New life for St John’s College

St John’s College Rector Adrian Diethelm (left), Council Chair Dr Bernadette Tobin and Deputy Chair John Coorey. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

St John’s College at the University of Sydney is looking forward to its next 160 years with the formation of a new governing council.

The country’s first Roman Catholic university college has had its ups and downs including highly-publicised allegations of bullying and harassment among students in recent years.

The St John’s College Act 2018 passed by the NSW Government last year replaced the St John’s College Act 1857 to revise and update the governance of the residential college for men and women students.

The resulting constitution of the new council last month completed a process of reform and cultural renewal begun in 2012, including a university-wide review in 2017 embracing culture, and sexual harassment and assault policies and procedures.

It is chaired by director of the Plunkett Centre for Ethics at St Vincent’s Hospital Dr Bernadette Tobin, and new council members include director of Notre Dame University’s Institute for Ethics and Society Dr Sandra Lynch and Sister Mary Helen Hill OP.

St John's College governing council
Members of the new governing council of St John’s College at the University of Sydney. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“It’s a new beginning and has taken off extremely well,” said Dr Tobin.

“My hope for St John’s College is that it is a real centre of academic excellence as well as a friendly community and that it will be one of the jewels in the crown of the Sydney archdiocese.

“It is already loved and held in high regard in the professions and industry and the life of Sydney and NSW.”

St John’s College council deputy chair John Coorey said that while it had been was a “long and challenging” process, the constitution of the new council was a great occasion for the 161-year-old college.

See related article: Reform continues at St John’s College with new appointments

Mr Coorey said he believed the mix of eight members who have previously served on councils, along with five new members provides a good balance to the governing body.

The council is now required to have 13 members, rather than the original 18, including the rector, with four members elected by college alumni, four appointed by the Vice Chancellor and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, and the four appointed by the sitting council.

“The council is strengthened by the significant skills of its members and by its age and gender diversity,” Mr Coorey said.

College Rector Adrian Diethelm said that one of the priorities of the new council is to forge closer engagement with St John’s stakeholders including the archdiocese, the university and the college alumni, and to be forward-looking in its outlook.

“Last year St John’s celebrated its 160th anniversary and like all long-established institutions we celebrate that history but we also need to look to the future in a rapidly-changing environment,” he said.

“We are in a digital age and a global education age and need to keep up to remain relevant.”

Mr Diethelm said the college has seen much change over the last several years and that students had “enthusiastically” embraced the cultural renewal process.