Inner city haven

Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC) Catholic Primary School, Waterloo is an oasis amid a booming inner city suburb.

With only 92 students, seven classes and 12 teachers, the school aims to be a green haven with a strong focus on personlising learning.

Principal Margaret Holles is in her fourth year at the school, after nine years as assistant principal at St Vincent’s Catholic Primary School, Ashfield.

She found OLMC culturally rich, warm, and welcoming when she first arrived.

The school has a low socioeconomic demographic, but Margaret said we “don’t define ourselves by labels”.

“We have high expectations, we’re aspirational. We are creating an environment where there is greater diversity both culturally and socio-economically, and where people, regardless of their background, can learn from each other and grow with each other. We believe children build character and resilience by growing and learning together.”

The school has just under 50 per cent First Nations population, and Margaret said that has slowly changed over the years, with a more diverse population joining the school. The First Nations students are very proud of their cultural identity, and this is nurtured along with a welcoming of new cultures.

The school is situated next to Waterloo Park, and Margaret said one of her first tasks was improving the physical environment.

“We have beautiful old trees around us and by removing all the bars from the windows, we’ve brought that greenery into the classrooms. We’ve worked to create an aesthetically pleasing environment for our children. It’s like an inner-city haven – that’s what one of our parents called it.

“We have large playgrounds for the area and a large garden for growing vegetables.”

Margaret said the small team at the school is an outstanding group of teachers and support staff who are close-knit and supportive of each other. They are committed to providing support and challenge for each student.

A long-time IEU member, Margaret said the perspective of the union is important to her.

“I respect it as a principal. And the staff know that. I try to be transparent in my decision making and involve the staff in conversations that impact on them or their students. So, I guess it just comes from a place of mutual respect.”