Melbourne Girls Grammar is fortunate to have the support of a strong donor community.
We are pleased to share these inspiring stories from our wonderful donor community. We hope that you enjoy learning about their diverse experiences and journeys and why they choose to give for the future of girls’ education at Melbourne Girls Grammar.
Kathleen Curwen-Walker (1917)
We live in a rapidly changing world, yet as Kathleen Curwen-Walker’s legacy shows, some things, such as a love of education and music, remain a constant.
Kathleen Curwen-Walker (1917) attended Melbourne Girls Grammar during the World War I years, along with her sisters, Doris Sala (Curwen-Walker, 1915) and Edna Curwen-Walker (1913). Unconventional for their time, the three girls became independent women with great compassion for those in need, who thought nothing of driving thousands of kilometres through the outback to help their brother muster sheep on his remote property. Kathleen and Edna worked as district nurses, and in their later years, Doris and Kathleen made generous bequests to help those in need.
In accordance with her wishes and following the death of the last surviving Curwen-Walker sister (Edna aged 105 years), Kathleen, a keen music-lover, ensured through her Will the establishment of The Doris, Edna and Kathleen Curwen-Walker Memorial Fund. Held in Trust, each year the fund provides much-needed support to social welfare charities, in addition to educational support for students at Melbourne Girls Grammar.
In particular, the Fund supports co-curricular activities for our girls, and it was through this fund that the School last year was able to offer a unique opportunity to its music students. The School’s 2018 performance of Legally Blonde: The Musical was a joint production between the music and drama departments. Thanks to Kathleen’s bequest, the School was able to employ twelve professional musicians to build the production’s musical depth. These musicians were also able to give advice regarding life as a professional musician. Five students were selected to join the musicians in the production’s orchestra pit. They attended rehearsals and were mentored as they prepared for the final performance run.
Last year Hannah Alper-Duke (Year 10), Charlotte Hoskins (Year 10) and Rachel Chen (Year 11) were three of the participants. They spent hours rehearsing with and learning from the professional musicians; it was an experience they describe as ‘hectic’, but incredible fun. Each girl received one-on-one mentoring from a musician. They learnt the ins and outs of preparing the music for a professional show, as well as the process of working with actors and singers on stage, from the first band rehearsals for musicians only, to the Sitzprobe (where singers and musicians combined for the first time), through to the Technical and Dress rehearsals.
Throughout the process, students observed the high level of organisational and communication skills needed to achieve a high standard of performance, in addition to outstanding musical skills. Although pit musicians are rarely seen by an audience, they have a unique skill set which makes an enormous contribution to the success of a Music Theatre show. A new perspective was provided to our girls, expanding their concept of where music can take you.
“They had a different outlook on life,” said Rachel, who played baritone saxophone for the Musical. “And it was good to see how it turned out for them, doing music as a career.”
Charlotte (clarinet and saxophone) agrees. “It made me realise that there’s a pathway in music after school.”
For Hannah, who joined the musicians on bass guitar, it was eye-opening to see how much hard work was involved. “It was fun to see them perform music as a job, and it seemed like a fun job – but a lot of work!”
What were their take-home messages from working with the musicians?
“Humility,” said Rachel. “They were all such incredible musicians … but they came and played for a school musical.”
“Dedication,” said Hannah. “My mentor put in so much work above and beyond what we did in rehearsals.”
” … never be afraid of asking questions,” added Charlotte. “They were all so willing to answer anything.”
Roy Theaker, who conducted the music for the show, says that performing with musicians had a clear effect on the students’ skills and enjoyment of music – often without their realising it. “I could clearly see the students buzzing; delighted to be surrounded by the pure, raw sound that they were contributing to, to say nothing of the dramatic rise in their own musicality.”
The experience gave Charlotte, Hannah and Rachel a new appreciation for music expanding their appreciation of what it takes to be in musical theatre. As for their reflection on the experience overall? They would one-hundred percent’ do it again – and recommend other students do it as well.
Today, more than 100 years since the Curwen-Walker sisters’ days at school, their profound generosity and compassion for others continues to encourage and offer new and unique opportunities for girls at Melbourne Girls Grammar. The value of live music can never be over-estimated, and the Curwen-Walker Bequest made it possible for our girls to have access to an outstanding Music Education experience and extension opportunity. All students involved in last year’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, whether they were on the stage or in the pit, have benefited tremendously from the expertise of the musicians involved, and we are grateful to have received this significant financial support.
