In Their Shoes

A Drama Immersion was created for the Year 7 Alternative Program in Term 1 this year. As 2021 commemorates the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Salesians in Glenorchy, Tasmania, it is an opportune time to give our Year 9 students the experience of delving into founding stories of our College, and exploring the story of two members of the original child migrants sent from England in the early 1950s.

Peter ‘Jackie’ Allsopp was 9 and David Despard was 10 when they arrived at ‘Boy’s Town’, which eventually became Dominic College. The performance was constructed using verbatim accounts written by Peter and David. Over four performances, Year 9 students engaged with the experiences of the child migrants in England, on the journey to Australia and in the early days of Boy’s Town. The aim of the immersion was to have our students, through interactive drama, explore what it was like to leave the country where you were born, travel for two months on a ship without any family and begin life in a new country.

The ‘story’ was guided by Mr O’Brien and Mrs Healy with the aid of several students who became impromptu narrators, performers and brought the words of Peter and David to life. At times, students improvised moments depicting life in an orphanage – with David being taught to box by a Nun, and a Mother Superior telling the boys that ‘in Australia, you will be able to ride kangaroos to school’. At other times, the audience created freeze frame depictions of what the boys got up to on the boat and improvised anecdotes such as tricks played on teachers and raiding local orchards for fruit.

The drama culminated with the entire audience recreating an excursion to kunanyi, a place regularly visited by the boys. After becoming lost, search parties were sent out to find them, and their dramatic rescue, complete with pictures in the Mercury, were recreated. The performance ended with the reading of the names of the original thirty-nine boys sent to Boy’s Town. As each student left the Oratory, they swapped their facsimile of a 5 shilling note for a bag of boiled lollies, (the boys had a weekly 5-shilling allowance to buy sweets on the ship) which ‘Jackie’ assured us, was fantastic.

Mr Mike O’Brien - Director of Creative Arts K-10