Q&A with Dr Darnelle Pretorius, SCC College Principal

Dr Pretorius was born in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s largest cities. She has held senior positions at St Stephen’s School in Duncraig for the majority of twenty years, has led an international school in Mauritius, and has numerous degrees and qualifications.

However, her ‘spiritual home’ is much farther from the bright lights of the big city, with the small farming town of Malalane capturing the essence of her memories of South Africa.

“My husband grew up there, I was a teacher in the local government school and then headed up the lower private school. It’s a forty-five-minute drive to Mozambique, on the tip of the Kruger National Park and it is a wonderful place to live.”

Comfortable as a pastor’s wife in rural Africa or mixing it with the brightest minds in education in Australia – there are many facets to SCEA’s newest leader.

This week, we asked the hard questions that every staffer wants to know but daren’t ask!

On her fascination with flight and futuristic transport:

My dad was an airline pilot. At nine years of age, I was raised in the cockpit of planes. I would sit in the ‘jump-seat’ [just behind the pilot] as a child and fly places. It was fascinating and it gave me an insight into life above the ground. 

Flight has always been a fascinating thing for me. I can’t wait for UberAir! It’s just around the corner.

Some people say ‘I will never get in a pilotless vehicle’. They do it with large trucks already in the state’s north, operating from an office near Perth Airport!

I will climb into an UberAir tomorrow when it’s available – I can’t wait!

I love the whole idea of Tesla cars and that pursuit of the future.

The Christian world talks about ‘telos’ and where we are going and what Jesus is bringing us to.

I look forward to the future and I’m excited about things moving forward.

God has designed us to know so much and it’s only our fallen nature that stops us from knowing how the universe operates.

On her personal faith and how to deal with competing theological positions with staff and parents:

For me, God is bigger than everything.

As such, even when there may be ‘faith fatigue’ in life for Christians, we ask ourselves the question: ‘God answers prayer, so why would we ever give up?’

I’m overt with my faith, but I don’t believe that raising issues that may be seen as controversial is helpful in our context. It invites contentious conversations around theological perspectives – and that has no value to it. 

I talk to people about where they are at, the fact that they are loved and that God has a purpose for you.

On sharing that faith in a school context:

I speak to students about their purpose in life.

Ultimately, they will realise that there is a future for them because God has created you for a purpose. Don’t invest everything in the current here-and-now, invest in the future – your future. That’s my message to them.

On the many facets of Swan Christian College (Trade Centre, Online Learning, K-12, etc.) and how they will work together:

Each area has its place. When you look at it strategically, you don’t want to micro-manage, you want to enable it.

What do we need to do to enable it to thrive?

Each one has a very well-versed leader and so, how do you help that leader thrive to make their area succeed?

We need to find new ways of reaching the same goals that we have always set out to achieve with our students.

On the next twelve months at Swan Christian College and the greatest challenge for her at this time:

Wherever you go, the goal is to build trust.

Simon Sinek speaks about ‘leadership being about the little things, every day, building up trust with the people around you.’

If you get that right, you can do almost anything.  Because if your staff and the people you work with trust you, and you know that you have got their back and you know what you’re doing, your messaging is authentic.

Time proves authenticity.

It doesn’t happen in three weeks or three months.

It takes a long while of being consistent and being there and being a servant.

When you’re a servant leader, you just get in there, hands and all. You don’t do it from a distance.

I think I am an enabler. But you can only do that through a trusting relationship.

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