MOST students would race out the door when they finish Year 12, but Presentation Sister Elvera Sesta decided to make the classroom her home.
Sr Sesta has spent the majority of her adult life teaching at the same school she attended as a child, St Rita’s College, Clayfield.
Her legacy at St Rita’s College began in 1947 when she was an 8-year-old boarding school student.
“My dad had died in the beginning of 1947, and then my mother shortly after that remarried,” Sr Sesta said.
“Initially I’m of Greek decent and when she remarried she married an Italian – they thought it would be better if I was in boarding school so I was sent here in 1947.”
In 1960 she entered the convent for the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – something her parent’s initially “weren’t fussed on” – and began teaching chemistry and biology at her alma mater.
She was appointed principal of the College for 20 years between 1989 and 2008, making her the longest serving principal at the school.
After a short time away from teaching she returned to the classroom in 2010 as a religion teacher, a job she is still doing now.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Sr Sesta said.
“I’ve given my whole life to education, really.
“I think the good thing about teaching is being able to impart knowledge, because that’s the fabric you work with, and then once they get the knowledge, being able to do something with it and seeing the light go on in the head.
“And that I think is encouraging.”
Though she hasn’t been looking for accolades, Sr Sesta’s hard work in educating thousands of young women has not been gone unnoticed.
Today Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove announced Sr Sesta as one of 891 Australians and over 30 Catholics in the Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honours List.
“It’s a great honour but then I feel everyone in Sr Rita’s works together,” Sr Sesta said.
“We all work together to achieve our result; it’s not just me.”
Each year the Queen’s Birthday Honours List recognises a diverse range of contributions and service across all fields, including professional endeavours, community work, Australia’s Defence Force and Emergency Services.
Around 33 people who have contributed to the Church community have been included in the 2017 list, including at least four from Queensland and two religious Sisters.
Joining Sr Elvera on the list is Mercy Sister Betty Schonfeldt of South Australia, who was awarded for her service to social welfare in Adelaide.
Australian Catholic Youth Festival workshop volunteer and disability advocate Daniel Giles, who was diagnosed with autism as a child, also received an award of the Medal of Australia.
Goulburn Catholics Christine and Ian Lofts, who have been foster carers for 380 children, adoptive five, were also honoured in today’s list.
Full list of Catholics on the Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honours Lists:
COMPANION (AC) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION
Julian McMahon of Melbourne, Victoria, for eminent service to the law and the legal profession, through pro bono representation of defendants in capital punishment cases overseas, as an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, and to human rights and social justice reform.
OFFICERS (AO) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
Gabrielle Mary Trainor of Sydney, NSW, for distinguished service to the community through consultancy roles, particularly in the field of transport and infrastructure planning and design, and as a contributor to social welfare, sporting, and cultural institutions.
MEMBER (AM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
Elizabeth Jessie Carr of Perth, WA, for significant service to the community through voluntary contributions to the health, aged care, education and social services sectors.
Dr David Charles Daintree of Colebrook, Tasmania, for significant service to education, particularly to tertiary colleges, and as a scholar.
Mrs Lynette Ann Dansie of Marion, SA, for significant service to the community of South Australia through a range of voluntary roles with service organisations, and to youth.
Mr Paul Cuthbert Hoy of Hawthorn, Victoria, for significant service to the Catholic Church, and to the Coptic Orthodox Church, through a range of administrative, financial and legal advisory roles.
Mr Daryl Melham of Panania, NSW, for significant service to the Parliament of Australia, and to the community of south west Sydney through a range of organisations.
Emeritus Professor Dorothy Ann Scott OAM of Emerald, Victoria, for significant service to the community, particularly to child protection and wellbeing, as an advocate for children’s rights reform, and to education.
MEDAL (OAM) OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
Mr John Gregory Barnes of Alstonville, NSW, for service to the community of the Northern Rivers.
Ms Helga Biro of Whitfield, QLD, for service to the community of Cairns through social welfare groups.
Mr Adrian Anthony Cropley of Port Melbourne, Victoria, for service to the communication profession, to youth, and to the community.
Mr John Francis D’Souza of Mount Gambier, SA, for service to the community through social welfare organisations.
Mr Barry Roy Finch of Frenchs Forest, NSW, for service to the community through social welfare groups.
Mr Daniel Brenton Giles of Bendigo, Victoria, for service to people with a disability, and to the community.
Mr Gerard Francis Hanily of Sandringham, Victoria, for service to charitable organisations, and to business.
Ms Patricia Joyce Harry of Woolloomooloo, NSW, for service to the visual arts.
Professor Helen Eva Huntly of North Rockhampton, QLD, for service to tertiary education in Central Queensland.
Mrs Aylene Alice Kirkwood of Eaglehawk, Victoria, for service to the community of Eaglehawk.
Dr John William Kramer of Woolgoolga, NSW, for service to medicine as a general practitioner in regional areas.
Mrs Christine Lesley Lofts of Goulburn, NSW, for service to children as a foster carer.
Mr Ian Gordan Lofts of Goulburn, NSW, for service to children as a foster carer.
Mr Desmond Noel McNulty of Benalla, Victoria, for service to the forest and wood products industry, and to the community of Benalla.
Mr Francesco Giuseppe Moschella of St Leonards, NSW, for service to the community through a range of organisations.
Mr Michael Peter O’Meara of Kilsyth, Victoria, for service to veterans and their families, and to the community of Kilsyth.
Mr Kevin Vincent Rucioch of Victor Harbor, SA, for service to the community of Victor Harbour.
Sister Betty Schonfeldt of Albert Park, SA, for service to social welfare in Adelaide.
Sister Elvera Sesta of Nundah, QLD, for service to secondary education in Queensland.
Mr John Thomas Smith of Dudley, NSW, for service to sport in the Hunter.
Mr Bruce Anthony Stewart of Tamworth, NSW, for service to the community of Tamworth.
Mrs Janet Mary Torney of Ballarat, Victoria, for service to the community of Ballarat.
Mrs Erika Johanna Vickery of Naracoorte, SA, for service to local government, and to the community of Naracoorte.
The late Mr Brian Thomas Walsh, late of Albion Park Rail, NSW, for service to the community of Shellharbour.
Ms Karyn Joan Walsh of Brisbane, QLD, for significant service to the community through social welfare initiatives, to support for people who are homeless, to children, and to mental health.
Mrs Eileen Rosana Wenn of Bunbury, WA, for service to the floral arts through a range of roles.
Mrs Janet Marion Woods of Banora Point, NSW, for service to the community of the Tweed Valley.