At Melbourne Girls Grammar, our Boarding House is an environment where boarders feel comfortable to try new things, to challenge themselves and to share with those around them as part of a supportive community where we can all learn from one another. Part of the reason there’s such a strong feeling of support and sisterhood is down to the impact of our Director of Boarding, Amanda Haggie.
In her first year in the role at Melbourne Girls Grammar in 2019, Amanda was struck by just how genuine and kind the students at the School are.
“I’ve never met a group of more polite girls in all my life. I don’t know what it is. In previous roles with young women in Boarding Houses, they’ve been in a rush to grow up and act older than they are. Here, they’re just so respectful,” Amanda said.
“If you’ve built a really good relationship with a young person, they don’t want to disappoint you because they like you. That’s how I roll. I like to build good strong relationships where it’s honest.”
With an innate love of children and young people from early on, Amanda left school and went straight to Teachers College in New Zealand. She pursued a career in teaching, but always harboured a love for the pastoral side of care. She moved into health taking a job with Family Planning.
“My job was to give information to young people who were looking for answers. We talked about relationships, how to keep yourself safe, and then I moved into mental health and wellbeing. I think that those things in my background led me really easily into working with young women. There’s lots of research to show that often a young woman will talk to their mum’s best friend about personal issues rather than their mum, and the significance of having a mentor is huge. I feel that I fill that role really well,” said Amanda.
Clearly, Amanda has always been expertly placed to lend an ear, but it wasn’t until a friend offered her a part time position in a boarding house that led her to her current position.
“A good friend of mine, who had also been a primary school teacher, was working in a boarding house and asked me if I’d like some part-time work to try it out. I had just come out of a career in health and was at home with my sons, and I thought I’d do one shift. After one shift, I just thought – yeah, this is where I need to be. I just thought the energy was infectious! They lit up when they talked about something they were interested in, and I was genuinely interested in them,” enthused Amanda.
With two brothers, two stepbrothers and three sons, Amanda has always had a lot of males around. That’s probably why she particularly loves the Melbourne Girls Grammar Boarding House filled with strong, assertive, independent and confident Grammarians.
“I believe this School is one of the most authentic schools in terms of what we say we do, we do. I see young women here who are independent, who are determined.”
When Amanda moved to Melbourne with her family, she started with as the Head of Boarding for the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School, caring for 22 indigenous Year 7s mainly from the Northern Territory. While this position afforded her the opportunity to visit parts of Australia some of us might never see, she missed working with women.
“I believe this School is one of the most authentic schools in terms of what we say we do, we do. I see young women here who are independent, who are determined. I think that the girls here, when they have an issue they know that they can flesh it out with you and give their perspective and be heard, and that’s amazing,” adds Amanda.
Part of Amanda’s love for her job is the relationships she builds and the innate trust that grows between the student, parents and herself.
“I think that if people feel safe at the beginning, then there’s a trust that’s built up. One of the things that we reassure parents at the beginning, is that yes homesickness does happen. But we’re prepared for that,” said Amanda.
You’d think that a group of teenagers would be ready to run wild at the first opportunity, but Amanda’s experience has prepared her for that as well.
“If you’ve built a really good relationship with a young person, they don’t want to disappoint you because they like you. That’s how I roll. I like to build good strong relationships where it’s honest. One of the things I say to the girls right from the beginning, is honesty is everything. If you’re not honest with me about where you’re going, I can’t guarantee to your parents that I’m looking after you. So, you have to be honest. That’s my biggest thing,” Amanda said.
Based on the feedback from the girls themselves about life in the Boarding House, the resounding message is one of genuine friendship that spans year levels and backgrounds, that bring them all together to support one another.