Year 9 Religious Education

At Year 9 our focus for the year is Social Justice. Each Term we align our learning to whatever cause or organisation we are raising money, awareness or items for. In Term Two our whole school focus is collection of food, clothing and toiletries items for St Vincent de Paul Society Winter Appeal. The Year 9 classes have been learning about homelessness in Australia and how Vincent de Paul assists. Part of their learning including watching and interacting with a play called HOME.

HOME is set in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Most action takes place in the streets, and in and around Jo’s Soup Kitchen (fictional) run by the warm-hearted, down-to-earth Sista Jo. In the first few scenes we meet the homeless protagonists: Nicky, who dropped out of High School before finishing year 10, is addicted to heroin and works as a prostitute to support her habit. Emily, who has been struggling with mental problems ever since the cot-death of her child. Shakespeare, a street poet and social misfit of great intelligence and potential. The Jockey, a university graduate unable to find paid employment in her field. Old Paddy, who grew up in the inner city and has known better days, but is now a veteran drunk with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area and a deep insight into the human condition of the poor.

Gradually we learn more about their dreams and aspirations, their frictions and frustrations, and about how difficult it is to escape the vicious cycles they are caught up in. The childhood situation of both Nicky and Shakespeare is one of sexual abuse and violence. A ticket that doesn’t give an easy start, and is more often than not the recipe for repetition.

When all characters meet up in Jo’s Soup Kitchen, there is lively interaction, both positive and negative, held in check by Sista Jo, and underpinned by a sense of community and belonging. It is clear that some of the worst aspects of homelessness are loneliness and isolation. We see how some characters find a way to pull themselves out of their personal abyss (Nicky), others manage to tightrope-walk along the edge (Emily, Paddy, the Jockey) and one is pulled further down into the pits (Shakespeare). At the two opposite ends of the spectrum, Nicky goes into detox and re-starts high school, while Shakespeare falls into theft, drug abuse and suicidal tendencies. Sista Jo rescues him when he overdoses one night.

The play shifts to some months later, when the young people meet in the local library and discuss the state of the world, the lack of vision and true care from governments. As they analyse the competitive fabric of our society, based on their own direct experiences, they challenge one another to come up with solutions and ideas beyond the ‘norm and apathy’ of reality. We sense their vitality and determination to give shape to some of their hopes and dreams. How difficult that is when the world seems to be against more equitable models of community, sharing and cooperation, is illustrated twice: on the street where Shakespeare spruiks poems, and on the bus, where Sista Jo is on her way to a psychologist to help her cope with stress.

On mail-day at Jo’s office we learn how there is hope for the Jockey (a part-time job), how Shakespeare attempts to reform (he even hands back the money he stole one night from old Paddy). But when we return for our last scene to the cityscape at night, following in the footsteps of Sista Jo as she does her round, images of the poor struggling in the margins of life yet again are etched on the retina, with serious questions how such strife is possible in a rich country like Australia.

It was a wonderful experience for our boys, bring to life some of the things they had already learnt about homelessness in Australia. Our hope it that they will be more sensitive to the needs of others in our local community.

Nadia Knight
Assistant Principal – Faith and Mission