PAM Betts is “immensely grateful” for a 42 year career in teaching and education and for her role as a pioneering woman at the top of her profession.
Miss Betts is preparing to retire as executive director of Brisbane Catholic Education this month and has expressed optimism for the harvest of students in Catholic schools and what they can hope for in life.
“They’re articulate, they’re smart, they’re real to the world they live in,” she said.
“They know they can’t change the world, but they know they can do something on their own, so I have great faith and hope in the young people in our schools today… they will let the world go. an even better place than we left it.
Miss Betts spent nine years as Executive Director of BCE and is the first woman and only the fourth person appointed to this post, after Father Bernard O’Shea, Vince O’Rourke and David Hutton.
Miss Betts worked with each of her predecessors during her stints at BCE.
“I have been fortunate to work with so many talented people focused on improving the educational experience of our students so that they develop a love of learning and a heart of hope,” he said. she declared.
“Catholic education in Brisbane has a wonderful history, and there are so many exciting opportunities ahead.
“Mary MacKillop, who came to the Archdiocese of Brisbane just over 150 years ago to establish schools in Kangaroo Point and Maryborough, spoke about Catholic education helping to give every student the opportunity to become the person God created him to be. “
Miss Betts is the daughter of former Australian rugby union mainstay Neil “Tiny” Betts.
She was educated at St Elizabeth’s Primary School in Tarragindi before moving to Our Lady’s College in Annerley.
After earning a science degree from Griffith University and an education degree from the University of Queensland, Miss Betts began teaching at St Mary’s College Ipswich before moving to her former school Our Lady’s College, St Peter Claver College, Riverview and Brisbane’s All Hallows. ‘The school.
She then held a position in the BCE office assisting the Executive Director before moving to the Queensland Catholic Education Commission and then to the Christian Brothers’ Queensland Province, which became Edmund Rice Education Australia in 2007. .
Miss Betts earned three master’s degrees before returning to the BCE office in 2010 as Director of Administrative Services, which was followed by her appointment as Executive Director in 2013.
She said her sense of mission had not wavered – guided by the belief that a Catholic education could change lives.
“When I see young people and their lives transformed thanks to our Catholic schools, it gives me great joy,” said Miss Betts.
“I am touched by this, but it also gives me a lot of hope because our future is in good hands. “
In all of her years of service, the past two have posed some of the biggest challenges for schools on the frontline of COVID-19.
In 2020, as restrictions and lockdowns began, Brisbane Catholic Education took a ‘critical incident’ approach, setting up a command headquarters at the O’Shea Center in Wilston and shifting teaching across to dealing with online learning when needed.
While most of the students stayed at home, the schools remained open, with teachers becoming essential frontline workers, just as essential as doctors, nurses and other caregivers.
“I think we have faced this difficult and unprecedented time with great courage and also with this great hope that we have in Catholic education,” Miss Betts told the Catholic Leader at the end of 2020.
“For our schools, everything depends on the relationship we have with our families, that our teachers have with the students in their class and that they have within the school community by supporting each other.
“It has been very helpful to us in dealing with really unpredictable and uncertain times.”
Miss Betts said she would miss many parts of her job when she left BCE on December 10, but she has made her plans for immediate retirement clear.
“On December 11, I’ll get on the houseboat and head to Straddie,” she said, speaking of her beloved second home, Stradbroke Island.
“I have grown to love Straddie. I was actually a late follower of Straddie. I had never been there before I was probably in my thirties. And I absolutely fell in love with it.
“I think it’s a place so close to Brisbane, unspoiled, and the history of the aborigines of Stradbroke Island is so rich and a gift to us.
“Not only to Australia and this region, but to the Church. ”
Stradbroke Island was the site of the first Catholic mission to the First Nations people when Italian devotees arrived in 1843.
The priests only stayed for four years and the mission was viewed as a failure although generations of Catholic leaders emerged from these early efforts.
“I used to go to mass in Dunwich when I was on Straddie, and being there with the locals was really a lesson in humility,” she said.
“I just think it’s pure beauty, it’s a representation of God’s creation and a place of rest and stillness is amazing to have it so close to Brisbane.
“And what a gift it is for this community.”
With a keen interest in history, Miss Betts believes it is essential for students to learn and appreciate the knowledge and cultural practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Their story is tragic. And it is tragic because of our occupation of Australia 200 years ago, ”she said.
“They have taken care of this land for 60,000 years and they have done an absolutely amazing job taking care of this land and living in harmony with the land. We need to learn so much from them.
“This is their place. We must respect their history and we must teach this history to young people.
Longtime Miss Betts Deputy Dr Doug Ashleigh will act as Executive Director of BCE until Dr Sally Towns takes on the role on a permanent basis, starting next May.
Dr Towns is Director of Catholic Schools and Chief Executive Officer of the Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools Limited.