A NSW Catholic school principal is under fire for using a photo said to promote sexism and abuse as a backdrop for his graduation speech to students about to begin their HSC exams.
McAuley Catholic College principal, Mark O'Farrell – who took over leadership of the college at the beginning of this year – was speaking about the importance of “gospel value” to his senior students when he projected the image onto a screen behind him.
It showed a husband standing behind his gagged daughters and wife – who were tied up with Christmas lights – while holding a ‘peace on earth’ sign. Parents filed complaints with the school the following day, saying the image was offensive.
In a statement to parents sent via the school’s newsletter, O'Farrell apologised for using the image, saying that he did not intend to offend anyone by using it in the presentation.
“It has been brought to my attention that one of the images used in my graduation presentation may have offended. I apologise if I offended any parent or student present as no offence was intended,” he wrote.
The image was originally sourced in 2005 from Hannah Hawkes Photography, a studio located in the US state of Louisiana. Responding to the furore, Hawkes said the photo was “taken by request by the family” and was “meant as a comical Christmas photo.”
“I have been called every name in the book, and have received some very hateful and vulgar comments and messages. I would like to say that as a female I do NOT and have never promoted violence to women. I do not support abuse, or the degradation of women,” she said.
Principal Mark O'Farrell has been contacted for comment.