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Why Community Matters

A connected community is at the heart of a thriving school, so how are communities built and what do they stand for?

NEWS 16 Mar 2023

When floodwaters submerged towns and suburbs across large parts of NSW and Queensland in late 2022, thousands of kilometres away in his Melbourne office, Russell Davidson picked up the phone and called people he believed may have been affected. He wanted to find out how they were and to offer some words of support.

Those people receiving a call from Mr Davidson were Haileybury alumni and members of the Old Haileyburians Association and while they’d long since graduated, they were still very much part of the school community.

“Once a Haileyburian, always a Haileyburian.”
Russell Davidson, Director of Development & Alumni Relations

“We’ve created a community where, no matter where people are in their graduating life, there is always an opportunity for them to connect with our school. We have more than 18,000 members in our alumni community and they range in age from 18 to 98. We’ve built an enduring community and we are proud of that.”

Community is woven into the fabric of Haileybury and it is something the school works hard to create and sustain. During its 130-year history, that community has become increasingly diverse and now boasts over 60 different nationalities, religions and belief systems.

Scott Doran, Vice Principal Community Engagement & Advancement, believes a strong and engaged community is important to the health and prosperity of any school. He says the recent floods episode, and Haileybury’s immediate concern for past students living in the flood-affected areas, underscores the depth of the school connections.

“One Old Haileyburian had been flooded twice and lost everything in the floods in northern New South Wales, so the Old Haileyburians Association gifted a voucher to him to help him purchase white goods he lost to the floods,” says Mr Doran.

“We recognise that community is vital and is a key ingredient that enables organisations like ours to achieve their vision and mission. We can’t do any of the things that we do without community support.”
Scott Doran, Vice Principal Community Engagement & Advancement

Haileybury has a number of strategies to create connection and cement community. As well as traditional avenues such as frequent communication with families and events that bring families on campus to meet staff and students, in November 2022, the School launched the Haileybury Society. The alumni network is for former staff and parents of the school who have expressed a strong desire to remain part of the community.

The sense of connection extends across the country to staff and students at Haileybury Rendall School in Darwin. When two HRS graduates moved to the ACT, they were connected with Haileybury alumni in Canberra.

William Thomas (OH 2021) is studying a Civil Engineering Honours degree at the Australian Defence Force Academy after graduating from HRS. His academic study is interspersed with military training, leaving William little time to return home between semesters. He was invited to join the Old Haileyburians Association Canberra Chapter and has built connections through OHA events.

The same support has been offered to 2021 HRS graduate Nyanta Parashar who is studying a Bachelor of Medical Science at the Australian National University in Canberra. Her Haileybury teachers also still keep in contact with Nyanta to offer their support.

Further building and extending Haileybury’s community connections in Melbourne, students volunteer their time during school holidays to support members of the Disabled Surfers Association Mornington Peninsula (DSAMP).

“The aims of DSAMP are simple – to ‘put smiles on dials’ and provide a safe and enjoyable surfing experience for any people with any disability,” says Mr Doran.

“The organisation provides disabled members with greater access to beaches all year round and our students recognise the importance of sport and physical activity being available to all. So they got involved and their involvement was a huge success – everyone benefited from the experience.”

The opening of the Haileybury Pangea online campus in 2023 has created more opportunities for the school to find new ways to build community.

“Our At Home with Haileybury program is an outreach community connection program that includes guest speakers, games, demontrations and fitness activities that encourage the Pangea community to meet, enjoy each other’s company and belong to something larger,” explains Mr Doran.

Mr Davidson agrees that the desire to ‘belong to something larger’ is a vital part of a successful community and it also brings opportunities for mentorship, sharing advice, social connection and providing valuable and relevant support to young people.

“If new graduates are moving to a different city to work or study, we can connect them to people within our community who can help them settle in,” says Mr Davidson.

“Our alumni return to school to speak at networking events and to talk about their work with students. People make time to have a coffee with a young graduate who wants advice on furthering their career. There are also clubs within the Old Haileyburian Association – one member of our OHA Hockey Club is from the graduating class of 1975 and has played more than 600 games.”

The affection members feel for the Haileybury community often leads to financial donations and a number of scholarships for current students are funded by the alumni community.

“People within our community are keen to change lives forever,” says Mr Davidson.

“School communities should look and breathe like a genuine society to give students a capacity to understand what the world is like,” adds Mr Doran.

“When those students leave our school, they leave with a sense of belonging that lasts a lifetime.”