History and Archives
St Gabriel’s School was opened with just 10 pupils in 1926 as the first federal Parliament House was nearing completion, surrounded by sheep paddocks. Housed in the old St John’s Rectory (Glebe House), the Anglican Community of the Sisters of the Church had answered a request from Bishop Radford of the then Diocese of Goulburn, who saw a need for such a school in the small community designated as the new federal capital.
In May 1927, Dr Radford laid the foundation stone of the mock Tudor building which today comprises the Boarding House on Melbourne Avenue. It was no accident that this was just one day before the opening of Parliament House by the Duke and Duchess of York, when appropriate dignitaries were in town.
Both the School and the city weathered economic setbacks during the great depression. The School came close to shutting down due to hardship in the rural community which supplied much of its enrolment. However, it was rescued by the determination of Canon Robertson, and later by a dedicated group of parents and friends, who took the dramatic step of purchasing the School from the Sisters in 1935. St Gabriel’s had been renamed the Canberra Church of England Girls’ Grammar School in 1933.
In August 1945, at the end of World War II, the School shared the celebration with the whole Canberra community. Shops stopped trading after the announcement of peace and workers and school children carried flags and sprigs of the blooming bushland wattle through the streets.
The prosperity of the post war decades saw a boom in the birth rate, and in the migrants who came to Australia. The acceleration of Canberra’s development saw the expansion of suburbs and all their associated services. These were also years of growth in education, and the Girls Grammar School shared in the expansion of schools, both government and private, to meet the enrolment demands for the generation of baby boomers. In 1972, the Junior School moved to a new campus in Grey Street Deakin to allow for expansion of both the Senior and Junior Schools.
Today, a new and grander Parliament House dominates the original building, its grand flagpole visible from the School grounds. With its name updated to Canberra Girls Grammar School (CGGS), the School has expanded beyond recognition. In 2004, the School opened its Early Learning Centre for three and four-year-olds and it now caters for 1,600 students across its senior and junior campuses. Also in in 2004, the School opened a 1,000 seat state-of-the-art Hall and adjoining Music Centre situated in the Senior School.
A new three-storey classroom block was completed for the start of the 2011 school year. This block focuses on flexible teaching and learning spaces with an emphasis on indoor/outdoor connection. A central quadrangle featuring a grassed and paved area is becoming the 'heart' of the School.
In 2012, the modern and versatile, award-winning Science wing was opened, and in 2016 the Innovation Centre for the promotion of STEM subjects was opened.
In 2018, a new multipurpose learning facility, known as Yhuuramulum (Ngunnawal for ‘to dream’), was opened next door to the existing Elizabeth McKay Aquatic Centre. This building provides extended opportunities for contemporary and flexible approaches to curriculum delivery for students from Prep to Year 12.
In 2019, a purpose built wing with three new classrooms was added to the Early Learning Centre. The work included further enhancement of the ELC’s excellent play space.
How far CGGS has come since the sheep paddocks and the original 10 students at the old St John’s Rectory.
The CGGS Archives were established in 1987 to serve the needs of Canberra's oldest independent school.
In 1995, the Archives moved to a purpose-built facility and with enhanced storage capacity in 2012, the collection continues to grow.
The Archives collects and preserves records relating to the School and its associated bodies. The collection consists of the School’s official records from 1926, photographic and uniform collections and school memorabilia.
Donations of items are always welcome.
The Archivist may be contacted on 6202 6457, Monday to Friday or by email at email@example.com