George and Penny Dimitroulis
A healthy enthusiasm to help others is what drives the Dimitroulis Family to give back to the Melbourne Girls Grammar community.
Over the years, George and Penny Dimitroulis have given much of their time to the School in volunteer work. Recently, George was a guest speaker at the School’s Father’s Day breakfast, encouraging students to consider alternative career options, including in STEM. “I think it’s important for the girls to see their parents involved in the School” George said, “offering to share their own life experiences and knowledge to hopefully assist the students in making their own career choices.” They hope their contribution inspires others to do the same.
Clare and Alice find their parents’ involvement in the School inspirational. “I have a sense of pride that I can say that my parents helped out (at the School),” Alice said.
The sisters are involved in a range of School activities ranging from sports to music, drama and debating. “There are so many opportunities available to us and it enables us to feel more involved”, Alice said. Both Clare and Alice have participated in exchange programs, including the Global Social Leaders Program and the forthcoming Service Learning Project to Cambodia, where a recent fundraising event they were involved with at the School raised more than one thousand dollars.
More recently, the family have been great supporters of the Artemis Centre. “The atmosphere and surroundings at the (Artemis) Centre have been essential to enabling the students to thrive in their learning and well-being,” George said. “It enables the girls to broaden their horizons and nurtures them to be more socially aware, to be independent and have their own voice.”
The Artemis Centre has been an important project for the Dimitroulis family to support. The Centre’s indoor/outdoor swimming pool is a favourite and frequented by Clare and Alice. It is also supported by Penny’s passion for girls learning to swim. “It’s a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.”
Such facilities enable the School to function in the domain of sports and other activities. “There are a lot more sports and activities for the girls now,” said Penny. The Centre has become a focal point of the School and a great meeting point for its students.
Being civic minded is a testament to the ongoing support and generosity of the Dimitroulis family. Their drive to help others is a legacy that will impact the Melbourne Girls Grammar community now and in the future. “It’s just what you do,” said George. “We value our daughter’s education and do it for them.”
Projects such as the Artemis Centre would not have been possible without the support and generosity of the Dimitroulis family, as well as other generous donors to the School. “If we donate or volunteer our time for various projects at the School, we hope others will follow,” Penny said. “People can be philanthropic in so many different ways.”
George and Penny Dimitroulis have pledged support for the Artemis Centre through the ‘Artemis 200 Club’, as well as leaving a bequest to the School. Melbourne Girls Grammar gratefully acknowledges their philanthropic contribution along with other MGGS families, current and past parents and past students who continue to support the School.
Louise Gourlay OAM (Holmes, 1954) and Prue Johnson (Holmes, 1953)
A lifelong passion for education, sport and friendship, led the Holmes sisters to “doing good things” for people and inspiring others to do so.
Life at Melbourne Girls Grammar in the 1950’s is remembered with great fondness by Old Grammarian sisters Prue (Holmes) Johnson and Louise (Holmes) Gourlay. Mad about sports, particularly swimming, hockey and baseball, the two girls were consecutive swimming captains in 1953 (Prue), 1954 and 1955 (Louise). “It was the highlight of my (school) life,” Louise said.
The level of interest in sport by Melbourne Girls Grammar girls, teachers and parents during this time highlighted the value in making the girls’ wellbeing central to the school experience. This value continues at the School today.
The sisters had a natural ability for swimming, Prue in backstroke and Louise in freestyle. Even their older sister Jenny took to the water, excelling in breaststroke.
They would train three to four times a week off campus as there was no swimming pool on the Merton Hall campus in the 1950’s. Swimming motivated the girls to learn to swim and the percentage of girls at the School taking up the sport increased every year.
Twice a week, Prue and Louise took a number of girls to swimming classes in preparation for lifesaving exams (now referred to as the Bronze Medallion), which were held at the City Baths. On Friday afternoons, 70 Morris Hall girls were taken to the Olympic pool to be taught to swim. The aim of these lessons was to build the girls’ confidence in the water and improve their style. “We hoped that this would raise the standard of swimming (at the School) in future years,” Prue said.
A strong school spirit and a devotion to swimming saw the sisters develop into enthusiastic leaders in their roles as swimming captains. Louise recalls their enthusiasm was supported by their swimming teachers. “There was a culture of camaraderie and doing things as a group.”
Prue continues to swim today. Twice a week she hits the pool at 6.30am and swims 1.5km. While there is solidarity in the pool, the sport “enables you to be part of a team”, Prue said.
