Bushy - A National Award Winner!

For anyone who has attended St Virgil’s College or been a part of the greater College community, they would know Mark ‘Bushy’ Smith. He has worked with countless students to help foster a learning environment that helps provide a connection, engagement and purpose within the College. Earlier this month he received an Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) Charter Leadership Award for Justice and Solidarity. This award seeks to recognise the outstanding contribution of women and men in the service of their school communities, which are brought to life as an expression of the charism of Edmund Rice.

Bushy has worked at St Virgil’s College for 20 years, but has had a relationship with the College as a resident of Austins Ferry for even longer. Prior to becoming a crucial member of staff he would contact the College about their environmental habits that were taking place on campus. After a few years and countless calls as a ‘complaining neighbour’, Bushy decided to get involved with the College and help make positive environmental change. Anyone at the College knows how important Bushy is to our community. He admits that he is part of the fabric of the school and although he didn't attend St Virgil's, he understands as well as anyone what the College is about.

“I am so fortunate to have worked with kids who struggle to concentrate in the classroom, with reading, writing, whatever. They come out with me and it's the opposite. You don't have to focus, you just go with the flow, you’re outside. I will give them a few tasks and off they go... For me this school is different because of the environment. Who else has the track record that we've got for caring for our environment involving their students. It is a truly unique school.”   

Being around students and working with them outside to make the College a better place gives him a chance to see them develop transferable skills and allows many of the students to flourish. Although teenage boys can often have moments with each other, Bushy has noticed that St Virgil’s boys will always have each other's back and show loyalty towards their friends. He believes that the bond that the students have once they finish at the College is second to none, and is something that the College should be proud of.

Bushy speaks about his experience of winning the EREA Charter Leadership Award.

“It was humbling. I am a small part of a much bigger thing. Working with Bridget (Jenkins), Damian Messer for letting me do this sort of thing; Chris Smith, who kicked off Landcare back when he was Principal. There are so many people and I am just part of it. I am accepting that award with everyone. When you drive down the driveway you can see what we've done – revegetating, changing how the school looks – it’s awesome!”

The work that Bushy does is unparalleled to anyone else in the College. The close work that he has been doing with Aboriginal ecological activist, Jamie (Jam) Graham Blaire, as part of the College’s tunapri makuminya Project to conserve and regenerate native flora as part of a cultural development initiative, is inspirational. 

As a College community we thank Mark for his work and believe he is incredibly deserving of this award. Congratulations Bushy!