St Dominic's Day


Today we celebrated the feast of St Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers.

As part of our celebration, we were joined by Class of 1992 Head Prefect, Dharmesh Raman, who gave the anuual St Dominic's Day address. Dharmesh's inspirational words are reproduced below and available to hear on Soundcloud.

Let me begin by thanking Mr Cobiac and Mr Ruggiero for asking me to speak to you all today. Before I start there is something I have to do, for all the students that don’t know, Mr Ruggiero’s favourite story of my time here as head prefect is the one of me taking off my head prefects tie and announcing to the year 12 students that at that moment I was speaking to them as one of them rather than as a prefect. So it’s only appropriate that I do the same today and speak to you as a fellow student. I must admit the story does make me cringe as it should – what was I thinking!!! Yet here I am doing it again. Obviously, I didn’t learn from that lesson, but there are some things that Blackfriars did teach me. I can summarise it in four words - fortune, friendship, fundamentals and faith.

The word fortune has two meanings – one is a large amount of money and assets, the other is chance or luck as a force that affects human affairs. Fortune for me falls into the second category. I am fortunate that my parents worked incredibly hard to send me here. I am fortunate that I met my lifelong friends here. I am fortunate that this school gave me a thirst for knowledge. I am fortunate that this thirst has brought me to a place where I now fully understand that it’s the fundamentals in life that bring me the most joy and finally I am fortunate that Blackfriars provided me with the foundations to build everything on – my faith in God. All of which I wouldn’t trade in for any amount of money or assets!!!

It certainly hasn’t been an easy journey, but one that I have learnt a lot from. A year after I left high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and felt very disillusioned because by all estimates I had to know – after all I was head prefect. At the same time, I got a casual job at Peter Shearer Menswear, which I absolutely loved but was terrible at – I was too shy and lacked confidence – so much so one of the directors, Tony Gilligan, gave me an ultimatum – shape up or be gone in a month’s time.

My life was not panning out the way I had imagined, in Business school they call it the Newtonian Paradigm – cause and effect – I do this therefore this must now happen – just because I was head prefect and had good grades didn’t mean my life was going to be planned out perfectly. In fact, it was the total opposite – I dropped out of Uni and faked it till I made it at Shearer’s. The world is full of complexity and we all need the ability to recognise the opportunities that present themselves. It took me 10 years, a severe illness and the kindness of Tony Gilligan to turn my life around. During these 10 years it was my friends like Mr Ruggiero that kept me going.

My friends really understood me because they were going through exactly what I was going through – I mean it was uncanny, when I had long hair they had long hair (some wish they still had the long hair), when my clothes started shrinking in the wardrobe, so did theirs, when I started getting grey hair so did theirs, even when some started losing all their hair so did some of the others (this is where Mr Ruggiero and I stood out from the crowd). The fact is this, in life we all go through pretty the much the same things – sometimes these things can bring us immense joy or immense sadness – but the meaning of these events is strengthened by sharing it with the people you love the most and for me having seven best friends from high school right next to me through this entire journey has made all of these events special for many different reasons. It is true that Blackfriars is one of the few schools that embrace this culture. In the 24 years I have worked at Shearers I have come across many men from many other schools but it’s the Blacks boys that tend to have lifelong friendships – we are the ones that have our high school mates as groomsmen and best men at our weddings – and the number of old scholars that I speak to that still have strong friendships with their high school friends is incredible. Cherish this because it is very special and when you look back at all the things you have done in your life, keeping your high school friends is one that will be high on your list of achievements. Keeping your high school friends also keeps you young, just ask our wives – they reckon we behave like children when we get together –so it must be a good thing!!!