The sisters have a great legacy at MGGS in terms of their swimming achievements. The completion of the Artemis Centre in 2017, which will include an indoor/outdoor swimming pool – with a swimming lane named in their honour – will contribute to the School’s commitment to the wellbeing of the girls for years to come. “If the girls feel well, they can cope with anything,” Louise said.
Prue and Louise’s passion for Melbourne Girls Grammar today is attributed, amongst other things, to the lasting friendships they forged and sporting pursuits they achieved during their school years.
The School’s commitment to wellbeing as central to the school experience continues today. The Artemis Centre will enable girls to develop the confidence, competencies and habits to proactively monitor and manage their health and wellbeing for generations to come.
The Artemis Centre was opened in 2017. With thanks for a generous gift from Louise and her family, one of the swimming pool lanes at the Centre is be named in honour of both sisters and their time at the School as Swimming Captains. Melbourne Girls Grammar is extremely grateful for the philanthropic support we have received, and continue to receive, from members of our School community.
Roseanne Grimke-Drayton (Richardson, 1942)
Roseanne Grimke-Drayton was known for her zest for life and her generosity towards others. This generosity continued after her death in 2016, with a number of charitable bequests in her will, including The Richardson Sisters Scholarship at Melbourne Girls Grammar.
Roseanne was born in 1924 and joined her two older sisters, Lesley and Kathleen, at MGGS in 1937. Their two brothers, Graham and Roland, attended Melbourne Grammar School. The family had only recently moved to Melbourne from Tasmania, and before that had lived in British Malaya (now Malaysia) where their father, Roland, managed a rubber plantation.
Roseanne embraced every opportunity the School had to offer. She was a keen athlete, joining the running team and playing hockey, and in her final year in 1942 Roseanne was made Prefect and School Captain. This was the same year the School was evacuated to Marysville and Doncaster out of concern for the students’ safety during the war. Roseanne recalled the uncertainty the students felt when it was announced they would have to move, and she was not impressed with the conditions at the new school buildings. As School Captain, she was sent with a few other senior girls to Marysville to help prepare the temporary campus for the junior students. Many years later, Roseanne still vividly remembered the cockroaches “running over everything” in the kitchens she had to clean.
Fortunately for Roseanne, she did not have to contend with the cockroaches for long. The senior students were soon relocated to the golf club in Doncaster, whose locker rooms served as classrooms, and whose greens and fairways made suitable training grounds for various sports.
After graduating from MGGS in 1942, Roseanne studied nursing, a choice of career that would bring her the challenges and variety that she obviously enjoyed. She found work at the Australian Red Cross Blood Bank in Melbourne, and in the 1950s her sense of adventure took her to Papua New Guinea with the Australian Red Cross Society, where she helped establish the country’s first Blood Bank. Known as Sister Richardson, before marriage, Roseanne was a long serving member of the Australian Red Cross Society and was Head of the Blood Bank in Melbourne.
Though she travelled far, Roseanne stayed very close to her sisters their whole lives. Lesley Wayn (Richardson, 1938) worked as a social worker, and Kathleen George (Richardson, 1940) became a librarian at the Baillieu Library at the University of Melbourne. Roseanne moved to England after her marriage to Lancelot Grimke-Drayton but Australia remained dear to her heart. Following her death in 2016, it was Roseanne’s request that her ashes were returned to her “native land, Australia,” where she is laid to rest in the Dandenong Ranges.
Roseanne believed strongly in helping others as demonstrated through her dedicated work with the Australian Red Cross Society and her support of charitable causes and organisations, including the Peter MacCallum Cancer Research Institute, the Salvation Army, Vision Australia and Cottage by the Sea – a program for disadvantaged children.
In addition, Roseanne left a significant bequest to Melbourne Girls Grammar to establish the Richardson Sisters Scholarship, a means-based scholarship to enable students to undertake extra-curricular activities such as sport or excursions. For Roseanne, such a bequest was a way to demonstrate her gratitude and leave a lasting contribution to the MGGS, at the same time as commemorating her close bond with her sisters Lesley and Kathleen and celebrating their time at the School.
The Richardson Sisters Scholarship at MGGS is a fitting legacy for a generous and philanthropic woman who enjoyed and valued diversity of experience, not only at school, but throughout her whole life.
Patricia Holdenson (Tulloch, 1944)
Patricia Holdenson has fond memories of an education that, despite some adversity during the war, led her on to “bigger and better things”.
In 1942, three years into the Second World War, and with London still recovering from the Blitz, the sudden departure of MCEGGS senior girls from South Yarra to Doncaster left many students to complete their final years of schooling in changed conditions. However, it also left them with a life-long sense of resilience and many enduring memories.
