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Liston College Old Boy - James Harris

James Harris (class of 2007), Director of Strategic Projects, NAYBA Australia and Advocacy & Programme Design Consultant, Proven Change


“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” - Matthew 10:49


When I was a student at Liston, daydreaming during Maths class, I never would have imagined where life has taken me. I didn’t do Year 13 because I had been struggling to not get into trouble at school, and on my last day of Liston, I was so excited to be leaving that I ended up in the Principal’s office. On that day, I don’t think Mr Rooney or myself imagined that fourteen years later, I would be the Director of a not-for-profit that helps churches have a greater social impact, especially for society’s most vulnerable people. 


I struggled in class at Liston, I am not going to lie. It was not the school's fault. I don’t think I was built for the classroom. That was the main reason I didn’t do Year 13. However, at Liston there were deeper lessons I learned that went beyond essays and algebra. I learned about Preferential Option of the Poor, a part of Catholic Social Teaching, which states that God is concerned with liberation of the poor, and that we are invited into that work. I remember having a guest speaker visit our Religious Education class called Father Peter Munane. He was a Dominican Friar that had spilled his own blood on the United States Embassy to protest the invasion of Iraq and treatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. Now that was a faith I was interested in and captivated by. And it has been that thread that I have continued to pull on since leaving school.


Since leaving Liston, I have continued to be inspired by Catholic Social Teaching, and the leadership of people like Father Peter Murnane. This has led me to be on the frontline, walking alongside refugees and homeless young people, as well as advocating for change in the halls of parliaments. In 2019, I had the privilege of taking a group of young people from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon to the European parliament so that they could advocate for change. The little West Auckland boy, sitting in class on Rathgar Road, would never have even imagined he would be sitting in the chambers of the European Parliament.


Most recently, my wife and I were based in a remote Aboriginal community in the Tanami Desert, called Balgo. It is a Catholic community that is still faithful to its desert culture. Mass is delivered in the Kukatja language - one of the oldest living languages in the world. Balgo is considered a ‘last contact’ community, with some of the community only having contact with European settlement in the 1960’s. My wife is Aboriginal but grew up in the city, so it has been an amazing experience for us to be welcomed into a community that lives so traditionally. 


I think the best summary of my vocational path is found in the passages of the Gospels, where Jesus says that in losing your life, you will find it. The deeper I pushed into living a life that values others above myself, the more I found fulfilment in my work, and in my life. And I know that the values of a Liston man align with this. No doubt they helped form my character: to act responsibly, walk humbly, think effectively, deliver excellence, and serve faithfully.


Liberating Education

Gospel Spirituality

Inclusive Community

Justice & Solidarity