Memories from Founders’ Days past

Posted 8 May 2020 8:36am

Today, on Founders’ Day, we remember and celebrate the Community of Sisters of the Church who founded our School 94 years ago. It is a day to reflect upon our shared values that have developed from the strength and commitment of our founders and how they worked together with the community to build a place of education and faith.

Between 1870 and 1893, the Sisters built eight schools for nearly 6,000 children. The schools provided students with a breakfast of either hot sweet tea or soup followed by a currant bun. The ‘bun schools’ became renowned, not only for the practical response to the hunger of the poorest of poor children, but also for the quality education provided by the Sisters.

One of the highlights of Founders’ Day is the return of a Grammarian, ‘an old girl’, back to visit her stomping ground to impart wisdom, and often more importantly, share her greatest memories from years spent as a ‘Grammar Girl’.

As we are unable to gather for the annual Founders’ Day assembly this year, our Archivist, Clair Murray, did a deep-dive into the archives to find a significant speech from yesteryear. Not only did she find a story of fitting in, friendships and a sense of community, but also a commentary on the importance of equal opportunity.

In 1973, Dorothy Bennett (Burgmann, 1944) delivered the Founders’ Day speech. Dorothy was the daughter of Bishop Burgmann (the first Australian-born Bishop of the Canberra and Goulburn Diocese and twice Chair of the School Board) and joined the School as a 10-year-old boarder.

When it was decided that my older sister and I should become boarders at the Canberra Girls’ Grammar School…I felt I was an authority on boarding schools as I was an omnivorous reader. I read everything I could lay my hands on but my particular interests at this time were school stories and Wild West yarns.

The school stories prepared me for life in a dormitory, school meals, detentions and chapel. The wild west yarns gave me endless plots to work out with my friends in the open space round the school which was at that time undeveloped grass and bushland.

My friends were mostly country girls, as keen on horses as I was…we all knew each other well and we were in a real sense of community.

Bishop Burgmann evidently made quite an impact on his daughter and during her speech she referred to his influence repeatedly.

Dorothy spoke about her father’s stance on equality and opportunity for men and for women alike (demonstrated by ensuring his daughters “no less than his sons” had the educational and professional opportunities they desired). She also quoted him on the topic of mothers and the vital role they play in their children’s education.

“The mother is, as a rule, by far the most important of our educators.”

A timely thought as we ready ourselves to celebrate Mother’s Day, and during a period when many mothers see their role as educators more clearly than ever before.

A selection of photographs from past Founders’ Day appears below –we hope you will mark the occasion by spending a few minutes to reflect and be grateful for all we have today.

Photo above: 1948 Coming of Age celebrations (later renamed as Founders' Day) on the front steps of the Boarding House.

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