Council for Australian Catholic Women Award recipient

This article was written by Donella Johnston in July 2015.

On Wednesday 20 May Samantha Bartley received the 2015 Council for Australian Catholic Women Prize. This award is for a female student at the Canberra campus of the Australian Catholic University who has completed an undergraduate or postgraduate course and who is graduating and has demonstrated a high level of understanding of and insight into the contemporary role of women in the church.The award specifications can be viewed here.

Earlier this month I met up with Samantha and asked her about her work, her life, her spiritual journey and what she thought about being a young Catholic woman in the Church today.

Last year Samantha completed a Bachelor of Education (Primary and Early Childhood) at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) in Canberra and began her teaching career this year.

Samantha teaches Kindergarten at Holy Spirit Primary School in Canberra. She has a class of 21 students and teaches all of the Key Learning Areas including Religion.

In her down time Samantha loves sport, in particular playing netball. She also enjoys spending time with friends and family, and music and reading.

Educated at Catholic primary schools, a Catholic secondary school and a Catholic university, Samantha believes her Catholic education has helped shape her values, life choices and vocation as a teacher. She also has an aunt and uncle who are both teachers and are very passionate about their work.

Samantha chose ACU to complete her tertiary education because it was a smaller campus and she liked the culture and values of the institution.  She also had an older cousin who attended ACU. Samantha developed positive relationships with her lecturers and knows that she can go to them now as a teacher and ask for any advice she might need.

Samantha says her passion is teaching and helping students to grow in all areas of their life and she enjoys seeing them learn new skills.  Her faith has led her to teach in the Catholic sector and she is passionate about imparting her Catholic values onto her students. She enjoys teaching students to be “great people like Jesus and having Jesus as their role model.” She says teaching values such as how to be “understanding, caring and compassionate” is an intrinsic part of the curriculum. Samantha believes teaching the message of the Gospels really helps back up values such as these; “When you go into a Catholic school you can really feel these values”, she says.

Samantha actively teaches these values as does the rest of the school as part of a whole school focus. For example, at her school the current focus theme is “We are one community in God’s love”. Samantha and her colleagues are teaching the students that “to have friends, you have to be a friend”, using Jesus as an example of someone who was a friend to others.

There are a number of women who have inspired Samantha in her faith journey, including her current Religious Education Coordinator, her grandmother and St Mary MacKillop. The REC at her school inspires Samantha because she is “passionate and a great role model for living out her faith”.

Samantha’s grandmother also played an important part in her life; “She was very strong in her faith and this led her to be the kind and considerate person that she was.” Samantha’s grandmother was a psychiatrist and the first woman to serve on the Mental Health Tribunal.

A third role model is Mary MacKillop “for always pursuing what she believed in even when faced with opposition. She was always forgiving those who wronged her.”

I was curious to know how Samantha felt about being a young woman in the Church today. She pointed out the many gifts women bring to the Church; “They bring passion and a different point of view. Women are nurturing and great listeners.”

Samantha says she is proud to be a woman in the Church but there also needs to be growth in this area. In particular she would like to see more women role models leading in a more active role in the ministry of the Church; “I feel as though the Church is moving forward. However there can be improvements. If the strong women figures continue their work in the Church, the Church will continue to move forward.”

It was a delight to meet with Samantha and hear about her work as a teacher of young people. Her enthusiasm for values-based teaching and the care and concern she feels for her young charges shone through in the way she spoke about her vocation. I left our meeting feeling encouraged and hopeful that the next generation of young Catholics have role models as positive as this young woman who is just one of the thousands of women who work at the coal face of education in the Catholic Church in Australia today.

Donella Johnston

Director, National Office for the Participation of Women

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

20 July 2015