Can you remember 1988 ?
Some of us were not born yet, some of us were celebrating Australia’s bicentenary (1788-1998) and there was no internet, social media or selfies to capture these moments. Thirty four years ago, in 1988, Clive Smith began teaching at Swan Christian College.
“There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then,” says Clive with his trademark smile – the one that makes his eyes crinkle as he gives that distant look, recalling memories of students growing up into young adults through formative experiences and life lessons.
Many of the current staff at Swan Christian College (and across the SCEA schools) would now see Clive as one of the oldest and most experienced teachers in our Christian school network. But he wasn’t always the elder statesman at Swan Christian College.
Those of us who remember the 1980’s will know Clive as a Christian pop-star, traveling up and down the country as part of the ‘Rockin’ Rabbis’, carrying audio cassettes and a gospel message for the nation’s young people. The 1990’s gave us ‘arty’ Clive, complete with bohemian fashion and an ultra-hip Citroen mobile that resonated with Swan’s ‘alternative’ teenagers seeking art and media as an outlet for their adolescent years.
But very few of us know the young Clive Smith, who was raised in Riverton Baptist Church under the teaching of John Campbell, one of WA’s most well-known pastors. Clive came to faith at just nine years of age, after a Scripture Union (SU) camp down in the state’s South West. Regular attendance at the church youth group and double doses of church each Sunday kept Clive focused through his own high-school years, and then the opportunity to see ‘faith in action’ came when Swan was barely two years old. Despite its infancy, Swan already had its trademark qualities: demountable buildings and abounding Christian fellowship amongst its staff.
“When I started, there were people around like Betty Pendal, Rob Merrells, Peter Nicholls and others who absolutely led the way for me, displaying what it was to teach from the heart in a Christian school.”
Clive began as an Art teacher and met his wife while painting a mural for a SCEA celebration day late in the year. Angie, as she was known, is the sister of the wife of Peter Adams (also a longtime SCEA teacher), and she had volunteered to help out with some decorating for the big day.
“She was a gifted textile artist, and it was an opportunity too good to miss!” says Clive, who can remember the exact day they met, every detail of their wedding day decorations and the happiness that has resulted since that chance meeting many years ago.
The Smith family has three boys (Oscar, Felix and Max) who have all graduated from Swan and display various parts of Clive’s personality and passions: music, media, sports and the never-ending quest to discuss spiritual issues around the concept of faith.
“For our family, we are so thankful that the boys had great friends in their peer group that encouraged a breadth of discussion and the opportunity to speak openly about these issues,” says Clive.
So, what inspires a Christian teacher after thirty-four years in the profession?
“I firmly believe that the most important aspect of Christian Education is the personal faith of the teacher and how they bring this into the classroom. The teachers are at that coalface of demonstrating God’s love and the (gospel) message for our students,” says Clive.
In the late 1990’s some of the ‘big names’ of Swan moved on for various reasons, and Clive pursued an 18-month opportunity to move to Darwin and work with a Christian team in the Northern Territory. This adventure with the young family was something different, a renewal of mind and spirit for a somewhat weary soul. A phone call in late 1999 from the new Principal, Dr Ian Lambert, convinced Clive that the pioneering spirit of Swan was coming back to the campus on Great Northern Highway in Middle Swan. The trip back down to Perth turned out to be a great move for Clive, who remembers Ian Lambert as ‘one of the most amazing Christian educators that you could ever hope to meet.’
“This is what made Ian Lambert different: he went into Christian education and became a Principal because his faith compelled him to share the Word through education. Sometimes we go into leadership because ‘the concept of leadership’ can seem attractive for any number of material reasons. Ian wanted to share the gospel, and being the leader of Swan allowed him to do that. So he became the Principal. And the gospel was absolutely preached at Swan as a result of Ian’s primary motivations,” says Clive.
So what is your legacy after all this time, Clive?
“There are any number of others who have journeyed through Christian education with me who deserve more praise than me, says Clive.
“Linda Roney, Susan Turnbull, Rob Biddle and a raft of others, too many to mention both past and present, who have either inspired us or stood beside us in the journey.”
“We are all unified by the love of Jesus and part of the fabric of SCEA, threads woven through a tapestry of influence in bringing our children through their formative years into adulthood in a culture, fragrant with scripture and godliness. It is a humbling privilege to be one strand in what God has brought into life.”
Here’s a photo of Swan’s staff in 1990. Can you see a young Clive Smith?