Pat was one of those students who suddenly found herself with more than an hour’s commute to school each day.
“I had to catch two trams, a train, and then a bus from Box Hill station.” Pat remembers. “If you missed the bus, you had to walk the rest of the way – and believe me, if you missed it once, you never missed it again!”
Despite the threat of war, she remembers her time at Doncaster fondly. There was a relaxed feel to the School, and having grown up in the suburbs, Pat found the then rural surrounds of Doncaster a welcome change of environment.
“We loved it … the freedom, the orchards all around. We were in the great outdoors.”
The orchards were a particular temptation: Pat remembers scaling the grounds’ fence with four friends to help themselves to apples from the orchard next door … until shouts from an irate farmer sent them flying back to the School.
Although relaxed, it wasn’t all easy – Pat remembers several classrooms in the golf club and science experiments in the kitchen. “The limited resources made learning difficult, but we ended up doing really well. I truly believe adversity brings out the best in people.”
Pat studied English, French, German, History, Biology and Geography, wanting to work in either nursing, diplomacy or journalism. Pat’s mother was a nurse, and dissuaded her from that career, so after leaving school she took up a cadetship at the Argus newspaper. Here she was fortunate to learn from an array of writers, including George Johnston, author of My Brother Jack. She also spent time on the social pages, enjoying the chance to attend functions with the paper’s photographers.
Although she enjoyed journalism, Pat put her career on hold while she raised her three daughters, all past students of Melbourne Girls Grammar, and then embarked on a second career as a tour leader. Those 56 trips turned Pat into an avid traveller, having since tallied up 109 overseas trips – and still counting!
In amongst all the travelling, Pat has made time for a remarkable amount of charitable work, for which generosity she received an OAM in 1991. She has dedicated over 40 years to the charity Berry Street, an organisation that helps vulnerable children and families. “They do wonderful work for children – including providing foster care services, educational programs with regional schools and outdoor adventure camps … it opens up a new world for these children”.
This belief in the importance of opportunities in childhood is reflected as well in her continuing involvement and support of Melbourne Girls Grammar today.
Pat has seen her three daughters, and three granddaughters attend the School – her great granddaughter Emily will be the fourth generation.
“I was fairly shy as a young person, but I think I developed a lot – taking the groups overseas, I was in charge of a lot of people. I feel that it was my experiences at School that did that for me. And I’ve gone on to bigger and better things,” she says.
She has been a generous donor in the past and has made a bequest to the School in her Will, in the hope that future generations can enjoy what she and her descendants have.
“Not just me, but my children – and their children – have done extremely well. All have University degrees, and I believe it’s because we’ve had a wonderful education.”
Pat is a member of the School’s Nisi Dominus Society.
Dr Jean Laby (1934) and Betty Laby (1937)
Pioneering sisters Dr Jean and Betty Laby left a lasting legacy to Melbourne Girls Grammar and to women in science.
Jean and Betty Laby graduated from Melbourne Girls Grammar in the 1930s. At a time when women were rare in the fields of physics and mathematics, each sister carved out a career for herself that would have been exceptional for a man, let alone a woman. Many years later, they would also make their mark in philanthropy, establishing their own foundation and supporting a number of educational causes. One of their enduring contributions to education at MGGS has been the Laby Family Scholarship.
The sisters were lucky to have an unconventional upbringing, living on campus at the University of Melbourne and surrounded by academics. Their father, Professor Thomas H. Laby, was Head of Physics at the university and encouraged his daughters to pursue his passion.
Jean was born in 1915 and attended MGGS from 1925–34. Although her School report card described her as merely ‘good’ at maths, she went on to study physics at the University of Melbourne, becoming the first woman to be awarded a PhD in physics by the university. Following a period working with her father in optical munitions during the second world war, she established herself as a respected atmospheric physicist.
Contrary to the stereotype of physicists working alone in the lab, Jean’s research required her to spend a lot of time outdoors, lugging equipment around paddocks so she could send enormous high-altitude balloons into the atmosphere to collect readings. It was work that would take her to South Africa and lead to collaborations with climate researchers in the US. At the same time, Jean began teaching, working as a lecturer at the university and senior lecturer at the RAAF Academy in Point Cook.
Betty, born in 1920, attended the School from 1926–37. Betty’s teachers reported her to have ‘some maths ability’, and she followed her sister into the mathematical sciences, also studying at the University of Melbourne, and eventually running her own laboratory in the Department of Statistics. She also worked in optical munitions with Jean and their father during the war. She was awarded an honorary Masters in mathematics in 1985 by the university.
