St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Year 12 students of St Joseph’s College, a high-fee independent Marist school in Sydney’s Hunter Hill, have received priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine. In June, 163 students who board at the school were given the Pfizer vaccine. 

Many of the school’s alumni are highly placed. Of the 45 Liberal members of NSW Parliament, three are St Joseph’s alumni. Member for Camden Peter Sidgreaves graduated from the school in 1993, followed by Member for Albury Justin Clancy who graduated in 1995, while Member for Riverstone Kevin Conolly graduated in 1975

Former Hunters Hill mayor and former Liberal Party member Richard Quinn is currently director of advancement at the school. Quinn quit the Liberal Party in 2019 to unsuccessfully run as an independent for the seat of Lane Cove. Quinn told Crikey he wasn’t involved in any correspondence or request to NSW Health regarding the vaccination of students.

For the mass vaccination to happen, the school had to apply for vaccine access via NSW Health. The boys’ parents would have had to sign permission slips before the boys were bussed away to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to get the jab. They’re set to get their second dose next week. 

It’s an example of privilege like no other. The vaccine is currently only available to people aged over 40, workers in the healthcare and aged care sectors, people with other health risks, and Indigenous Australians. The school said it had asked for the vaccinations for the benefit of Indigenous students — who make up just 4% of its overall student base — though the whole year level was invited. 

NSW Health has apologised for the error but still hasn’t explained exactly how it happened. 

Despite the school’s fees, which can total $50,000 a year, St Joseph’s College was among a series of elite independent schools that qualified for the government’s fortnightly JobKeeper payments. 

Sidgreaves confirmed to Crikey he graduated from St Joseph’s but said he didn’t have any involvement in the decision to vaccinate students. St Joseph’s, NSW Health, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and the offices of Clancy and Conolly have been contacted for comment.