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Q&A with Herna Conradie, committed Christian, teacher, mother and School Council Chair

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Herna Conradie and find out about her faith journey, her contribution as a School Council Chair, why the Springboks make her nostalgic and what she would write on a billboard

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Hermina (‘Herna’) Conradie was born in the rural town of Kroonstad in South Africa and was raised on a farm nearby. Herna’s father was a chartered accountant who instilled in her a love of accountancy and mathematics. Her teacher mother, a very soft and gentle soul who was much loved by the students and staff she worked with, inspired Herna to become a teacher. Influenced by the examples of both her parents, Herna was torn between commerce and education, and in the end found a way to cover both careers.

Herna serves as the School Council Chair at St Luke’s Anglican School in Bundaberg. Herna encourages local Anglicans to discern whether they are called to serve on ACSQ Councils, Boards and Commissions: “People generally shy away from taking on positions like these just because they think they don’t know enough, or don’t have experience in such a role yet, but people underestimate the contributions they can make as a result of their own experience.” Read Herna’s story and find out how to express interest in serving on ACSQ Councils, Boards and Commissions.

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?

We immigrated from South Africa in April 2004 and enrolled three of our daughters in St Luke’s Anglican School in Bundaberg. My involvement with the Anglican Church started through the school during this time. I was appointed as a member of the School Council at the start of 2014 and as Chair in July 2015 and was reappointed three years later. My term is due to conclude at the end of June in 2020.

You are currently serving on the St Luke’s Anglican School Council – what does this role involve?

St Luke’s is a Diocesan-owned School, with the Diocesan Council serving as the school’s governing body. The Diocesan Council delegates certain governance functions to the St Luke’s Anglican School’s Council via the School’s Constitution and Canons of the Diocese. The School Council is the body responsible for overseeing the future planning and development of the school and ensures that policies and procedures, as well as the ethos of the Anglican Church of Southern Queensland, are maintained. The School Council also oversees the financial viability of the school and ensures the highest quality of education is enabled through the best possible facilities and teaching staff.

Embedded in our curriculum is educating about knowing God and involving students in our local parish to learn how to serve less fortunate communities through the Dorcas Soup Kitchen, as well as a regular sausage sizzle to help rough sleepers. We hope that this will enable new disciples of Christ who will go out and impact the world generously once they leave our school.

What projects and activities are you currently working on in this role?

We completed our new strategic priorities at the end of 2018 and this year we have been working on the School’s Masterplan, focussing on the next 20 to 25 years. This is a very exciting period, as we are planning to improve our educational facilities to better develop the gifts students have been provided by God to become who God wants them to be.

What have been the highlights of this your role so far?

One of the highlights of my time serving as Chair was when we appointed our new principal, Mr Craig Merritt, whom we were confident would build on the work of the previous principals to achieve the strategic goals that we have set as a School Council. Witnessing and celebrating the successes as a result of all the hard work of our students and staff certainly are very rewarding. Recently, St Luke’s was Bundaberg’s top performer in NAPLAN, for both primary and high school. And, two of the four teams who participated in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge ended up in first and second place and these students have now qualified for the final round of the international challenge held at NASA in 2020. Our students do very well once they leave school, and that is something to be very proud of.

What advice do you have for people who are thinking about volunteering on an Anglican School Council?

I would say what I always say to my students: “Say yes and work out how to do it later!” People generally shy away from taking on positions like these just because they think they don’t know enough, or don’t have experience in such a role yet, but people underestimate the contributions they can make as a result of their own experience. If a person is passionate about education, it will be a great opportunity to get involved as it is an amazing chance to be a part of a dynamic group of strategic thinkers who bring different skills to the table. There are multiple opportunities on offer to participate in professional development to enhance the understanding of independent schools, as well as growing your strategic skills. It is a great opportunity to give back to your community and God!

“Long-serving staff at St Luke’s were recognised for their outstanding service during our recent Foundation Day Celebrations – it warms my heart to be amongst passionate educators who care about the centre of God’s Kingdom, His children”

What are your plans and goals for the next 12 months?

We are very excited about the first project in our Masterplan, the expansion and refurbishment of our Early Learning Centre, which we hope to construct in 2020. Our first group of Year 12 students will be graduating under the new ATAR and QCE system and we keep a close eye on the progress of our seniors and hope that they will do very well.

Can you tell us a little about your personal faith journey?

My grandparents, as well as my parents, played a significant role in my journey as a Christian and I was called to serve God from the age of five. I grew up with the vision that my family and I would all serve the Lord. I have been so fortunate that God has provided me with a husband who also serves Him, and we that could raise our children with a strong faith to also serve the Lord.

“God has blessed us with five beautiful daughters, Elaine, Leandre, Suzanne, Christi and Marzel, who are pictured here with my husband Andre and me”

How does your faith inspire you and shape your outlook, life choices and character?

