All News

Matthew Sullivan has been the Director of Ironbark, St Peters Outdoor Education Centre, since 2007.

Students in Year 9 at St Peters undertake a compulsory five-week program aimed at teaching them valuable life-skills and various adventure activities in a rural setting.

“I was interested in the five-week program. That was the main selling point for me,” Matt said. “Not kids arriving on a Monday and gone again on a Friday but the fact that they’d be with us for five weeks and you can get to know them. You can have some impact that way.”

Matt oversees Ironbark’s operations: from property development and livestock management to supervision of the Ironbark pastoral care program itself. Maggie the Labrador helps, keeping a watchful eye over students during outdoor adventure activities, while the Sullivans’ dachshund, Lucy, and an elusive cat guard the house yard. Meanwhile, Parsley the sheep, a twin rejected by her mother and hand-reared by the Sullivan children, is grown and has returned to the paddock. She remains the only ewe at Ironbark safe from slaughter.

Matt is passionate about helping students develop socially, emotionally and spiritually and says that, while the activities on offer at Ironbark haven’t changed, he has worked to broaden the pastoral care program. He credits continuity of staff for bringing stability to the program and creating better outcomes for students.

“The big thing is the opportunity that we have to work in this sort of environment… It’s very different to traditional teaching,” Matt remarked. “It’s more of a focus on that personal growth and development so that’s a real joy to be part of: giving these kids new experiences; new opportunities; and helping them to learn more about themselves through the process. That’s the real benefit of this work.”