Alumni Friday, 05 July 2024

Class of 2023 Catch Up

Where are you currently at in your career?

So, I’m working at Komatsu, in Welshpool, as a first-year engineer apprentice. We have 3 departments at Komatsu. I am a part of the ‘Reman’ team. This involves remanufacturing broken parts, fixing them, and sending them back out to the consumer

What does a week look like for you?

I work at Komatsu between 6:00-14:30. I like to stay busy between my normal work week, plus footy training three times a week, games on weekends. I love it; I love to stay busy

Tell us about the process of applying to Komatsu.

This time last year, is the time businesses open up their applications for apprenticeships. I saw that Komatsu’s opened their applications and I thought, why not? I’ll put an application in and see how far I get. The application involves your resume, which Aquinas helps you with

I got an email back 3-4 week later, saying “hey, we really liked what we saw, could you complete an aptitude test for us?”. I then completed an online aptitude test, as well as a little video about yourself. I then got invited in for an interview

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Alumni Monday, 08 Apr 2024

Ross Brown

Class of 1998

Whether you are rowing a boat or brewing a beer,

balance is vital according to Ross Brown. The rowing World Champion and Head Brewer thrived during his time at Aquinas College. Ross was a strong student, college Vice Captain, an exceptional cross-country runner and an outstanding rower.

Ross’ father Ray, a teacher, boarding house master and coach at Aquinas, was one of the great influences on his life. Ray, a tough Kiwi from Hawkes Bay, would lead by example and regularly outpace the Year 12s on the athletics and cross-country track. He brought great enthusiasm, empathy and determination to all he did, qualities he passed onto Ross.

Ray also gifted young Ross a brewing kit for his 17th birthday, unearthing a passion that was to become Ross’ career.

Following his time at Aquinas, Ross commenced his studies at Murdoch University, earning a Bachelor of Sciences in Biotechnology in 2003, followed by a Post Graduate Certificate in Micro-Brewery Management from Edith Cowan University in 2004 and a Diploma in Brewing at the prestigious Institute of Brewing and Distilling (London) in 2017.

During his undergraduate studies, Ross secured a scholarship at the Western Australian Institute of Sport in 2001 and was an outstanding athlete for the next decade, winning six World Championship medals, four national titles in the Penrith Cup event and 18 consecutive State Championship titles for Swan River Rowing Club.

In 2002, Ross won silver in the Lightweight Pair at the

World Rowing U23 Championships in Genoa, Italy and gold

the following year in the Lightweight Four event at the U23 Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. A major achievement in Ross’ rowing career was his role as reserve for the Australian rowing team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the highlight of his sporting career was claiming gold with the Lightweight Eight crew at the 2011 World Championships in the incredibly beautiful Lake Bled in Slovenia.

Ross’ first job in brewing came as the Student Brewer and Microbiology Technical Officer at the Swan Brewery in 2008. His big break in brewing came in 2013, when Gage Roads hired him as a Shift Brewer. Ross now leads an around-the-clock team as the Head Brewer at Gage Roads, where he oversees all brewing and packaging operations.

Ross fondly recalls the camaraderie from his days at school: “At Aquinas there was such a tradition of success and a real feeling that when you put on the red and black singlet you had this “lift” from the guys who had poured their heart and soul into the sport previously.”

Rowing, like brewing, is about balance and precision, but Ross credits rowing as the ultimate team sport, teaching the importance of synchronicity and camaraderie. Rowing puts people through real pain and stress, and you need to find your rhythm with your teammates - no single person can win the race, so you need to create a space where everyone can operate at their best. This teamwork, mentorship and the strong relationships formed in rowing have propelled Ross both on and off the water.

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Alumni Monday, 08 Apr 2024

Gordon L’Estrange

1939 - 2018

Class of 1958

Gordon’s love of Aquinas and his successful involvement in many aspects of college life paved the way for his approach to life. He attended Aquinas from 1955-58 and was regarded as an outstanding sportsman. At his funeral in November 2018, his good friend and four-time Olympian and Sport Australia Hall of Fame member, Tom Hoad stated that “Gordon was arguably the best all round sportsman the college had produced.”