Keeping my friends from high school has also kept me on a straight and narrow path. They often remind me and vice versa that life is about keeping to the fundamentals – doing what is good and fighting a good fight. Make no mistake, when you leave this place you will be facing many challenges. These challenges will come in many forms all designed to test you as a person. Just remember this, technology or money can never replace relationships. Relationships are built on honesty, trust, humility and hard work. I remind my staff that our business is not based on selling clothes but rather the relationships we build with each other, our suppliers and our customers. Keeping your high school friends for 30 years is a good barometer for learning how to build strong relationships. In fact, as you move up the ranks of your chosen professions you will realise that leadership comes from emotional intelligence. One criteria for sitting on the boards of companies is not only your technical ability but also your ability to understand, communicate and build relationships with other people using this emotional intelligence. It takes emotional intelligence to know how to get the best out of people by tapping into their intrinsic motivations and understanding that everyone brings their own experiences and attitudes to the task at hand. It still amazes me that everyone in business school gets taught the same theory but the practice can vary so wildly. Why is it that good people sitting on boards can make such poor decisions (even criminal ones for that matter)!!! It takes courage to take the right course of action. Courage is being compassionate towards others. Compassion is empathy in action. Empathy comes from putting yourself in the shoes of others. How do you learn to do this? It is simple – Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself. To all of you this may be words that were spoken 2000 odd years ago, but let me assure you that they are as relevant today as they were back then. Some of the most challenging work I did throughout my Masters in Business Administration was around self-reflection, being authentic, making ethical decisions and servant leadership. I remember distinctly one afternoon talking to Mr Ruggiero about my learnings in the course and his response was – isn’t it amazing, all the things that are required from you as a business leader, Jesus already laid out in the bible. It’s just the words we use today are different. The act is still the same.

For a long time I struggled to love myself, and it caused me a lot of difficulty loving other people, let alone putting myself in their shoes. The change came for me when I started really looking after myself - physically, mentally and spiritually. As you can see with this fine physic, I really struggle with the physical component. I try, but I fail more than I succeed – but I keep trying. I have also heard from Mr Ruggiero that the school has introduced daily meditations – this I believe is one of the best things you could do for yourselves – in fact a significant component of my MBA consisted of meditating and recognising the connection between my mental state and my physical state. A motto of the Dominican order is “to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation”. The Dominican tradition is to contemplate to reach the truth. Meditation allows me to contemplate and reach the truth. It allows me to recognise my true feelings based on my actions and the actions of others. I can then recognise how these feelings have manifested itself in my physical state. Once I’ve recognised these components I can instantly let it go by bringing empathy to myself and those around me – empathy is the fruits of my contemplation. Empathy towards myself gave me the confidence that I lacked to complete my MBA, my Company Directors course and become Managing Director of Peter Shearer Menswear. This was only the first step; the second step is to love my neighbours like I learnt to love myself. Empathy towards others. Who are my neighbours, well its everyone, but on a day to day basis it’s my family, friends and work colleagues. We do everything at Shearers to provide our staff with work life integration, we don’t like using the word balance because that suggests that work life and home life are on opposite ends of the scale constantly competing with each other. As directors of the business we make it our duty to serve our employees. We constantly strive to provide a positive work environment for people to thrive – negativity only serves one purpose – to suck the energy out of people. Our mission is twofold – to care about each other and to care about our customers. My aim is to instil this behaviour in every stakeholder of our business because it’s one way that I can live my faith – to love my neighbours as myself. The third step is to love God with all my being. Why? It’s his teachings that guide my business decisions. What I learnt in business school was what I learnt here 25 years ago – it just took me that long to make the connections and build the courage. You will learn that throughout your careers, the toughest decisions will be based around people and your courage will come from doing what’s right for the people around you.

In summary, I was fortunate to go to Blackfriars as a student, it gave me lifelong friendships that taught me the single most important lesson in life – how to build relationships. I have learnt that the relationships we have with ourselves and others are built on fundamentals of contemplation and truth that are driven by our faith in God. I’ll leave you with my fifth “F”, have fun. A sense of fun will allow you to take away learnings from every situation. It costs nothing to smile and its worth more than its weight in gold.

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Blackfriars Priory School celebrated St Dominic’s Day on Thursday 3 August, although the official date to celebrate the feast of St Dominic in the Church calendar is Tuesday, 8 August. The reason for our change of date was a clash with the feast day of our first Australian Saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, also celebrated on Tuesday 8 August.

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