From the Principal – Commissioning – following the greats

Posted 23 May 2019 3:43pm

We never forget those people, places and organisations that shape us and this school is one such place. It shapes and is shaped by those who attend as students, but equally shapes and is shaped by those who accept the call to engage. I accept humbly, and with great depth of feeling, the invitation to join the CGGS community as the 15th Principal.

I feel profoundly the privilege and the responsibility to lead a school that is over 90 years old, one that has played such a significant role in girls’ education, and contributed to local, national and international influence and debate – following past principals of great strength and intellect.

Mother Emily Ayckbowm – Founder of the Community of the Sisters of the Church, who founded CGGS in 1926

Mother Emily insisted the Sisters pass examinations for government certificates of qualification and were sent daily to training colleges. As such, the Sisters were the first Anglican Order to be registered teachers. Not content with mid-Victorian societal norms, Emily’s trailblazing spirit led her to identify the change she wanted to see in the world.

Miss Una Mitchell – 1937-1947

Miss Mitchell, in addition to being Principal, specialised in Maths and Physics and also took on the role of Biology teacher (Zoology grew in popularity, especially when a frog-hunting excursion was offered!). Miss Mitchell oversaw the addition of a Kindergarten to the School. Additionally, she led the School through World War II where air-raid precautions and food rations were a reality. Miss Mitchell made a special effort to keep the senior boarders informed, showing them dignity and respect by inviting them into her sitting room to listen to the wireless once a week.

Miss Mavis Prater – 1962-65

Miss Prater’s general philosophy of education was that for most children, vocational training was not so important as a well-balanced education. She believed it was important for girls to realise that subjects such as Maths were not a male preserve and that being exposed to foreign languages from a young age opened doors to a range of opportunities beyond school. She guided the School through the early years of the change to six years of secondary studies, based around core subjects alongside a wide range of electives. Her desire was to empower young women to leave school well equipped and to contribute to broader roles in the community.

Elizabeth (Liz) McKay – 1984-1999

Liz fought for equal opportunities and pay for women.

In my first years at Girls Grammar the female teachers were paid less than male teachers in similar schools, but this has changed and only because the women on the staff at the time fought to have equal opportunities and pay. (Grammar Report, Issue 65 December 1999).

She believed that women from all walks of life, and over many years, led to the betterment of working conditions for women. Liz was recognised as giving students the courage to hope and the chance to grasp at career choices and life opportunities that earlier generations could only dream about.

We do reflect and we reflect with pride, but equally with hope and confidence in the future. I am committed to honouring our Anglican and service-minded foundational values, our wholesome untainted history, our purposeful past, and will not tread on the past to get to the future, but look ahead and guide our school through the future opportunities and challenges because I know who we are, and we never forget where we came from.

Anna Owen

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