St Joseph's College Director of Mission, Mrs Helen Smith, has been recognised with a prestigious Churchill Fellowship for 2011.
Mrs Smith was presented with the Northern Districts Education Centre (Sydney) Churchill Fellowship by the Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir AC, CVO at Government House in Canberra on Friday 5 July. The ceremony was followed by a dinner at Parliament House for all 2011 Fellows.
The Churchill Fellowship is awarded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which was established in 1965 to honour the memory of Sir Winston Churchill. Since its inception the Trust has awarded Fellowships to more than 3,500 Australians who, like Churchill, are innovative, filled with a spirit of determination and possess a strong desire to benefit their community. Fellows are provided with funding for overseas research projects, which enables them to travel, meet with experts and further their knowledge in their chosen field so they may continue to make a significant contribution to Australian society.
The Fellowship will enable Mrs Smith to travel throughout England and to New York in April/May 2012 to investigate the topic of ‘Education as a means of addressing cultural misunderstandings of Islam in Australia’. This is a topic Mrs Smith is passionate about as one of the critical issues of the 21st century. She has addressed the need to more fully appreciate Islam for many years through her engagement with the Board of Studies in the ongoing development of the Studies of Religion syllabus.
“A longitudinal study released at the start of 2011 indicated that 47 per cent of Australian are anti-Muslim,” Mrs Smith said. “So often the phrase, 'Why can't they be like us?', is heard when the topic of Islam is discussed, yet as a nation we struggle to satisfactorily describe what the common values of 'us' really are. The Churchill Fellowship will enable me to experience a range of educational projects in England and New York that aim to address the media driven negative misrepresentation of Islam that ignores the diversity and richness of this great faith tradition.”
“Surah 49 of the Qur'an states: 'O mankind, we have created you from a single pair and formed you into nations and tribes that you may know each other.' In the Great Commandment, Jesus calls Christians to such a knowing in challenging us to enter into right relationship with God and others. It is my hope that in some small way this research will contribute to an Australian society where 'knowing' and not stereotyping will become the norm and where future surveys will not reject any persons because of race or faith.”
Headmaster of St Joseph’s, Mr Ross Tarlinton, said Mrs Smith’s Fellowship was extremely well deserved. “The entire College community congratulates Helen on this award. It is a wonderful recognition of her ongoing work, as well as her belief in the powerful role education can play in challenging cultural misunderstandings of Islam.”
“The College shares in Mrs Smith’s excitement and we look forward to learning from the knowledge and insights she will gain from her international research,” Mr Tarlinton said.
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