Students from 15 Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta high schools gathered at the fourth annual Social Justice Day to discuss genuine human encounters in our digital world.
This annual day is aimed at launching the yearly Australian Catholic Social Justice statement, which this year is focused on addressing how the internet has changed the way we communicate, work, learn, and do business - and how we can contribute towards a more just and loving digital world.
Diocese of Parramatta Social Justice Coordinator Sr Louise McKeogh FMA said the day provides an opportunity for students and teachers to create an ongoing awareness and action plan for making the social justice statement concrete and real in the lives of the students and school community.
“Students had the opportunity to meet other like-minded students and plan together for the year ahead. There was a lot of sharing across school communities and they also got to learn about new ideas and options for action from other schools," Sr Louise said.
CEDP Executive Director Greg Whitby visited students on the day and said in one sense he felt sorry for this generation of students as they get blamed for all the problems people encounter using the latest technology.
“However, believe it or not in the 1960s, we were blamed for all the problems surrounding the invention of the TV and all the technology associated with that. It seems we are going to be victims of a generation gap," Mr Whitby said.
“I also think this is the most spectacular time we live in and it is going to be you (the students) who get to show us how to best use social media and technology. You can use it as an agent of change, you can use it to connect responsibly and build communities. I have faith in you as we have great teachers and great technology!”
Mr Whitby also spoke about seeing the CAPTIVATE’s production called Gabriel’s Travels which explores the importance of staying engaged in the real world when it is so tempting to live online! CAPTIVATE is the creative and performing arts program of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.
Some students who were a part of the production highlighted what they had learnt from their experience: Catherine McAuley Westmead Year 9 student Angelina said it gave her an outlet to express the good and bad impacts of technology, while St Agnes Catholic High School Year 9 student Rita said it taught her to use technology for good and not let it use you!
Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long said Australia is built on fairness and justice. “We are one of a few countries which introduced the minimum wage and have a Fair Work Commission to protect the rights of the worker. Yet, I fear this tradition is being undermined when you see technology used in the wrong way," Bishop Long said.
“The question we need to ask ourselves is how can we be the kind of people we want to be online? Whether we are using technology of not we still need to treat people with human dignity, use technology for the common good, allow people to make their own decisions, not impose ourselves on others and stand by people especially those who are suffering,’’ Bishop Long said.
Schools who participated in the day included: St Andrews College Marayong, Marian College Kenthurst, Gilroy Catholic College Castle Hill, St John Paul II Catholic College Schofields & Nirimba, St Agnes Catholic High School Rooty Hill, Catherine McAuley Westmead, St Clare’s Catholic High School Hassall Grove, Parramatta Marist High, McCarthy Catholic College Emu Plains, St Pauls Catholic College Greystanes, Bede Polding College Windsor, Xavier College Llandilo, St Patrick’s Marist College Dundas, Cerdon College Merrylands and St Mark’s Catholic College Stanhope Gardens.
Students left the day with a plan of action based on what can they do to ensure everyone is working towards building a genuine human encounter in this digital world.