1 September 2022

Principal Alan Le Brocque calls stumps on four-decade education career in Wagga and Griffith

| Oliver Jacques
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Alan Le Brocque in front of brick wall.

Alan Le Brocque will remain involved with Catholic education. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack has joined in tributes to longtime friend Alan Le Brocque, who has finished his tenure as principal of Griffith’s Marian Catholic College, calling stumps on an illustrious 41-year career in the Riverina Catholic school system.

“He had a vision for country education … he was someone who always wanted each and every student to reach their full potential,” Mr McCormack said.

Mr Le Brocque sat down with Region to reflect on why he chose the Riverina and Catholic system, his own super school merger experience, battling a plague of crickets, the secret to Marian’s success and the one thing he’d love to change about education.

It was in 1975 that a boy from Western Sydney arrived at the Wagga train station to study education at the Riverina College of Advanced Education.

“I’d never in my life been further west than Goulburn … but I instantly fell in love with the Riverina,” Mr Le Brocque said. “I couldn’t believe there were palm trees in the street.”

While much is written about the cost of university nowadays, he studied in a fortunate era. The Whitlam Government had just made university free, and Mr Le Brocque scored a bonded scholarship that covered his accommodation and living expenses.

“At the end of the week I’d have about $2 left for a few beers … the bonded scholarship meant I had to go wherever they sent me after I finished study,” he said.

READ ALSO An open invitation to explore Wagga’s education history

His career commenced with teaching geography at a public school in Woy Woy, where he quickly gained a reputation for innovation.

“I tried to take kids out of the classroom as much as possible, to look at the river or get them to use a map,” he said.

Mr Le Brocque returned to Wagga in 1981, where he soon taught at Mount Erin Catholic School and excelled at rugby and cricket on weekends.

“I loved the connectedness and sense of community of the Catholic school system, it is not as bureaucratic … in the state system decisions are made a long way from the school.”

Farewell powerpoint show for Alan Le Brocque

Farewell assembly. Photo: Marian Catholic College Facebook page.

After rising to assistant principal level in 1998, Mr Le Brocque soon experienced a phenomenon that has caused so much controversy in present day Griffith – a high school merger. Mount Erin joined with two other schools to become Kildare Catholic College, where Mr Le Brocque became the foundation principal.

“I knew that when they merged [Griffith and Wade] there’d be challenges … when you combine two cultures it’s very hard work. [At Mount Erin] there was a lot of grieving and loss of identity.”

In 2008, he moved to Griffith to take over as principal of Marian Catholic College. During his tenure, enrolments increased by more than 250 as the school’s infrastructure and facilities expanded. He was also inundated with some unwanted visitors during the floods of 2012.

“We had like a million crickets crawling up our walls. It was like Lord of the Rings. I had no idea how to stop them, they were just coming out of the earth.”

But the outgoing principal said the one thing that made Marian successful was its “inclusivity”.

Pacific Island student holds a farewell gift.

Pacific Islander students farewell their principal. Photo: Marian Catholic College Facebook page.

“We see the diversity of cultures as our great strength,” he said. “There are about 35 nationalities at our school … Harmony Day is our biggest day.”

Imreet Singh, Marian’s 2021 school captain and a practicing Sikh, said “Mr Le Brocque ensured the school taught in a way that was inclusive to all faiths … he never allowed for differences in race, culture or religion to come between students”.

Another former captain, Zarah Sully, praised Mr Le Brocque for his “focus on mental health and introducing student well-being programs at the school”.

There is, however, one thing about the education system the outgoing principal would like to change.

“People have no idea how hard teachers work. [If I could change the system] I’d ease the demands of the curriculum … we need more time for well-being and reflection.”

READ ALSO Griffith genealogists’ four decades of uncovering deep family secrets

Mr Le Brocque will now have a lot more time for himself. He’ll be moving back to Sydney with wife Kate, where he plans to play golf, get better at the guitar and watch lots of live rugby and cricket.

His former cricket teammate Michael McCormack reckons he could now resume his career in the sport.

“I have no doubt if Alan were to pick up the six stitcher today, he’d swing it, he’d seam it and take lots of wickets,” he said.

But the gifted all-rounder instead plans to remain connected to education, through the Marist Association [a Catholic institute of brothers].

“I’d love to mentor principals and teachers,” he said.

Given his pedigree, they’ll be no shortage of willing proteges.

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Wayne Carter9:28 pm 16 Feb 24

Not only is Brocky a very good sportsman & principal he’s a doting family man & a special human being. If the Tigers could come good with premiership he’d be cherry ripe. BTW he loves a game of golf & is a work in progress. All the best mate as you’ve been an asset wherever you’ve taught.

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