Boarding at Joeys

Posted on February 3, 2020

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is a song that for decades has been belted out by the boys of St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill at sporting contests, assemblies and other special school events.

More than a rousing war cry, the words exemplify the spirit of Joeys. They are lived every day by the 1000-strong community of students at Australia’s largest boarding school for boys, many of them from rural and regional areas.

“The thing is, you’re only a new boy at the College for one day,” says Br Tony D’Arbon who came from Singleton to board at Joeys, a Sydney Catholic school in the Marist tradition, from 1948 to 1952 and who is today a member of Joeys’ Brothers Community.

“The dormitory was where your mateships started and you bonded very easily with people in your class. In my class we knew each other very, very well. It was a little family that was in that dorm.”

While the dormitories today are more spacious, modern and comfortable, the dorm structure’s engendering of close, lifelong friendships has proved timeless. Under a pastoral care system in which boys in the same year group sleep, eat, study, play and pray together, boys continue to form family-like bonds. Connectedness and support of one another are central features of the boarding experience. Joeys boys never walk alone.

“That’s what it becomes all about, being around their mates,” says Old Boy Danny Keady, of Coonamble in the NSW Central West, whose five sons have attended the College.

“It’s hard at first for parents to not have their kids around them all the time, and it still is – I hate having the boys away – but they are doing really well where they are. They are happy where they are, and if they’re happy, I’m happy and Mum’s happy.”

The boarding culture at Joeys includes a collegiate and collaborative approach to study that benefits boys in the senior years particularly, when boarders in Year 12 have their own rooms complemented by well-equipped communal study areas.

In the 2019 HSC, the top 20 ATARs at St Joseph’s College were achieved by boarders. Structured and supervised study sessions as well as access to tutors and a state-of-the-art Resources Centre play no small part in boarders’ scholarly successes. But it is also the support and encouragement from one another that give boarders an academic edge.

‘The routine and structure of boarding and having my classmates and teachers around for guidance, feedback and study assistance has definitely aided in my end results,” says 2019 College Dux Rhys Barrow. “Whether it was simply a question that needed answering or tips on how I could do something better, they were always on hand and happy to help.

As Rhys’s fellow Year 12 student Armando Colosimo explained: “We’ll just walk to each other’s rooms and spend a study session or a 30-minute session or whatever time we need and we’ll sit down and talk through problems, because we all have different strengths in different ways.”

Head of Boarding Mr John Reading says many boys who begin at the College as day boys convert to boarding because living on campus is seen as providing better opportunities not only for study and academic achievement, but for the pursuit of boys’ cultural and sporting interests and for their spiritual development.

And flowing through it all is the sense of camaraderie and mateship that defines life at Joeys.

“I think everyone, but particularly young people, need a sense of belonging, and a sense of ‘that’s my team’,” Mr Reading says.

 “There are no unhappy kids here: of a night time you walk around here and the laughter, it’s inspiring. It’s such a warm place to be around.”