Q&A with the Acting Vice Warden of St John’s College, committed educator, father, runner and St Paul’s, East Brisbane parishioner, Ed Swanwick
Meet Ed Swanwick and find out about his St John’s College within the University of Queensland role, his personal faith journey, the kindest gesture he has ever witnessed, how his faith shapes his outlook, where he does his best thinking and which person of faith inspires him and why
Ed Swanwick is a dedicated educator, cradle Anglican, husband and father who recently returned with his family from the UK due to COVID-19.
Where do you currently live and where do you worship?
Having recently returned from the UK, I am currently living on campus at St John’s College, but will move back towards East Brisbane when my contract ends. I worship at St Paul’s, East Brisbane, where my dad has been a parishioner for many years.
How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?
I was baptised into the Anglican Church as an infant when my family were living in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. I was confirmed at St Luke’s, Ekibin when I was 17 and have worked in a number of Church schools throughout my career, including three Church of England schools – Bedford School, Abingdon School and Clifton College.
What is your current role and what does your role involve?
As the Acting Vice Warden of St John’s College, I work closely with the Warden Rose Alwyn in leading the day-to-day operations of the College, devising policies, refining our operating systems and providing pastoral support to the students. On a more strategic level, I am assisting the Warden in shaping and progressing the culture at St John’s to ensure it remains true to our values, which are inspired by our Anglican heritage.
What projects and activities are you currently working on?
I am currently leading student recruitment, ensuring that St John’s continues to attract the best and brightest young adults. Part of this involves me linking up with a wide range of schools, including Queensland’s impressive Anglican schools. The insight I’m gaining into the tertiary world and the students’ transition from school to university will prove invaluable when I eventually move back into schools.
What have been the highlights of your current role so far?
Our recent Academic and Professional Dinner was an amazing occasion celebrating the success of our students. As well as enjoying the company of various members of our Diocesan community, including Bishop John Roundhill, ACSQ General Manager Tim Reid and artist Kerry Holland, we were also able to spend time chatting with the likes of Li Cunxin AO (aka, ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’, who is the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet), UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AO and former Australian of the Year and co-developer of the HPV vaccine Professor Ian Frazer AC.
What have been the key challenges of your roles so far and how have you worked through these?
Adjusting to working with young adults instead of school students has not always been straightforward. St John’s students are at a unique point in their lives where they are no longer adolescents, but are not yet professionals. They want and deserve to be treated like adults, but at times they still need guidance and support in navigating a path that allows them to have fun whilst not compromising their values.
What are your plans and goals for the next 12 months?
My role at St John’s is a fixed-term post. I made the sudden decision to bring my family home from the UK late last year due to the spread of COVID-19. Fortuitously, St John’s was looking for an experienced educational leader to act as Vice Warden whilst they waited for their new appointment to be able to commence in the post. It’s been an amazing experience, but my heart lies in school leadership, so I will be looking for opportunities to lead an independent school in South East Queensland as my next move.
Can you tell us a little about your personal faith journey?
I was born into an Anglican family, but waited until I was 17 to be confirmed as I was then old enough to properly understand the commitment I was making. I have continued to be guided by Christian principles throughout my life, and since becoming a father this has become even more important to me.
How does your faith inspire you and shape your outlook, life choices and character?
My Christian faith has instilled in me a strong belief in the importance of social justice. I am acutely aware of my privileged position in this world and try to live my life in such a manner that will help to address some of the inequalities in the world.
What is your favourite scripture verse or prayer and why?
1 Corinthians 16.13-14: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
For me, this verse is a constant reminder that faith, courage, strength and love are all interdependent.
What person of faith inspires you the most and why?
My father. Despite his propensity for pessimism and frustration (most evident when he plays golf), he is a man of integrity, with strong morals and principles. I hope to be able to pass some of that on to my own children in the same way he has done for me.
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?
Our progressive, inclusive approach to Christianity is one of our major strengths. It enables us to relate to and understand the wider Australian community, which leads to mutual empathy.
What are the primary challenges currently encountered by the Church and what is the best way to overcome these for the benefit of our communities?
Internal theological disagreements about contemporary social issues are a significant challenge. Whilst there are no simple solutions, it is important to remember that we are all made in God’s eye, we are all equal and worthy of the same dignity and respect and it is God’s place alone to pass judgement.
What is the kindest gesture you have ever received or witnessed?
When my daughter was three years old she offered her most prized possession (her bunny, Smudgie) to a little friend who was upset, as she thought it might cheer him up.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?
Avoid being judgemental; you never know what other people are going through. Several people have offered me this advice in my lifetime, most notably my mother who still reminds of this advice from time to time.
What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?
With three young children, I don’t get a great deal of free time!
Where do you do your best thinking?
What’s your best childhood memory?
Family holidays camping on Moreton and Fraser Islands.
What makes you nostalgic and why?
Living in Brisbane again. After more than 20 years living elsewhere, it’s great to be back.
What day would you like to re-live and why?
My wedding day. It was such a great day but if I could re-live it, I would relinquish control of proceedings to others so I could enjoy more time with my wife.
What’s your unanswerable question – the question you are always asking yourself?
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