He was college open swimming champion three times in the late fifties and in two of them also PSA open swimming champion. As a schoolboy he was a member of the WA State open swimming team making the 1956 Olympic Trials and held numerous WA State open swimming records. He was also an outstanding rower and member of two 1st VIII crews in 1957 and 58. In athletics he was College 220 yards champion, a member of two winning Alcock Shield teams, and equal college all-round champion. In 1958 Gordon broke the PSA open shot-put record by almost two meters, and held the Aquinas open record for 25 years. He was also a member of winning PSA 1st XVIII Football and 1st XI Hockey teams, and the State championship winning cross-country team.

Post Aquinas he was an accomplished teacher-coach. He competed in State A-grade athletics, swimming, water polo, hockey, played country league AFL football and competitive surf lifesaving. Gordon graduated as a physical education teacher, and went on to be Churchlands Senior High School’s inaugural sports master. His love of sport, and growing youth talent, saw him coach numerous school and club amateur teams across multiple disciplines. Including two WA state schoolboy AFL football sides, taking them to the national championships.

Gordon was equally talented off the field. He went back to college and studied fine-arts, and eventually taught it. Swimming though was his first love and he established the Blue Marlin Swimming Team before setting up an indoor learn-to-swim business, from which he taught and coached hundreds of boys and girls taking many to state and national swimming championships. He was awarded the National Sports Medal in 2000 in acknowledgement of his amazing contribution to sport.

Gordon valued his connection to Aquinas throughout his life. He was an assistant coach to teams in the sixties and college swimming coach in the seventies. Right up until his death in 2018, he would be seen, walking stick in hand, on the Memorial Oval, watching the 1st XVIII or providing tips to aspiring shot put champions. He loved the school and valued what it gave him. Watching the next two generations: Sean

in 1977-85 and then his grandsons James and Will begin their journeys here were proud moments for this hugely talented and proud Aquinian.

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Alumni Monday, 08 Apr 2024

Judge John Prior

Class of 1979

When John was at Aquinas he studied and played hard before becoming one of the most well-known and well-liked members of the judiciary in WA. He excelled at Drama, debating, film and other creative arts under the tuition of Juliana Hammond. Left to

his own devices he would have pursued a career

in journalism but Brothers Kevin Paul, Carey and O’Loughlin were influences on him and had other ideas directing him to Law instead. John is the adopted son of an Old Aquinian and farmer Brian Prior from Moora.

After graduating in 1979 he read Law at UWA graduating with a Bachelor of Jurisprudence and

Law in 1984. He completed his articles at Talbot and Olivier the same year and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court and also to the Federal Court and High Court of Australia. He worked in civil, criminal and commercial litigation, family law, mining law and property. However, rather than pursue partnership at the firm he chose to travel taking a

late “gap year” and spent 18 months in the early 90s away, six of them working in well-heeled hotels of the famous ski resort, Whistler, Canada. There he met all kinds of people and made quite an impact as the most articulate and qualified doorman the luxury resort had ever seen.

He returned to Perth joining top legal firm William Ellison in 1991, at the invitation of Chris Ellison quickly making partner, and ran a barristers’ practice. Admitted to the Bar in 2006, John joined Francis Burt Chambers. His reputation as a lawyer has grown with his career and he has handled many difficult, high profile cases such as that of Jemma Lilley.

Most recently, Judge John was appointed to

the District Court in March 2018. He has also been President, Treasurer and Secretary for the Criminal Lawyers Association. John is married to Suzy Morrison and they have two sons Tom 23 and Jonathan 19.

An animated Dockers fan: it was noted at his welcome ceremony to the District Court that watching the Dockers on television was not as entertaining as

“watching His Honour watch the Dockers!” John was a keen sportsman both at school and later in life, coaching football and playing hockey.

Looking back he remembers “the Brothers treated everyone equally”. They lived by the ethos “everyone is created equal, and they deserve an equal opportunity”. It has been said of Judge John: “No cause was ever a lost cause”.

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Alumni Monday, 08 Apr 2024

Chris Back

Class of 1966

Christopher John Back was born in 1950 in Perth and commenced his studies at Aquinas College in 1962.

From there, he successfully embarked on a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland, graduating in 1971.