I do have a very strong faith and I always pray for guidance in everything I do. I believe that God has placed each one of us on this earth for a purpose and we must ask Him to help us to find that purpose. With God’s help and guidance, I always try to be fair and consistent in everything I do. I can make difficult decisions and I try to make the ‘right’ decision and not the ‘easy’ decision to avoid confrontation.

What is your favourite scripture and why?

Matthew 18.4: “ ‘Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ ”

The Good News: In order to have eternal life with God, we must think like children — share our resources and possessions and get rid of hatred and hubris. If we become humble, happy, and full of love, then we will all become one with the Lord. This certainly is one of my favourite scriptures because kids do not complicate life, they just live it the way it is, loving and forgiving unconditionally.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

I spent significant amounts of time with my late grandmother on my father’s side and she taught me how to interpret and understand the deeper meanings of the stories in the Bible and apply it to the way we lead our daily lives. She taught me to be humble and live with gratitude and appreciation of the gifts we receive so unconditionally from God. She certainly modelled a way in which God was always part of her life.

What are the primary strengths of the Church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?

In my opinion, the primary strength of the Anglican Church rests on the three pillars of Faith, Reason and Tradition. These strengths come to fruition is in its congregations, its people who serve their communities in a variety of ways. They are loving, accepting and give unconditionally to those who are without the basics, as well as during times of distress and disasters. They serve with faith and love, bringing hope to communities. The Church is a safe place and people will often turn to the church in times of uncertainty and hurt.

What is the kindest gesture you have ever received or witnessed?

One day when I filled my car up with fuel, my daughter sat in the car and saw a man who was homeless sitting behind a large post, just on the other side of the service station. It was a very hot day in Bundaberg and when I took my purse to pay for the fuel, she asked me to buy a bottle of cold water for the man. I did and gave her the bottle to give to him. At first, she did not want to because she did not know what to say to the man. Eventually she got out of the car and gave the man the cold water and he was so grateful. When she got back in the car, she could not stop crying…she experienced the happiness of giving. That, to me, was a precious moment.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

My parents instilled in us the value of education, as that is the one thing that cannot be taken away from a person. They also taught me that I was never to think that I am better than anyone else. What we have is a gift through the mercy and grace of God and we must be grateful and use our gifts to the glory of God and to make this world a better place. I have always tried to implement this in my life and being on the School Council gives me the chance to make a positive contribution to the education of our scholars.

Working with my students at Central Queensland University, who are being given a second chance in life, is another example of an amazing opportunity for me to give back and develop the gifts of others.

“I absolutely love teaching and spending time with my students in the STEPS course at CQ University Australia in Bundaberg”

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

I love to spend time with my family, reading, listening to music, playing the piano, having a woodfire BBQ and going for long walks. We love watching movies as a family and eating popcorn! My husband and I talk a lot, discussing materials which we have read, or experiences we have had. We love to philosophise and to have deep discussions about life in general and a variety of philosophies.

“We love a good cup of coffee and spending time with friends and family – my husband and I are pictured with our very special friends Matt and Hilda Kleynhans, who recently immigrated from South Africa”

What’s your best childhood memory?

It is difficult to think about the best one, as I have many. After visiting my grandparents on their farm during school holidays, my grandmother would always stop at the corner shop to buy me some Turkish Delight chocolates to take home. We were poor and getting chocolates was a huge spoil.

If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

I believe that music is an amazing outlet for our emotions and if I am home at the time, I would go to the piano and just play what comes into my mind. If I am not at home, I would play some of my favourite and ‘happy’ YouTube music videos and that normally makes me feel better. I always discuss it with my husband when he gets home to try and get perspective on a situation. He certainly is a very wise man and I always value his perspective.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

One morning (after a late-night working) I was talking to my students about making sure that they do rest between study sessions and I told them to get away from a screen to rest their eyes and minds. As an example, I told them they should go outside to get some fresh air and take their “walks for a dog”…you can imagine the reaction!

What makes you nostalgic and why?

Watching a rugby game like the recent Springboks World Cup win. It really touches my heart, as it brings about a message of hope to people in South Africa! At times like this, I know how the whole nation comes together…but only for a little moment before all gets back to reality.

What day would you like to re-live and why?

My wedding day! That was the most amazing day of my life…the man of my dreams and I started our amazing life together.

If you could have a billboard with any text on it, what would it say and why?

“You have time!!” People can interpret this in any way they wish, and it could give them a message at a time where they are making an excuse not to do something they really need to do. We live in a world where the best excuse is that there is not enough time, but my father always told me that it is the poorest excuse anyone can have because people will make time for things that are important enough to them.

General Manager Tim Reid is establishing a database of local Anglicans who would like to be considered for appointment to ACSQ Boards, Commissions and School Councils. Expertise in governance, financial management, property/facilities management, workforce planning, IT/digital economy, marketing/communications and legal will be highly regarded. If you are interested in contributing, please complete this online form or call Lisa Sargeant on (07) 3835 2253.



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