Making a difference: Inspiration of St Mary MacKillop

Published: Monday 18th April 2016

Inspiration: Dr Tracey Sanders wrote a play staged in Rome about the life of Mary MacKillop

Dr Tracey Sanders, Senior Lecturer in drama and sociology has a long enduring history with ACU. A long standing academic, she celebrated her 25th year at ACU in 2015 and this, she embraces this with both pride and passion.

“Walking the journey of the evolution of ACU has been both a privilege and a joy, not only because I feel I have contributed to the growth, the synergy and vibe I see in the university today, but because it has empowered me to follow my passion for embedding my teaching praxis in the foundations of catholic social teacher and social justice,” she said.

Dr Sanders has a long standing reputation in the university and local and international contexts for her dynamic community performances and ethnographic stories that capture the lives and times of marginalized or voiceless peoples.

Her performance work has been much celebrated. She has been a recipient of an ACU Teaching in Excellence Award, an Australian Learning and Teaching citation and in 2010 received the Vice Chancellor’s Community Engagement Award for her work for the canonization of Australia’s first saint Mary Mackillop, St Mary of the Cross.

This work, performed as part of the ACU representative creative team in Rome was an ethnographic story of Mary Mackillop’s life, ‘Mary, a woman for all people’. As creative drama director and playwright, Dr Sanders’ work was performed to over 2000 Australians, including Australian representatives, Cardinal George Pell, Kevin Rudd, Julie Bishop and Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Tim Fisher.

Reflecting on this event, Dr Sanders felt it was perhaps the pinnacle of her professional and spiritual life, ‘Working with the Sisters of St Joseph for over a year, spending hours researching Mary’s life, I become so close to the woman Mary Mackillop was, that I felt a great emotional and spiritual shift as I wrote about her life.

Being part of the ACU team in Rome was an inspirational event, working with students and staff, performing at the Auditorium Conciliazione, the Vatican and St Paul’s Outside the Walls, was unforgettable and life changing.’

Dr Sanders’ mission ‘to make a difference in the lives of my students and those we serve in the community’ has led to a number of significant performances in the wider Brisbane community. These include:‘

  • Cold Comfort (stories of the Brisbane homeless); ‘
  • Kin (a collaboration with Mission Australia and Clemente – the stories of marginalized Brisbane folk); ‘
  • Preppie (the stories of 5 year olds and their responses to God, family and life); ‘
  • Skating on Sandgate Road (Brisbane City Council Grant in collaboration with the Nudgee Seniors’ Centre for Queensland 150th birthday celebrations – stories of Banyo elders) and the upcoming 2016 refugee project,
  • We are Here (Brisbane City Council Grant in collaboration with Mercy Community Services and the Romero Refugee and Asylum Seeker Centre – stories of refugees).

‘I believe that the ‘inner lives of our students’ are significant in the way we plan and formulate learning engagement through our teaching and learning praxis," she said..

“My teaching must make a difference, not only to ensuring academic excellence but also in the way my students respond as human beings.

"My Mission is to ensure they leave my classroom asking questions, evoking possibilities for change, implementing change and applying agency for transformation and authentic application of all they have learnt here at ACU."