His first posting as a veterinary surgeon was with the Department of Agriculture WA, where he was posted to Merredin, followed by Moora. He then moved to Melbourne and joined a private practice specialising in equine medicine.

On his return to WA, Chris commenced a long career in education at Curtin University (Muresk Institute) from 1975 to 1988. During this period he spent time at the University of California, Davis working in the Department of Equine Reproduction. On his return to the Muresk Institute, Chris developed Australia’s first tertiary course in Equine Management. Graduates were in keen demand both in Australia and overseas.

In 2012, Chris was awarded the Kendall Prize by the Australian Veterinary Association for his service to the profession.

In a change of career direction, Chris was appointed the inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the Rottnest Island Authority where he served for seven years, in the mid 1990s. His next professional position was CEO of the Bushfires Board of WA. He introduced the use of water-bombing aircraft and radically upgraded the equipment used by the Volunteer Brigades. He also received the Prime Minister’s Gold Award for Technological Achievement which recognised the development of the use of satellites in tracking wildfires in remote locations.

Chris’ next role was in Tasmania where he became the Managing Director of the wholesale and retail businesses of the Shell company in that state. This served as his introduction to the oil and gas industries where he worked in Australia, South East Asia, India and the Middle East, servicing oil majors and military clients.

Chris’ final career change was in 2009 when he was appointed to the Australian Senate where he served until 2017. During his service in the Senate, Chris was Deputy Whip of

the Senate, Chair of the Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Temporary Chair of Committees, and an active member of committees such as Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, Environment and Communications, and Economics.

Other issues he was involved in whilst in the Senate included gambling reform, the National Capital and Territories, migration, the Parliamentary Library, and Australian treaties.

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Alumni Monday, 08 Apr 2024

Eric Silbert DFC AM

1922 - 2007

Class of 1938

Eric’s parents were both well-known in their fields. His father Berel, better known as “Barney” Silbert ran Fremantle’s most famous shoe store. His mother Minnie Masel, also worked in the family business and was one of WA’s earliest and best known violinists. Eric was born in the front room of 55 Ellen Street, Fremantle and so first went to CBC, a few doors down and later, Aquinas College as a boarder. Times were very hard. Eric remembers the Great Depression of 1932 and people knocking on the door asking for a meal. He enjoyed his education but was aware having parents in the retail footwear business meant he was not expected to excel academically as it was usual to join the family firm. Although not a scholar he was a strong sportsman and an outstanding ballroom dancer.

As a young Jewish boy Eric followed the unfolding of tragic events in Europe throughout his adolescence. After a trip to Singapore with the YAL, he worked with his parents in the family business until he signed up for the war at the tender age of 18. He departed on board a ship as one of 50 bound to train for Pathfinders, the target-marking squadrons in RAF Bomber Command during World War 2. Their task was to mark the targets for the RAF Bombers to help increase their accuracy. Eric was the only one onboard the departing ship to return alive.

It was a brutal war for such a young person. He remembers “You always knew when you’d lost a plane full of mates, their names were wiped off the board. But you kept flying.” He said of his missions in a recorded interview: “I was petrified. You know, anyone who tells you they weren’t frightened on operations where people were firing at you and flak was exploding around you and searchlights were on, they’re a moron not to be scared”.

Eric changed his middle name to Adrian four years before being commissioned as he thought going into the field with the middle name Abraham wasn’t such a good idea. He also changed the religion on his ID card from Jewish to Anglican, but changed it back on his return at the young age of 23.

Eric was an outstanding airman and much loved by his peers. He flew a total of 50 operations (two tours) with 622 Squadron and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. More than half those who flew in the Second World War were killed in action. Less than a quarter survived. Eric was one.

Having been chosen to live, he decided he would serve the community. On his return as well as working in the family business he became Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Perth, and was the Founder and President of Temple David, the family synagogue; a member of the Fremantle Rotary Club, and awarded the Order of Australia.

His daughter Hilary, herself a hugely active member of the Jewish Perth community remembers:

“I heard an interview by Dad on his time as a Pathfinder in WWII, which suddenly enlightened me on why he was in so many organisations as a volunteer. He said that there was such a high chance of being killed that if he was saved, he would serve the community. And he did. All his life.”

