Character Education – About the Boys

The power of Wilderness Retreats
Mr Tony Cunneen and Ms Veronica Kugananthan

In 1989, Tony Cunneen founded Wilderness Retreats as part of the Retreat Program for Years 11 and 12 at St Pius X College. The Retreats are experiential in nature and involve a variety of character building activities and presentations including meditation, affirmations, prayerful reflection and a para liturgy as well as letter writing to parents. These letters are presented to the parents at the Year 12 Graduation Ceremony and are in response to letters which the parents have themselves written to the boys on the Retreat. This is a very powerful part of the Retreat.

Around 90 very successful retreats have been conducted now, with students greatly valuing the time to refocus after their Trial Exams. The Retreats have evolved from their first days when they were much more isolated and adventurous in nature. The current program stresses a shared connection with the landscape from an indigenous perspective, as well as using some scriptural references to nature. Recent activities have also reflected the changing expectations concerning traditional definitions of masculinity and associated behaviours. The College encourages a range of staff, both old and young, men and women, to join in on these retreats.


Cunneen, A. (2003). Suburban boys at war. Lisarow NSW, Veritage Press.
Cunneen, A. (2006). A Great War for small towns: Beecroft, Cheltenham and surrounding districts in World War I. Hornsby Shire Council, Deerubbin Press.


Tony (MA, BA, DipEd), an experienced presenter, has been a Business Analyst with Dun & Bradstreet, and a tour guide in Europe with Viking Safaris. Currently the Student Studies Coordinator at St Pius X College, Chatswood, Tony has a research interest in the way local communities, particularly the legal community, have responded to the trauma of war. He has published two books, and over 70 articles on history, education and travel. He is currently researching the non-war related works of CEW Bean, the official war historian, as well as the life of former Justice Russell Le Gay Brereton. His latest article is on judges in the First World War (April 2017 Australian Law Journal). You can contact Tony on

Veronica (BMedSci, MTeach) is a Science teacher at St Pius X College. She has been involved in the Outdoor Education Program within the school for the past three years. The program includes, but is not limited to, Duke of Edinburgh, Snowy Hike and Year 12 Retreats. She is the convenor of the Year 10 Student Empowerment Team and a facilitator of the Mind Matters Program for Years 7-10.