I am writing my piece for Messenger after our morning welcome on Friday 22 October. Happy students poured through the Anderson Street gates! Smiles all round! There was even skipping and jumping with happiness – teachers and students alike! This last lockdown has been so long, and we have eagerly awaited our Grammarians’ return.
Last week was National Mental Health Week, and it was an important reminder to check in on each other and support the wellbeing of everyone in our community. We all have valuable insights and stories to share about our experiences of mental health and it is by participating in conversations, being vulnerable, and listening to each other’s stories we can continue to build an MGGS community that values mental health. It is important to acknowledge that we are continuing to live with uncertainty and unpredictability with COVID-19 and, even as restrictions ease and vaccination numbers rise to 80%, there is a myriad of feelings about re-entering school and adjusting to the changes that this entails. We must continue to prioritise mental health and wellbeing.
Wellbeing acts as a central spine throughout the whole School. The value of positive wellbeing is explicitly taught from ELC through to Year 12 and is supported by the many programs woven into the MGGS curriculum. Pastoral care structures are in place with discreet programs specifically designed for different sub-schools. At Merton Hall the wellbeing coaches and co-ordinators for our senior Grammarians and our wonderful Artemis, designed specifically to support the health and wellbeing of girls and young women. We know that looking after our health and wellbeing is essential for us all to be our best. It is part of being human to feel and experience exciting and interesting times as well as situations when we are challenged, stressed, or even overwhelmed. At times it can be difficult to reach out to family or friends and counselling can be helpful. The counselling services provided by our three expert psychologists are there to support students and families; we have a wide connection of outside providers that we can refer to also if needed. If you think your daughter needs support as she returns to the physical setting of school, please do not hesitate to seek help and communicate with us.
One of the positives of this pandemic is how close we have grown. Parents and teachers have worked together to support our Grammarians. We have entered into each other’s private domains as we have held witness to each other’s homes. Parents are the ‘glue’ for our School and, over the last two years, I have watched them become co-teachers in support of their daughter’s learning. Our Parents Association is guided by an amazing group of generous parents led by our inclusive and warm President, Ms Tammy Read. Heartfelt gratitude to our leaving Committee members, Katrina Chipperfield, Juliet Cooke, and Julie Chiodo. Congratulations to our new Committee members, Samm Brown, Clint Walker, and Julie James for their two-year appointment spanning 2021-2023. At the final Parents Association Meeting for the year, I was reminded of the positivity, kindness, and ‘can do attitude’ this group brings to our community. Thank you to our Heads of Auxiliaries and our Class Reps who give countless hours of volunteer time.
Our Valedictory season, usually filled with significant events to mark the rite of passage of our Year 12 Grammarians, was again very different this year. Even with the restrictions in place, however, it has been impressive to see our Year 12 valedictorians come together on campus in COVID-safe ways to celebrate their time at the School. As we are unable at present to meet in whole year levels, we grouped in Houses to farewell our Year 12s on Thursday 14 October. We used this time to acknowledge and farewell in a hybrid model, of real-time speeches and pre-recordings from our younger students and staff. We celebrated the hard work, achievements, and contribution to the life of the School by our Year 12 students and welcomed them as young Old Grammarians. It was an opportunity to thank the Year 12s for their role modelling for our younger students and for the joy they have instilled in our School. My memories of Year 12 in 2021 will remain vibrant – how could I ever forget the special moments of pride I have felt for this cohort? Together, they have shared moments of joy, exhilaration, optimism as well as pain and struggle. Year 12 Grammarians stand connected through the web of experience, the strong relationships they have with each other, their teachers, and alumnae. I wish to thank the entire cohort for their fine contribution and legacy to the School. They have demonstrated tremendous resilience and spirit. We wish them well as they head into the VCE examination period; I know that they are well prepared. They will possibly be the most resilient graduates to leave MGGS and history will certainly remember them. They have left a fine legacy!
Last week marked a major milestone in the history of Melbourne Girls Grammar. As you know, the School undertook a referendum to determine if we should change the name of Batman House. This initiative was led by our 2020 and 2021 student leaders. We are thankful to both our alumnae and current students for participating in the Referendum in great numbers. They took the opportunity that was offered to voice their opinion and contribute to the history of Melbourne Girls Grammar. The School engaged independent external auditors to verify the process and results via an Agreed Upon Procedure. The external auditor undertook various investigations as part of that engagement and reported through to School Council details of their factual findings. The report gave School Council confidence in the reliability of the process and accuracy of results. The result of the Batman Referendum was quite clear. An overwhelming majority of students and Old Grammarians told us they were in favour of changing the name of Batman House. This was reflected in the votes from our current and our past students who represent many generations of alumnae. Now that we know the direction our community wants to take, we will begin the process of choosing a new name for this House. This will be extensive and will require us to consider many options. This process will start in 2022 and we will provide you with more information then. Our School is characterised by the proud, courageous, and bold women it educates today and has developed over 128 years. Our history defines our strength in encouraging students to pursue their ideas and beliefs. Today, this translates to student voice. This focus on empowering women and preparing them for the future has again been demonstrated through this referendum. We want our Grammarians to know that they can be ethical women of action. They can have confidence in the fact that there is a place for their voice and a clear democratic process they can follow to effect change. Once again, we thank everyone who took the time to vote. We are truly blessed to have such engaged and passionate representatives of our School and our community.
I look forward to the next few weeks of Term 4 as VCE exams commence and our students resettle into their physical classrooms. The familiar ‘buzz and hum’ of MGGS has returned!
Yours in learning,
Dr Toni E Meath