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Sport Monday, 29 May 2023

Old Aquinians Rowers Long Table Lunch

In the lead up to this year’s Head of The River, over fifty old Aquinas rowers made their way to the River Centre for a long table lunch, where they reminisced on their past successes and celebrated the future endeavours of the Aquinas rowing program.

The event was a celebration of their shared history, the friendships that had been formed on the river, and the sport that had brought them all together. The special guest for the lunch was Max Cunningham, a former Aquinas rower and Olympian from the 1960 Games in Rome.

The long table lunch provided a great opportunity to reconnect with old teammates and, for some, to meet younger generations of alumni who share a common bond of rowing. The lunch festivities had the old rowers lined up at a beautiful long table in the River Centre's boat bays between the eights over-looking the Canning River.

There was also the chance to tour the new facilities, which had left the old rowers in awe. The facilities offer world-class equipment and space, providing the next generation of rowers with everything they need to take their talents to new heights.

During the lunch, old rowers presented the College with some memorabilia from their time rowing for the school. Tim Meagher kindly donated the rudder from the boat he coxed in 1957 and The Hesford Family found a truly unique piece of Aquinas Rowing history, a rowing club flag believed to be from the 1940s.

As the long table lunch came to an end, many participants shared their acknowledgments of how the day had rekindled their love for their sport and the beautiful facility that they were privileged to be in. Being able to come back and visit, they said, had made them all feel like they were back within the rowing community that they had left behind.

The long table lunch had been a great success, connecting old teammates, coaches, and supporters who all shared a passion for Aquinas Rowing. The facility at the Aquinas River Centre offers a bright future for the program, ensuring that future generations of rowers will have access to the same quality of equipment, support, and opportunities that the alumni before them had. With events like the long table lunch, the history of Aquinas rowing lives on in the present and offers a stunning future to the years ahead.

It is events like these that remind us of the importance of community, and the power of sport to bring people together. The long lunch for old rowers from Aquinas College was a testament to the enduring bonds that are formed through sport, and a celebration of the shared values that underpin the sport of rowing. With the success of this year’s event, a future long table lunch is planned for next season in the lead up to the 2024 Head of The River.

By Nick Collins
Director of Rowing

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Alumni Monday, 29 May 2023

2023 Beverley & Districts (Combined) PSA Ex-Scholars Association Dinner

The 87th Beverley Dinner was celebrated at the Beverley Golf Club after an absence of 3 years due to the pandemic. The Beverley Dinner is an opportunity for alumni of the seven PSA schools to come together to renew friendships forged through a shared experience of attending one of the schools.

The Beverley Dinner is a long-held tradition of PSA schools, which commenced as a networking event for rural alumni to engage and connect as a community.

On a rotational basis, each of the schools undertakes to assist the association with the organizing of the event and in 2023 Aquinas College undertook that role. Working closely with Brendan McLean (Class of '87) who was the designated President of the Association, Nichole Rowson from the Development Office managed to re-establish the event with over 60 guests attending. Aquinas was well represented including Robert Henderson attending his first Beverley dinner in his role as Principal of Aquinas College and alumni from the Class of 1979.

One of the significant highlights of the night was the address provided by Paul Duffield who spoke of his journey from Darken to the AFL and back to the farm. Paul was College Captain in 2002 and went on to play 171 games for the Fremantle Football Club. The guests had a wonderful opportunity to seek an insight into his journey and the level of interest generated was reflected in the number of questions from the floor covering not only football but the agricultural sector. He was a wonderful ambassador for the College and it was great to hear his story.

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Arts Wednesday, 27 Apr 2022

West Australian PULSE Exhibition

Congratulations to Matthew Cox and Nathan Mahney (Class of 2021) whose artworks are on display in The West Australian PULSE exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA) until July.

Matthew and Nathan’s artworks are amongst 49 artworks by 2021 Year 12 graduates from 32 school across WA.

The artworks on display were chosen from over 300 entries, selected on merit, creativity and individuality. The artistic vision and talent on display is inspiring and provides an insight to the social concerns of our younger generation, a visit to the Art Gallery of WA for this exhibition is highly recommended.

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