15 September 2022

Isabella Violi designed flag to be unveiled at St Patrick's centenary celebrations

| Oliver Jacques
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Isabella Violi holds centenary poster

Isabella Violi is excited her design was chosen. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A centenary flag designed by eight-year-old Isabella Violi will be unveiled for the first time at the St Patrick’s Primary School Griffith 100th year celebrations on Friday 16 September.

“They started a competition for all students to design the flag last year. I thought a year 6 student would win it, but I decided to give it a try, even though I was only in year 2,” Isabella said.

“I was so shocked and excited when I heard my name at the school assembly when they told us the winner.”

Isabella revealed the secret to her winning entry.

“I looked at the old days photos; we used to have different uniforms but we had the same tie. So I put that tie in my drawing.”

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Isabella, her dad John Violi and principal Michael Morrell will raise the new flag, which no outsider has yet seen, as part of a day packed with nostalgia and surprises.

Teacher’s aide Alissa Woodhouse, who is helping organise the event, said a new centenary wall and centenary book will also be revealed.

“There’s going to be lots of surprises,” she said. “People are going to see photos they’ve never seen before … our photos were so well archived and labelled year by year.”

The day will kick off with an open-air mass celebrated by Bishop Mark Edwards at 10 am, followed by the flag raising and opening of the centenary wall and garden. The afternoon events will feature historically designed open classrooms, market stalls, a sausage sizzle, presentations and a drone photo of all students.

It was in 1920 that Father O’Dea, foundation parish priest of Griffith’s Sacred Heart Church, invited the Sisters of Mercy from Albury to open Griffith’s first Catholic school. It started with co-ed learning in 1921, then became an all girls school in 1950 when the Marist Brothers started St Brendan’s School in the same year. The schools were re-united as a co-ed learning facility in 1974.

Sisters of Mercy in Griffith in 1921

Welcoming lunch for the Sisters of Mercy in 1921. Photo: Supplied.

The school boasts a number of famous alumni, including ex-rugby league star Simon Bonetti, former education minister Adrian Piccoli and fashion designer Jill Fitzsimon.

“Academically, we’ve had a lot of students who’ve excelled at university … we also picked up lots of trophies at the Leeton Eisteddfod, and we’ve done well at public speaking,” former principal and student Sandra Campbell said.

The school was one of the only places to remain open during the major floods that inundated Griffith in 1959.

“My mother forced me to attend,” Ms Campbell said.

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She said a lot had changed since she was a student.

“Back then, a student wouldn’t dare tell their parents if they got in trouble,” she said. “But now there is a lot more collaboration between teachers and parents.

“Students now have all types of resources at their disposal. They carry an encyclopedia in their pockets.”

The centenary event was originally scheduled for 2021, but was scuppered by COVID-19. All are welcome to join staff and students in celebrating the school’s history on Friday 16 September 2022. Further details can be found on the St Patrick’s Primary School Griffith Facebook page.

While the school reflects on its proud history, Isabella Violi has her future mapped out.

“I’m going to be a doctor because I want to help sick people have a long life,” she said.

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