Not only were Betty and Jean pioneers for women in physics and mathematics, they also paved the way for women in philanthropy, setting up the Laby Foundation in the 1980s. Clearly influenced by their love of education and a desire to help others, they supported many charitable causes through the foundation, including an award for physics at the University of Melbourne in their father’s name, and the Laby Family Scholarship at MGGS.
Decades after Betty and Jean made their mark in male-dominated fields, many girls still give up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects after leaving school. Understanding how important it had been to be encouraged as girls to study and work in science, the sisters set up the Laby Family Scholarship to allow senior students to undertake and further their studies in mathematics.
Not only are the sisters themselves an inspiration, but their legacy of the Laby Family Scholarship (now known as the Laby Family Prize for Excellence in STEM) will continue to provide valuable encouragement to the next generation of women to make their own marks in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Barbara PerrY (1955) and Jennifer Perry (1956)
Barbara and Jennifer Perry graduated from Melbourne Girls Grammar with a sense of confidence and enthusiasm, and have achieved an enormous amount in their varied lives. They hope to provide other girls with similar opportunities through a bequest for a scholarship in their mother’s name.
When Barbara and Jennifer Perry were young girls, they clearly remember their mother taking them to Melbourne Girls Grammar and saying, ‘This is where you’ll be going.’ Mrs Ethel Perry (Whitelaw, 1926) had attended the School herself when it was known as Merton Hall, and was in no doubt that her daughters should enjoy and benefit from the same experiences she had.
‘She loved it,’ says Barbara. ‘She used to point the School out to us from Richmond station every time we caught the train into the city.’
Their mother was one of six children originally from Kerang, and had only been able to attend the School after winning a scholarship. ‘There’s no way that her family would have been able to afford to send her there otherwise,’ says Barbara.
The sisters now hope to provide that same opportunity to other girls, and will be leaving a bequest to the School for a scholarship in their mother’s name. The scholarship will honour her memory and her connection to the school. ‘She was a great believer in education,’ says Barbara. ‘She’d be thrilled to know her name would be perpetuated at the School in some way. It just meant so much to her.’
Barbara and Jennifer enjoyed their time at the school immensely, as students in the 1950s. Like many Old Grammarians, their fondest memories are of the friendships they made that continue to this day. They also remember being inspired by teachers and discovering life-long interests. For Jennifer, learning French would later serve her well in her work at the Australian Embassy in Paris, and Barbara found a love of drama and art that followed her through life. They are also keenly aware of the values that the School instilled in them – including the confidence to pursue their interests. ‘We left school feeling we really could achieve whatever we wanted to,’ says Jennifer. ‘I’ve always had that.’
Today, Barbara and Jennifer maintain a close connection to the School, keeping up with old friends, and regularly attending school events. But they have noticed a few changes …
‘I get lost every time I go there!’ says Jennifer. ‘And the experience [for the students] has changed enormously – the girls have new buildings for yoga and things, there is a café. And central heating!’
Like their mother, Barbara and Jennifer value their school experience greatly, which is why they have chosen to support a scholarship. And rather than focusing only on academic achievement, they hope to support girls who have a strong sense of citizenship, who can use the opportunities they gain from attending the School to contribute to the wider community.
Both sisters seem to have certainly made the most of opportunities that came their way. After leaving school, Barbara became a teacher, a career that took her from the Victorian country town of Robinvale to Tehran, via London’s East End. She later studied librarianship and fine arts and worked for 30 years in the National Library of Australia, in Canberra.
Jennifer worked in the Scientific Office of the Australian Embassy in Washington, where in August 1963 she attended a press conference at the White House and was fortunate to see President Kennedy at close range. From there she went on to work at Australia House, in London, before transferring to the Australian Embassy in Paris. For a while the sisters shared a flat in London, where they rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy at parties and made the most of what the city had to offer. ‘I remember one night being driven home through London on a motorbike,’ recalls Jennifer. ‘Barb was in the side car, I was on the back … Imagine trying to do that now!’
It’s clear that the two sisters have taken the values they learned at Melbourne Girls Grammar with them through life. ‘We’ve led such interesting lives,’ Barbara says, ‘because we haven’t been afraid to try things. That’s what the School gave us – that sense of enterprise.’
Barbara and Jennifer are members of the School’s ‘Nisi Dominus’ Society, an emergent group of women and men who have chosen to leave a bequest to the School: in this case, to support a named scholarship.