it’s helping them fill out Centrelink forms or to access help for their kids.’
Some of the problems that Joanne is called on to help with are much more involved. When one family lost their home and possessions in a fire, the school was the first place they turned to for help. Joanne guided the family, who spoke little English and were still adjusting to life in Australia, through the entire ordeal, finding emergency accommodation, helping them arrange insurance and replace clothes and other belongings.
Another part of Joanne’s contribution to the school is through her love of gardening. Spending one day a week as the school’s Groundsperson, Joanne singlehandedly takes care of the landscaping and maintenance of Majella’s beautiful gardens and grounds.
Passionate, resourceful and full of real warmth and love for students, Joanne is a ‘local hero’ to all at Majella.