Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women’s equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.
This is the theme for International Women’s Day 2022, and it reminds us all of the role we play, regardless of gender, to think about our internal prejudice. When each of us steps up to raise awareness against bias, celebrate women’s achievements and act for equality, then we are empowering a healthier world. March 8 is a global day celebrating the achievements of women and a call to action for gender parity. At MGGS we have celebrated it fiercely with an array of events at Merton and Morris Halls, as well as participation in the broader community of Melbourne and Victoria with strong representation highlighting that equality is not a women’s issue, it is a planet issue!
The last two weeks we have been very busy with school and community events, which you can read about throughout this edition of Messenger. I think we have all been missing being together in person as all events have been well attended and there has been a mood of optimism and connectedness. Thank you to our Executive Director, Marketing and Community Engagement, Ms Robyn McCutchan and her team in the Marketing and Community Engagement office for their attention to detail in ensuring the smooth running of events.
One of these events was the celebration of 80 years of Gilman Jones Scholarships. The Gilman Jones Scholarship is awarded each year to the highest achieving Year 12 Grammarians to assist their study at university. The Scholarship was established in 1942 by donations from Old Grammarians who wanted to honour their recently retired headmistress. Miss Gilman Jones, who was the 6th Principal of MGGS led the School from 1916 to 1938. Gilman Jones, fondly known as ‘Jonah’, was a noted feminist and believed that Grammarians should have the right to choose and direct their own path in life. A talented mathematician, she studied at Cambridge University and forged her path and career at a time when it was difficult for women to do so. In Jonah’s footsteps, today our School continues to encourage challenge, choice and to provide opportunities for students to define their own path and pursue individual talents and interests. This empowering environment is a hallmark of MGGS and enables our Grammarians to be bold, courageous, and dynamic, ready to meet the future head-on. To celebrate this special octogintennial, it was lovely to welcome back past Gilman Jones Scholars to the Music Atrium, and mark the occasion with speeches from Mrs Marg McNaughton, Trustee of the Gilman Jones Scholarship Trust, and our MGGS historian, Mrs Pip O’Connor. Additionally, a special text honouring the scholars has been written to mark this occasion. In the words of our 6th Principal, “We cannot regard any girl as educated unless she has acquired the power of learning by herself. A Grammarian cannot be a real student unless she enjoys her work.” So very true!
Another important event this week was the unveiling of the portraits of the first five Principals of our School. In my conscientious preparation for taking up the role of the 12th Principal of Melbourne Girls Grammar, I read as much as could on the history of our School, including McCarthy and Theobald’s Centenary Essays. On arriving at MGGS in January 2019, I was curious to find that the first five principals of our School had not been honoured with a portrait. To me, it was important to recognise their contribution. On Friday 25 February we welcomed our Chair of Council, Mr Mark Burgess, Chair of the Merton Hall Foundation, Mr Fred Grimwade, President of Old Grammarian Society, Ms Trudie Horsfall, President of the MGGS Parents Association, Ms Tammy Read, 10th MGGS Principal, Mrs Christine Briggs, and other distinguished guests to witness the historic occasion of completing the set of eleven principal portraits. The exceptional all-female portrait artists commissioned by the School Council — Tsering Hannaford, Yvette Coppersmith and Dinny Birrell — spoke of their work and how they had approached painting the portraits of Emily Hensley, Alice Taylor, Edith and Mary Morris, and Agnes Tunnicliffe posthumously from scant photographs. At this event, our academic scholar in residence, Adjunct Professor Erica McWilliam AM, spoke about the importance of female visibility in portraiture and how our School stands out as having no male principal in its history, unlike similar schools. The portraits and a piece from Erica McWilliam have been captured in a catalogue marking the event titled, Unveiled.
The weekends at MGGS are also busy with the MGGS Early Learning Centre (ELC) Open Morning on Saturday 26 February and Scholarship Testing on Saturday 12 February. Both were well attended and afforded our School an opportunity to open its doors to external visitors, which were largely absent in 2021 due to the pandemic. The Open Morning gave our ELC team a chance to share our wonderful Reggio Emilia-inspired programs and the extraordinary facilities with guests. Thank you to our Executive Director Junior and Early Years, Ms Sarah Gill, and Head of the ELC, Margaret Sellar, the ELC education team and the Marketing and Community Engagement office for implementing this special morning.
The highlight event for me this week was the Year 4 Leadership Assembly. I was delighted to attend the Assembly at Morris Hall and listen to our Year 4 students pledge their loyalty and conviction to the School as leaders on Friday 25 February. Our special guest was Australian Cricket legend, Belinda Clark AO who is working with the Year 4 Grammarians as young leaders throughout 2022. Belinda gave an inspiring address and encouraged the Year 4s to be authentic, caring and kind. It was a very special gathering with parents and families witnessing these young Grammarians receive their leadership badges and I am confident that they will wear them with pride.
In closing, sadly, as we move into our Melbourne autumn, we have all seen the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has been very disturbing to consider this very real conflict just as the world slowly heads out of a global pandemic. As these events unfold, as a community, we stand with the people of Ukraine and hope that peace will be restored.
Yours in learning,
Dr Toni E Meath